By Julia Duvall
Sky Sampson, director of Western Carolina University’s Cherokee Center and alumna, has accepted the position of Secretary of Education for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Sampson assumed her role Oct. 23.
“In my role at WCU, I worked closely with the tribe and I am excited to expand on that work in this new position,” Sampson said. “I am proud of how far we have come in strengthening the relationship between WCU and the EBCI by making both sides feel cherished, appreciated, honored and recognized.”
Sampson, an enrolled member of the EBCI, earned her bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in public relations from WCU in 2010 before going on to receive her master’s degree in human environmental sciences at the University of Alabama in 2014.
She has served as program manager for the Cherokee Youth Council of the Cherokee Boys Club since May 2011.
As director of the Cherokee Center, Sampson served as a liaison between WCU and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She is excited to see the partnership between WCU and the EBCI continue to flourish.
“I am hopeful that the momentum we’ve built will grow and that WCU will continue to include the indigenous perspectives through learning and cultural opportunities,” she said. “Some exciting physical Cherokee cultural features will be coming to campus within the next few years through grant funding, so Cherokee has a very promising future with WCU.”
The WCU Cherokee Center was founded in 1975 as a hub for professors to teach college-level courses across the street from what was then Cherokee High School. As the years went by, those professors were no longer needed because the teachers could become certified to teach the courses themselves.
The Cherokee Center evolved to become the headquarters for all outreach and involvement in the Cherokee community. Current services offered include guiding students through the application process, transcript requests, scholarships, internship placement and high school recruitment.
Andrew Denson, director of WCU’s Cherokee Studies program, is grateful for the dedication Sampson had for fostering the relationships and her leadership.
“Sky has led the Cherokee Center with incredible energy and creativity these past seven years,” he said. “We've been so lucky to have her here at Western. We'll miss her, but we're thrilled that she is taking on this new role. She's been a great leader here at Western, and I'm sure she'll be a great leader for the EBCI Education Department.”
Denson is hopeful that the next director of the Cherokee Center will continue to be an ally for WCU and for the Cherokee community.
“The Cherokee Center is more than just another university office; it plays a vital role in our partnerships with the Eastern Band,” Denson said. “Sky has worked tirelessly to maintain and evolve those partnerships, while supporting our Cherokee and Indigenous students and ensuring that the university serves as a resource for the Cherokee community.”