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WCU awarded $738,072 for second year of NC Principals Fellowship grant

principal fellows ocracoke

Principal Fellows at Ocracoke for Equity Training: Front row left to right: Suzanne Schultz, Cindy Ensley, Kimberly Mostiller, Joy Howard, Heidi Von Dohlen, Cathy and Andrews; Dwight Shelton, Craig Shimer, Jen Kruk, Bekah Mulligan, Brandon Ball. Back row, left to right: Emily Virtue, Gloria Painter, Aarti Bellara, Jan King, Kathleen Willi, Laura Thompson, Jessica McCall, Annah Lord, Lakeisha Lee, Jess Weiler, Andy Peoples and Ronald McDaniel.

By Julia Duvall

Western Carolina University has received $738,072 for the 2023-2024 school year from the NC General Assembly, administered by the North Carolina Principals Fellowship Commission. 

WCU is one of eight higher education institutions selected for the North Carolina Principals Fellowship grant that runs from 2022-2028. WCU’s 4.1 million is divided over the span of six years. 

“The grant covers tuition, fees and professional development opportunities for our students,” said Heidi Von Dohlen, associate professor of human services at WCU. “We have 29 master’s level students in the school administration program that are Principal Fellows. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to grow strong school leaders to create more equitable outcomes in schools for all students.” 

principal fellows 2022

2022 Principal Fellows at Biltmore Park: Front left to right: Craig Shimer, Brandon Ball, Ronald McDaniel and Dwight Shelton. Going up left side of staircase: Lakeisha Lee, Cindy Ensley, Laura Thompson, Kathleen Willi, Annah Lord and Suzanne Schultz. Going up right side of staircase: Kim Mostiller, Bekah Mulligan, Jessica McCall, Jen Kruk and Gloria Painter.

Current educators that are aspiring leaders are identified by their superintendents and are recommended to WCU’s program with the intent to hire them into assistant principal positions upon completion of the fellowship. 

“The grant also covers 10-month, fully paid assistant principal internships and executive coaching that does not end once they graduate,” Von Dohlen said. “This speaks to the relationships we have formed for the coaching to extend beyond their time at WCU.” 

The program is hybrid with online course work and four Saturday meetings per semester at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site in Asheville.  

“WCU has high-quality and diverse faculty based on our positionality and career experiences,” Von Dohlen said. “We all know that NC as well as other states are facing a crisis trying to find teachers and administrators. Through this program, we are helping to meet the needs of our region by growing strong school leaders. These aspiring leaders are so enthusiastic and excited about impacting the lives of their students as they lead schools with a focus on equity.” 

For more information about the program, contact Von Dohlen at 

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