Western Carolina University is known for its vibrant culture giving its students,
faculty, staff, alumni and donors a sense of community.
This culture is the heartbeat of WCU. Now, the university is aiming to nurture that culture with a comprehensive “Honoring Our Promise” campaign that will help provide academic program support and build a stronger infrastructure for athletic facilities.
“This five-year comprehensive campaign stands on the shoulders of those leaders who
have come before us,” said Chancellor Kelli R. Brown. “Chancellor (John W.) Bardo
focused on academic excellence through the lens of stellar faculty and he succeeded
by creating faculty endowed chairs and endowed professorships. Chancellor (David O.)
Belcher was able to focus on endowed scholarships to meet the needs of our students
now and in perpetuity. He succeeded in the ‘Lead the Way’ campaign by creating more
than 200 new scholarship funds for students who had access but couldn’t necessarily
afford it. So, their work has allowed me to focus on priorities such as academic excellence
with an emphasis on programmatic support and experiential learning as well as a full
student experience that includes excellence in athletics with improved facilities.”
WCU is entering the leadership phase of the campaign, where the university's leadership and advancement team will share WCU's needs with prospective donors who can make leadership gifts to kick off the campaign.
“This five-year comprehensive campaign stands on the shoulders of those leaders who have come before us ... their work has allowed me to focus on priorities such as academic excellence with an emphasis on programmatic support and experiential learning as well as a full student experience that includes excellence in athletics with improved facilities.”— Chancellor Kelli R. Brown
Before moving forward, the Division of Advancement did its due diligence by hiring
Winston-Salem consulting firm Capital Development Services to complete a campaign
feasibility study. The eight-month study included interviews with more than 80 major
donors and prospects, a survey across the alumni base and a detailed advancement assessment
with faculty and staff.
The advancement leadership team presented the findings to both the WCU Foundation Board and the WCU Board of Trustees in fall 2021. Both boards adopted the feasibility study recommendation to begin a new campaign to raise funds to support the university’s top philanthropic needs.
This will be the university’s first comprehensive campaign since the “Lead the Way” campaign. That campaign successfully raised nearly $62 million, primarily for scholarships, and concluded in April 2019.
“At the end of Chancellor Belcher’s tenure, we were surprised at being designated as a NC Promise institution with lower tuition,” said Jamie Raynor, vice chancellor for advancement. “From the donor’s perspective, NC Promise really allowed them to stretch their philanthropic dollar. Our mission of access and affordability can be seen daily through their gifts.”
Expanding outside-the-classroom hands-on learning including study abroad/study away,
internships, undergraduate research, professional development and group experiences,
and outdoor engagement. Other priorities under this umbrella include academic support
through program endowments and immediate-use funds, and support for mental health
WCU students are heavily involved in campus culture and leadership, especially since they live on campus in the mountains of Western North Carolina with little access to large towns. Athletics is a core piece of that student experience on campus and athletics facilities are in critical need of updating. “Intercollegiate athletics adds great value to the experience for all students who attend Western Carolina University,” said Alex Gary, director of athletics. “The facilities where our student-athletes practice and compete, and where our alumni, members of the student body and community members gather to cheer on the Catamounts, need significant attention. Through this campaign, we hope to not only address structural and logistical issues with many of our aging athletic facilities, but also look to enhance the experience for our students and fans, as well as the competitive opportunities for our athletic program.” The following are top priorities as part of the comprehensive campaign:
The field house is a hub for all WCU student-athletes. The outdated facility, which formerly housed campus police and parking services, is currently used for both academic and student strength training support. Built in 1974, athletic leaders agree it is woefully inadequate in terms of size, construction and engineering, and maintenance costs. New construction would allow dedicated space for the football team, creating better teaching and meeting space for the program. It would also include updated space for academic counseling, strength training/nutrition, group student space and professional development programming.
The structural engineering has outlived its lifespan. The entire east side of the stadium needs to be rebuilt. Other updates include field lighting to support evening games, an area for visiting teams and media, and space for hosting university guests.
Currently, all field sports, sometimes referred to as Olympic sports, such as track and field, cross country and golf, use the Camp Gym, which was built in 1963 and is beyond repair. The building also serves as the home to women’s soccer, softball and sports medicine. There is no office space for coaches to meet with prospective student-athletes. An adequate central office location for field sports coaches and teams with meeting space and locker rooms close to where athletes practice and compete is needed.
“Intercollegiate athletics adds great value to the experience for all students who attend WCU.”— Alex Gary, director of athletics
Raynor explained the future success of this campaign will infuse the region to thrive.
“It’s critical for our campus, our region and this state for this campaign to be successful,” she said. “Most importantly, it allows us to put a philanthropic stake in the ground that underscores and supports WCU’s mission to be the very best public comprehensive regional institution, continuing our history of access, affordability and academic excellence, and elevating the student experience through improved athletics facilities for our student-athletes and for the students, alumni and community members who cheer them on. Through further student support inside and outside the classroom, the campaign also allows the Asheville I-40 and I-26 corridor to have the workforce in their backyard that they need to bring further prosperity to a region that has been historically ignored.”
The impact of the campaign will be felt by students and faculty. Monies from the campaign
will provide students with various opportunities outside the classroom that they would
not be able to afford or access on their own and provide deans and department heads
with additional funds to expand their academic work beyond the classroom for deserving
“Maybe we have a student with severe financial need who has access to, but cannot afford, opportunities outside the classroom to accentuate their learning,” Raynor said. “Well, when they come to Western, we want them to be able to embrace the full student experience from the classroom and beyond, which is the focus of this campaign. They can walk across the stage in four years with experiences and a degree that will take them far beyond where they came from and with the social mobility that will change not only their life but their family’s life as well.”
In addition to the work ongoing through the leadership phase, the campaign planning committee has been meeting throughout 2022 and will provide a fundraising goal recommendation this fall for the WCU Foundation Board and the WCU Board of Trustees to consider and adopt. The “Honoring Our Promise” campaign seeks a goal that surpasses the $62 million outcome of the “Lead the Way” campaign.
“They can walk across the stage in four years with experiences and a degree that will take them far beyond where they came from and with the social mobility that will change not only their life but their family’s life as well.”— Jamie Raynor, vice chancellor for advancement
University officials are also completing advanced planning for proposed athletics facilities, working with engineers and consultants to develop cost estimates and artist renderings for the facility upgrades. The advanced planning work will be completed this fall.“It’s going to take every single one of us to do this important work for WCU,” Raynor said. “It’s going to take our alumni, friends, parents, faculty, staff, community supporters, businesses and organizations to get it done for our deserving students.”