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WCU Stories

Essential WCU

It’s been a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic began; when students were sent home, classes moved online and Zoom became our new way of connecting.

We've learned a lot in the past year, and each of us has gained a unique perspective.

It also allowed the employees and students of Western Carolina University to do what they do best - persevere.
Working harder than ever amid the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, our employees and students continued to achieve their goals, making a lasting impact in their communities and the world.
The images here represent a small slice of the hundreds of faculty and staff who played a critical role in continuing operations throughout the year and fostering our campus's resilience during the global pandemic.

Zsolt Szabo - Assistant Professor of Trombone & Euphonium, School of Music

Zsolt Szabo with a trombone

"You can think about it in many different ways. It was obviously a human tragedy. That's something that's really deep and will stick with us for the rest of our lives, even if it doesn't affect us. So many people have died and lives have been affected. At the same time, it shows the incredible human resilience and adaptation. It's amazing how quickly humans can adapt. We can adapt to everything, quickly."

Vicky Heatherly - Agriculture and Horticulture Specialist

Vicky Heatherly

"The pandemic has been a glitch in the life cycle of our ecosystem on Western's campus."

BaShaun Smith - Dean of Students, Student Affairs

BaShaun Smith

"I will remember this experience by not taking the time I have with my loved ones for granted."

Frankie West - Assistant Professor of Forensic Genetics, Forensic Science

Frankie West

"In the end, I think we've gained new skills and learned new ways of keeping our teaching dynamic throughout the pandemic."

T.J. Hanson - Audio Video Designer, Information Technology

T.j Hanson

"I'm grateful to all the people out there working to distribute vaccines quickly." 

Lisa Briggs - Professor, Emergency & Disaster Management

Lisa Briggs

"I am privileged to work alongside police and other first responders who continue to serve under difficult conditions. Initially, while some of the agencies, especially at the national level, had a brief pause, the important task of recovering children/victims could not delay. I know so many professionals and their families that have 'stepped up,' even at the risk of their own lives. I am grateful to my own family for understanding and supporting what I feel deeply called to do. The feeling constantly echoes, 'what would I do if I had a loved one missing?' That is a motivational driving force behind the work."

Clint Hardin – Graphic Design and Pre-Production, University Print Shop

Clint Hardin

"Not all of the changes have been bad. Caring for our own, and others, well-being has been intensified. I think that's a good thing." 

Joseph Guseman - Facilities Management

Josephy Guseman

"As an alumnus of Western Carolina University, I understand the importance of in-class learning. To help provide a way to do this safely for our students is such a great honor."

Katie Zejdlik-Passalacqua - Forensic Anthropology Facilities Director

Katie Zejdlik Passalacqua

"Death is always at the forefront of what I and my colleagues do. We embrace it in all of its beauty, tragedy, finality and opportunity."

Shawna Young - Internal Communications Manager, University Communications and Marketing

Shawna Young

"It's been a difficult year that has shown us how important accurate and timely communication is for our community." 

Travis Rountree - Assistant Professor, English

Travis Rountree

"It has been a time for us all to reflect on who we are and how we operate within society. It brought out the best and worst in us."

Moxie Brown - Environmental Technician II, Facilities Management

Moxie Brown

"If COVID-19 disappeared tomorrow, I would take a page from the feminist movement of the 1960s playbook and burn the masks."

Emily Bingham - Senior Assistant Director of Campus Visits, Undergraduate Admissions

Emily Bingham

 "Whatever normal might look like in the future, I can't wait to get there."

Keith Kunstmann - Video Producer, University Communications and Marketing

Keith Kunstmann

"You're not guaranteed tomorrow, and you don't know how much you appreciate the simple things in life like music, travel and friends until it's gone."

Patricia Norton - Officer, University Police

Patricia Norton - Officer, University Police

"I want to remember the good, the people helping other people. I have learned you can't change  the past, so there is no reason to dwell on the bad. You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off  and keep moving."

Scotty Smith - Support Services Supervisor, University Mail Services

Scotty Smith

"This is an experience I hope that I will never have to go through again."  


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