Information about the Center

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The Center for the Study of Free Enterprise at Western Carolina University (CSFE) was established on December 4, 2015, by a unanimous vote of WCU's Board of Trustees (BOT). The BOT approved a mission statement and a list of activities and deliverables that together serve as the center's guide to operations.  

The Organization is comprised of three main compartments: the director, the Advisory Board, and Administrative Personnel.

The Director

Professor LopezEdward Lopez, Director

The Director of the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise is Edward J. Lopez. Dr. Lopez is the Professor of Economics and BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism. 

Dr. Lopez joined the WCU Faculty in 2012 and teaches classes in public finance, ethics of capitalism, applied business economics, and principles of macroeconomics. Edward's research focuses on the economics of ideas, entrepreneurship, and politics. On campus Edward served as the convener of the Council of Distinguished Professors (2013-2015), chair of the search committee for Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor in Economic Development (2015, 2016), and member of: Dean's Advisory Council (2017-2019), Vice Chancellor of Development & Alumni Affairs search (2016), Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance search (2014), University Collegial Review (2014-2015), Economics Faculty search (2015-2016), School of Economics, Mangement Project Management Collegial Review (2015-16, 16-17), Chancellor's Honorary Doctorate selection (2013), and College of Business Curriculum (2012-2014). More information is available here.

The Advisory Board

During Spring 2017, the Center's Advisory Board was established. The Board Consists of six current WCU faculty members who were appointed by the Provost, as well as five distinguished members of the community from the private and public sectors, and the Director as a non-voting ex officio member.  As designed the board's purpose include the following responsibilities:

  • Advocate for the Center and the University
  • Advise the Director on the Center's strategic plan, budget, and activities
  • Deliver advice on potential future Center initiatives
  • Remain active in Center events, meetings, and discussions
  • Provide suggestions as to additional resources that may be able to add value to the Center
  • Provide input and recommendations on how to keep the Center's programs relevant and innovation

Current Advisory Board Members

Member Type

First Name

Last Name



Chair (External) Ken Torok   Torok
Secretary (Internal) Niall Michelsen Professor of Political Science & Public Affairs  Michelsen
Board Director Edward Lopez Director of CSFE & Professor of Economics Lopez
Internal Heidi Buchanan Research & Instruction Librarian & Literacy Coordinator Buchanan
Internal Dale Carpenter Dean of College of Education & Allied Professions Carpenter
Internal  Jim DeConinck Professor of  Sales & Marketing DeConinck
Internal Billy Ogletree Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders Ogletree
External Georg Van Berg Departmental Chair of Political Sciences Van Berg
External Phil Walker Prior Senior Vice President for BB&T's western division Walker 
Internal  Bill Yang Professor of Electrical Engineering Yang 
External  Tony  Zande WCU Foundation Board of Directors Zande 




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