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The quest to find Western Carolina University’s next chancellor is hitting high gear as the committee leading the search for a successor to the late David O. Belcher is in the process of reviewing candidate materials and selecting a to-be-determined number of candidates to participate in off-campus interviews early this winter.

Following those interviews, the committee will narrow the field to several candidates to bring to campus for visits in mid-February with selected students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and community members. The committee will work to have the same people who participated in the first phase of campus visits last year involved in the next round. Participants in those sessions are required to sign nondisclosure agreements to protect candidate confidentiality.

The committee will review feedback collected during those campus visits and present three finalists – in unranked order – to WCU’s Board of Trustees for review at its meeting in early March. After evaluating the committee’s slate of candidates, the trustees will recommend the unranked candidates to interim University of North Carolina System President William Roper for consideration or will return the slate of candidates to the search committee for further action.

Roper, who had been serving as dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care, was appointed interim president effective Jan. 1 after the resignation of President Margaret Spellings last October.

Following his evaluation of the candidates, Roper will recommend one finalist to the UNC Board of Governors for approval. The plan includes ample time for vetting of the finalists by Roper and the Board of Governors, with a goal of having a chancellor announced by the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Belcher, who died June 17, 2018, had been battling brain cancer since April 2016 and went on medical leave at the end of 2017. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar has been serving as acting (now interim) chancellor, and Carol Burton ’87 MAEd ’89, WCU associate provost for undergraduate studies, is serving as acting provost.

The search committee, co-chaired by Patricia B. Kaemmerling ’71, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, and J. Bryant Kinney ’82, vice chair of the trustees, resumed its work in September following the July 16 announcement from UNC Board of Governors Chair Harry Smith that a finalist for the position had withdrawn from consideration.

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