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As Western Carolina University’s successful campus learning theme “Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections” was coming to a close during the spring semester, members of a campus committee rolled out a new theme for the 2018-19 academic year – “Defining America.” The result of a universitywide poll conducted last fall, the new interdisciplinary theme is designed to guide campus conversations, foster curricular and co-curricular connections and aid personal enrichment.

“During our times of rapid change and development, it can be valuable to take pause and reflect on how far and from where we have come, to seek clarification and to recognize where we are, and to intentionally plan for how best to move forward together,” said Center for Service Learning Director Lane Perry, who is overseeing this year’s theme. “This theme is designed to be that moment in time.”

The steering committee for “Defining America” is co-chaired by Intercultural Affairs Director Dana Patterson and Gimelstob-Landry Distinguished Professor of Regional Economic Development Angela Dills. The theme’s broad scope will allow disciplines from across campus to participate.

“Every discipline will be encouraged to highlight the contributions that their field has made, continues to make and has the potential to make in the future,” Patterson said. “America has a long and complex history, as well as an exciting outlook for the future. I believe that students will find this theme engaging and exciting as they are encouraged to go beyond the surface and intelligently question some of the previously held beliefs about how America has been defined and understood by previous generations. It invites a new and innovative perception that includes every voice, every perspective and every idea that comes out of the unique journey that we will embark on as members of the Catamount community.”

While many of those discussions are already taking place in classrooms across campus, having this theme will allow them to come together, said Dills. “The committee is excited about connecting these discussions across classrooms, outside classrooms, and with the wide variety of extracurricular and community-engaged events on campus,” she said. “We look to provide opportunities for students to share their own varied definitions of America and to participate in a deep and broad intellectual discussion of how America might be.”   

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