Members of the Western Carolina University community came together Tuesday (July 23) to celebrate a milestone reached by the Staff Senate last fiscal year – surpassing the $100,000 mark for its scholarship fund that benefits the children and other relatives of staff members attending the university.
The Staff Senate Scholarship Fund, created in 2007, is supplemented primarily through employee payroll deduction, fundraisers such as “percentage nights” at local businesses, and sale of the Staff Senate’s holiday ornaments. Interest earned from the fund is used to provide scholarships to incoming and current students.
Natalie Broom of WCU’s Division of Information Technology, who completed a year as chair of the Staff Senate in June, welcomed the crowd to the combination ice cream social and celebration at Illusions in A.K. Hinds University Center and expressed her appreciation to all members of the university community who helped make the milestone possible.
“I stand before you representing all the previous Staff Senate chairs and senators who share the same passion and goal in making college more affordable for the children of our staff,” Broom said.
WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown, who officially took office July 1, told the audience that one of the characteristics about the university that most impressed her as she considered taking her new position was the dedication of the staff.
“Over the past three weeks, I have seen this dedication firsthand as I’ve begun to get to know the people who work to ensure this university delivers the high-quality experience for which it has developed a regional and national reputation,” Brown said. “Nothing embodies this dedication more than the reason we are celebrating today.”
Brown said she has spent time learning about the history of WCU and recognizes that the Staff Senate’s accomplishment “is part of a long tradition of giving back” at the university. That tradition dates back to the institution’s genesis in 1889 as nine local citizens banded together to provide education for the people of the region through their “Cullowhee Idea,” she said.
“Pride is what I feel to be a part of this community – pride for this university and pride for the staff who came together to make its own ‘Cullowhee Idea’ a reality,” Brown said. “Keep up the good work. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and help you along to the next milestone.”
WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar said the Staff Senate’s efforts represent “an unprecedented dedication and commitment to support the families” of staff members. “Staff Senate’s devotion to our own WCU community will enable the recipients of these scholarships to gain an education – an education that will assist them in fulfilling their own dreams and aspirations,” Morrison-Shetlar said.
She noted that the percentage of WCU faculty and staff who contribute financially to the university increased from 46 percent to 52 percent in the last year, “once again demonstrating that the Catamount family is committed to lifelong learning and to one another.”
Alison Joseph of the university’s Budget Office, current chair of the Staff Senate, said hundreds of peopled worked to make the $100,000 accomplishment possible.
“Today, I celebrate the vision to start this project and the perseverance of all those people to keep it moving through the years,” she said. “I truly believe that this program embodies the spirit of Western – community members pulling together to support each other, and ultimately, the power of higher education to transform lives and families.”
Each year, Staff Senate receives scholarship requests from 10 to 15 qualified applicants, but only four of the students end up receiving scholarships, Joseph said. “The senate is committed to continuing our efforts to raise funds to support scholarships for children of staff members. Our goal is to raise $20,000 annually and to reach the $200,000 mark within the next five years,” she said.
“Today we celebrate, and tomorrow we get back to work.”