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WCU Stories

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Welcome to the 2023 version of Western Carolina University’s “The Black Fantastic.” Last year, the University Communications and Marketing team created “The Black Fantastic” to highlight excellence among a few of WCU’s Black faculty and staff members. The project went on to win three platinum awards from the Hermes Creative Awards, an international competition that is one of the oldest and largest creative competitions in the world. During Black History Month, we continue that artistic and creative look at some of the people responsible for shaping and mentoring the great minds of the future.  

Carol Burton Vice Provost

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Once referred to as a “campus fixture” by beloved late WCU Chancellor David Orr Belcher, Carol Burton, vice provost, has dedicated 33 years to learning and leading with compassion and obligation.  

Raised by Jamaican parents Reuben and Yvonne Burton, Burton’s journey to higher education was predestined by her matriarchal, fearless, powerful and entrepreneurial mother. “An American degree is the way of the future,” Yvonne Burton told her.  

Knowing this as her only truth, Burton, a first-generation college student, set out in 1983 to become an international Catamount. Thanks to student, mentor and friend Joan Harriet, and a few influential and supportive professors along the way, Burton began her story at WCU.    

“I’ll never forget my family dynamics class with Dr. Jane Hall,” Burton said. “She took me under her wing and challenged my sensibilities. She also carved out personal time almost every Friday to meet with me over hot chocolate at the Hardees by campus to check in and guided me on personal concerns and challenges.”   

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Hover Effect Carol Burton

Professor Wilma Cosper enabled Burton to receive her first student job on campus in the Office of Academic Affairs as a second-semester freshman. That assist not only provided her with much needed financial support, but it prepared Burton for a trajectory into several leadership positions at WCU. 

In the spirit of paying it forward, and to honor those that helped her, Burton established an endowed scholarship designed to assist international students in pursuing master's or doctoral degrees in any program offered at WCU.

“A university career is the best profession one can have. You get to make a difference in the future and the students are worth every bit of energy we put in this passion,” Burton said. 

Discouraged by increased trends of racial polarization throughout the country, Burton continues to work diligently with university leadership to attract, support and retain a thriving diverse faculty, staff and student community. 

“There have been many points of intentionality through my time here to get it right and to move the needle forward,” Burton said. “Additionally, we strive to keep our campus boundaries permeable and work to bridge the ‘town and gown’ aspects of Cullowhee, Sylva, and the region to ensure an inclusive culture at WCU.”  

Looking ahead with no regrets, Burton said her dreams are still morphing. “I get emotional thinking of leaving to pursue a life of retirement, but am grounded with the thought that WCU will always be a part of my life, no matter where I am,” she said.  

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