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WCU sees growth in graduate programs

Western Carolina University’s Graduate School saw an 18.2 percent increase in enrollment of new graduate students this spring, largely driven by programs preparing students for career growth in high-demand fields. Overall Graduate School enrollment climbed 3.7 percent.

Programs exhibiting the highest overall growth included the Master of Project Management, the Master of Science in Sport Management, the Master of Science in Chemistry, the Master of Public Affairs, the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, the M.A.Ed. in Elementary and Middle Grades Education, the Master of Construction Management and the Master of Health Sciences.

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The growing programs represent a mix of residential programs in Cullowhee, programs based at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site in Asheville, fully online programs and hybrid programs that combine face-to-face classes with online instruction.

“We believe the growth in each of these graduate programs underscores WCU’s focus on offering programs that meet the educational needs of our students, the region and the state,” said Brian Kloeppel, dean of Graduate School and Research. “Middle grades education, for example, is one of the state’s highest demand teaching roles. Here in Western North Carolina, nonprofit and public sector executives, scientists, health care administrators, school principals – all of these are areas where there is significant job demand.”

In a recent survey of WCU graduate students, most respondents indicated their degree will provide additional opportunities in their current field or place of employment, with nearly a third seeking a master’s degree as a way to shift careers.


Nathan Johnson, program director for the fully online Master of Project Management Program, said the project management industry is seeing growth in North Carolina and also in major markets across the U.S., particularly in health care and technology. “We’re seeing estimates of 2 million more jobs each year over the next 10 years,” Johnson said.

The construction industry is also seeing significant growth in the state, said Bruce Gehrig, director of the Master of Construction Management Program.

“The leadership training is really where our program excels.”

“There are many large-scale transportation and infrastructure projects either happening now or in the planning stages across the state that require significant skilled labor as well as people with the leadership and management skills to oversee construction sites,” Gehrig said.



Brian Raming, director of WCU’s Master of Health Sciences Program, said the job demand for health care administrators and educators is also high across the state, but particularly in the western region. “What health care organizations are looking for are clinicians who also have specific training in leadership or education to fill those specific roles,” Raming said.

While the graduate enrollment increase has been driven in large part by opportunities in employment, Kloeppel said WCU’s increased effort to make graduate education accessible to working professionals with flexible course delivery has also made an impact.

Student studying


Jay Gerlach, director of the Master of Public Affairs Program based at Biltmore Park in Asheville, cites his program’s changes in course delivery as a reason for growth. “The MPA Program, like many of WCU’s programs, is a resource of working professionals. We’ve shifted some of our class offerings to a hybrid format, to make them even more convenient. Students still meet face-to-face, but some weeks coursework is completed online. Feedback by our students has been very positive.”

The region’s leading source for graduate education, WCU is home to more than 40 graduate programs in Cullowhee, Asheville and online.

Please visit with WCU graduate program faculty and learn about graduate education opportunities at graduate Open House events both in Cullowhee and at our Instructional site in Asheville at Biltmore Park. For more information about graduate programs please visit the Graduate School or contact us or 828-227-7398.

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