To my new campus community,
I write to you with the utmost enthusiasm and gratitude in my heart as I begin my first fall semester as chancellor of Western Carolina University. From my vantage point in leadership roles at my previous institution of Georgia College & State University and elsewhere, I long have admired WCU’s outstanding record of success. I am happy to have joined an amazing university experiencing incredible momentum that has occurred thanks, in large part, to strong leadership and dedicated, hard-working faculty and staff who call WCU home. I, too, am glad to call Cullowhee my new home.
Many of you may not know that, during my youth, I was very active on the equestrian circuit and that, in fact, I once held the titles of “Miss Ohio Quarter Horse” and “Miss Rodeo Ohio” and competed in Miss Rodeo America. I bring that same level of drive, competitive spirit and determination to my role as chancellor. The name I have selected for this column, “Western Roundup,” is a nod to that background, just as the title “Opening Notes” hinted toward my predecessor’s training as a pianist.
I come to my new role knowing that WCU is a well-regarded public university, one that is focused on the critical mission of providing education to students of the region so that they may thrive while also offering opportunities for advanced education through master’s and doctoral degree programs. I appreciate WCU’s efforts to focus intellectual capital to help build the regional economy, provide service to the community, and enrich student and community experiences through robust arts and athletics programming.
Among my early tasks as chancellor at Western Carolina University is to listen and to learn. I want to be known as fully collaborative and transparent, and I will work to develop initiatives through open discussion with all stakeholders. We will do our best work when we work together. I also pledge to listen to and respond to student needs, and I place a high value on diversity and inclusion in the university community and in society as a whole.
Throughout my 30-plus-year career in higher education, I have provided leadership at all levels — graduate coordinator, department chair, interim dean, provost and interim president. My roles have expanded and the degree of accountability has increased with each position, and I have worked with diverse constituents including faculty, staff, students, community members, alumni, donors and legislators. I have had fiscal responsibilities, have been heavily involved in fundraising, and have been engaged with shared governance at all levels of leadership.
I believe that my entire professional career has prepared me to serve WCU at this pivotal time in the institution’s history, and I look forward to leading the university as it continues to fulfill its long, proud and dynamic commitment to Western North Carolina and the entire state. I also firmly believe in higher education and that a post-secondary degree is critical for changing the trajectory of people’s lives and, in turn, their families’ lives. It has changed mine.
I am humbled by the faith and trust placed in me by the search committee, the WCU Board of Trustees, University of North Carolina Interim President William Roper and the UNC Board of Governors. I recognize that I follow in the footsteps of a beloved chancellor. I also recognize that all leaders stand upon the shoulders of those who came before. Just as David Belcher built upon the solid foundation left behind by his predecessor, John Bardo, I pledge that I will do everything within my power to ensure that WCU continues to thrive during my time among its stewards.
I have heard and read Chancellor Belcher’s oft-repeated mantra that “WCU is in the business of changing lives,” and I wholeheartedly agree. This is what inspires me most about being at WCU. My husband, Dennis, and I are so happy to be a part of the Catamount family. We look forward to getting to know you all.
Kelli R. Brown