Strategic Direction #1 – Fulfill the Educational Needs of State and Region

WCU’s faculty, staff, and students together make the University’s academic mission paramount.

Western Carolina University is committed, first and foremost, to fulfilling its academic mission of providing each student a rigorous and relevant curriculum with learning experiences that emphasize knowledge and skills that are durable, flexible, and transferable. WCU is committed to providing an education grounded in a strong set of foundational knowledge and skills combined with specific practical knowledge in content degree areas, the outcome of which is personal, intellectual, and economic enrichment for each student. WCU seeks to ensure educational opportunities that result in graduates who are prepared for success, who are ready to compete in a challenging, changing, and global environment, and who are committed to contributing to the intellectual, cultural, and economic development of our region and state.

Deliver high-quality academic programs (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) designed to promote regional economic and community development.

  • Initiative 1.1.1: Undertake a rigorous and inclusive process to prioritize all undergraduate and graduate programs based on universally applied criteria, including quality, regional need, demand, enrollment trends, retention and graduation rates, and alignment with the University mission and the following integrated curricular focus areas: creative arts, education, environment, health, innovation and technology, and recreation and tourism.
  • Initiative 1.1.2: Develop visionary strategic plans for each of the curricular focus areas through inclusive processes to accomplish the following:
  • Position and market WCU as the cultural heart of Western North Carolina in the creative arts.
  • Fulfill WCU’s historic and continuing commitment to be the regional leader in teacher education.
  • Assume regional leadership in the study of the environment and environmental policy.
  • Position WCU as the premier regional provider of baccalaureate and graduate education in the health professions with an emphasis on culturally sensitive, integrative, and intergenerational health care.
  • Establish WCU as a hub of innovation, facilitating interdisciplinary connections among academic programs in such disciplines as business, the sciences, engineering, technology, and entrepreneurship and external collaboration with industry, start-up companies, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
  • Advance the recreation and tourism industries of Western North Carolina.
  • Initiative 1.1.3: Position WCU as a preferred provider of graduate and professional programs in the greater Asheville-Hendersonville area in fulfillment of its historic commitment to this vital part of the Western North Carolina region.
  • Initiative 1.1.4: Provide access to academic programs at off-campus sites in Western North Carolina within available resources and as dictated by data-based needs analyses.
  • Initiative 1.1.5: Align departments, colleges, and divisions, as appropriate, to support the strategic vision of the University.
  • Initiative 1.1.6: Identify and develop integrated, cross-disciplinary centers/institutes of study and outreach, where appropriate, based on the curricular focus areas.
  • Initiative 1.1.7: Increase the total number of WCU graduates by 25 percent by 2020 to meet the regional need for an educated work force.

Fully integrate into the general education program and into each major and minor at both undergraduate and graduate levels an emphasis on those core abilities expected of all WCU students: to integrate information from a variety of contexts; to solve complex problems; to communicate effectively and responsibly; to practice civic engagement; and to clarify and act on purpose and values. 

  • Initiative 1.2.1: Hire faculty and staff who understand and will contribute to WCU’s core educational values, its holistic academic mission, its commitment to outreach and engagement, and the achievement of the institution’s strategic priorities.
  • Initiative 1.2.2: Develop and implement effective, faculty-led mentoring programs for students, aided and reinforced by advising and course scheduling in the support units and designed to reinforce the University’s core values.
  • Initiative 1.2.3: Incorporate writing and research into all levels of the curricula.
  • Initiative 1.2.4: Ensure that all academic programs incorporate the core abilities detailed in Goal 1.2.
  • Initiative 1.2.5: Incorporate into the formal evaluation of faculty work a consideration of how curricula, pedagogies, and scholarship successfully advance the University learning outcomes.

Ensure that all programs include cross-curricular, experiential, applied, and international/global awareness opportunities for all students.

  • Initiative 1.3.1: Reduce, and where possible eliminate, bureaucratic and financial barriers to cross-curricular design and team-teaching.
  • Initiative 1.3.2: Incorporate expectations for experiential and applied learning opportunities, including undergraduate research opportunities, in the curricular review process.
  • Initiative 1.3.3: Ensure that meaningful international/global experience opportunities are available to every student, regardless of major, including options to study with international scholars on WCU’s faculty, to participate in faculty-led international travel courses, and to study abroad. (See Initiative 2.1.6)

Eliminate barriers to student access through coordinated endeavors with Birth-12 (B-12) and community college partners.

  • Initiative 1.4.1: Establish a network of regional advisory committees to enhance communication and collaboration among B-12, community college, and WCU faculty and administrators in the areas of 1) curriculum goals and transferability; 2) the benefits of higher education and the best strategies for marketing and recruiting; and 3) admissions and financial aid.
  • Initiative 1.4.2: Review, revise where appropriate, and electronically automate all articulation agreements between WCU and community colleges in the WCU service area with the goal of maintaining high academic standards and facilitating curricular transfer; develop a standard review protocol and timeline.
  • Initiative 1.4.3: Expand opportunities for WCU staff, faculty, and students to visit with B-12 students and community college students (both on- and off-campus) to share information regarding the importance of higher education and the pathways, processes, and programs at WCU.
  • Initiative 1.4.4: Expand coordinated communications and recruiting efforts among B-12, community colleges, and WCU regarding the value of education and affordable avenues for all individuals to access and benefit from it.

Make WCU (the Cullowhee campus and the off-campus site at Biltmore Park in the Asheville-Hendersonville area) a destination for short-term, educationally based programs, activities, and events, including summer school, continuing education, camps, conferences, and personal enrichment opportunities.

  • Initiative 1.5.1: Pursue a cohesive, consistent, and efficient organizational and policy structure to facilitate short-term, educationally based programs, activities, and events, including review of facilities use policies, University organization, and virtual format possibilities.
  • Initiative 1.5.2: Expand the number of resident and distance summer school offerings for a wide variety of learners, including WCU students, guest students, senior citizens, B-12 students, and the general public; expand summer school enrollment by 25 percent by 2020.
  • Initiative 1.5.3: Expand the number of camps and conferences that WCU offers by 50 percent by 2020.
  • Initiative 1.5.4: Develop and implement a coordinated marketing plan to promote WCU’s Cullowhee campus and its programs in Asheville at Biltmore Park as conference destinations. (See Initiative 6.2.1)

Attain a student population that balances the University’s commitment to access, its responsibility for student success, and ensures the sustainability of University funding. (See Initiative 6.3.2)

  • Initiative 1.6.1: Develop data-driven admission strategies (for first-time freshmen, transfer, graduate, and distance students) that balance the University’s aim to increase the academic profile of entering students while continuing to serve the educational role of access as a regional comprehensive university.
  • Initiative 1.6.2: Conduct ongoing program assessment and prioritization and allocate resources to positively affect enrollment.
  • Initiative 1.6.3: Expand efforts to recruit students in programs associated with the curricular focus areas.
  • Initiative 1.6.4: Make the securing of endowed merit and need-based financial aid an institutional fundraising priority. (See Initiative 6.3.6)
  • Initiative 1.6.5: Enhance support for scholarships, graduate assistantships, and student research to attract and retain students who are prepared for the rigors of a Western Carolina educational experience.
  • Initiative 1.6.6: Increase the diversity of the student body and ensure campus resources necessary to support a diverse student body in order to serve the needs of the changing demographics of the region and state and to enhance the educational experience of all students.
  • Initiative 1.6.7: Increase WCU’s freshman-to-sophomore retention rate to 80 percent by 2020.
  • Initiative 1.6.8: Increase WCU’s six-year graduation rate to 60 percent by 2020.
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