When WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown walked onto the Performance Hall stage of Bardo
Arts Center last Wednesday, she peered into a packed auditorium of faculty and staff
eager to hear expectations for the 2022-23 academic year. It was the first time in
two years the university was able to revert to its normal seating arrangements for
Fall Opening Assembly prior to COVID-19 protocols.
“I’m so glad you’re here today,” Brown told the crowd. “Whether you are brand new
to WCU or entering your third or fourth decade here, the year ahead is full of promise.
To be sure, we will have our challenges. But WCU’s story is one of grit, perseverance
In a TED Talks-style format, Brown gave faculty and staff a glimpse of what she sees
“on the horizon” for WCU during the 2022-23 academic year. The following are highlights
Brown mentioned as key areas of focus:
- Sense of Community: Brown said WCU will make it a priority to renew a sense of community across campus.
“Renewing community is important,” she said. “Community is the defining element of
Western’s culture. In the last two and a half years, many have felt disconnected.
We must make it a priority to reengage everyone across the campus community” This
fall WCU has a full slate of campus activities and events scheduled to welcome more
than 4,000 on-campus students.
- New Brand Campaign: WCU will be launching a new brand campaign, “Live Western,” this fall. The purpose
of the campaign is to bring more awareness to the university’s academic programs and
student experience to areas throughout the state. The campaign will include many different
ads, print materials, etc., across all print, web and social platforms. “Our brand
must reflect our mission and vision, and have staying power,” she said.
- Comprehensive Campaign:. Brown said the Honoring our Promise fundraising campaign will provide the resources
to provide affordable and accessible academic excellence, student experience and funds
to help us continue to be an economic driver in the region. Renovations of athletic
facilities as a key element of the student and community experience is also a priority
of the campaign. “Our students and the community will be the ones who will benefit
from this campaign,” she said.
- Enrollment and Student Success: Brown informed the crowd that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions delivered a robust
freshman class this fall and will soon be “charging hard” towards meeting WCU’s enrollment targets for next fall. “Enrollment
this fall is looking great with regards to our incoming freshman class, which may
be one of our largest ever, but the effects of the pandemic and demographic shifts
over the past couple of years will continue to impact overall enrollment, which will
likely be slightly down this year.” She also mentioned that William Moultrie, the
new associate vice chancellor of Student Success, and his team will be working to
renew efforts to Finish in Four, improve academic advising and bolster student retention.
- Academic Initiatives: Provost Richard Starnes will be leading Academic Affairs in meeting the demands of
the new Educational Career Realignment or ROI study recently enacted by the NC General
Assembly. He will also be evaluating programs that may be potential candidates for
Project Kitty Hawk, the University of North Carolina System’s online program management
system, targeting adult learners.
- Campus Theme – Mental Health and Wellness: Brown told the group there is a reason that mental health and wellness emerged as
the top contender for the campus theme this year. “The pandemic and the accompanying
economic and social roller coaster we’ve all been on the last several years have had
tangible and detrimental effects on mental health and wellbeing,” she said. This year,
I hope you will take advantage of the many events and activities that will coalesce
around the campus theme. At the institutional level, we continue to look for ways
to expand services and provide support.” She went on to outline a new benefit for
employees for on demand mental healthcare through a partner called Ginger who offers
virtual mental health counseling.