Several hundred Western Carolina University students, faculty and staff took a break from the rigors that come during the second month of the 2022 spring semester to show a little affection for the place where they study, live and work during the sixth annual “I Love WCU Month.”
Nearly 300 students took part in a Valentine’s Day party held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14, on the second floor of Hinds University Center, enjoying free cookies, cocoa and coffee. Students also posed for photographs with large heart-shaped cutouts and filled out cards stating what they love most about WCU. The cards were displayed at spots across campus through the end of February and photos were shared on university social media channels.
Two days later, more than 400 faculty and staff members attended an “I Love WCU” appreciation lunch featuring a Mediterranean-themed smorgasbord held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the Grandroom of the UC. The event marked the first time that campus employees had been able to gather in such large numbers in two years, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, said Chancellor Kelli R. Brown.
“We so appreciate all of our faculty and staff, particularly your grit over the past two-plus years to do the best we can for our students,” Brown said. “As we celebrate ‘I Love WCU Month,’ I honor your work. You are one of my top reasons that I, indeed, love this place. Thank you, sincerely, for your work and dedication.”
Brown also thanked members of WCU’s Shetland Society, which includes faculty and staff annual donors at all levels, for their “above-and-beyond generosity.” Named after Shetland ponies purchased by the university in 1912 to haul supplies by cart from Sylva to campus, the Shetland Society is intended to symbolize the innovation, dedication and determination that faculty and staff demonstrate through giving of their time, talent and treasure, said James Hogan, assistant vice chancellor for engagement.
Attendees at both events also received seasonal chocolate candies and small stone hearts made of purple amethyst. In addition to representing WCU’s main school color, amethyst also is the traditional birthstone for those born in February.
“Our students, faculty and staff are doing great work navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and we wanted to give them something sweet and something to put in their pockets to remind them of the good things their hard work supports,” Hogan said.
These extraordinary times are among the reasons that the Division of Advancement decided to focus the 2022 rendition of “I Love WCU Month” on activities beyond raising money, he said.
“Behind every single gift that anyone makes to Western is a personal connection. Our campus is returning to a point where we can begin reconnecting folks, and that’s what we wanted to do: give our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends an opportunity to reconnect, to warm up a relationship that’s been challenged by distance and time, and to remember how important the people here at WCU truly are,” Hogan said.
“When we make time to reconnect here on campus, it makes it possible to do the work of engaging students and faculty and staff through giving to the 1889 Club and the Shetland Society,” he said.
One of four giving societies established by the Division of Advancement, the 1889 Club recognizes donors for gifts made on an annual basis to the Fund for WCU. Named in recognition of the year of the university’s founding, the 1889 Club encompasses those who make annual gifts in amounts beginning at $18.89 for current students and $188.90 for alumni who have graduated within the last decade to $1,889 for alumni who graduated more than 10 years ago and for other friends of the university.
The Fund for WCU provides first-year access scholarships, and supports impact grants and ongoing stewardship efforts. The fund is also home to the 1889 Impact Grants Program, launched in 2021. The program helps WCU colleges, departments and units support initiatives that align with the university’s philanthropic priorities and further enhance the engagement of alumni and stakeholders to the philanthropic life of the university. Eleven projects were recently announced as recipients of grants in the program’s inaugural year.
New for 2022, the Division of Advancement partnered with WCU’s Technology Commons, which launched an initiative called #checkITout to promote its program through which patrons borrow technological equipment free of charge. During February, Technology Commons held a contest in which students checked out equipment and used it to create content showing why they love WCU, with the user-generated content posted on university social media sites.
Technology Commons staff selected three random student participants to win give-away prizes: Ryan Horne, Nintendo Switch Lite; Amy Woods, AirPod Pros; and Angelina Vang, fifth-generation Echo Show.
In addition, hundreds of alumni told their personal “love stories” throughout the month, recounting how they met their partners or spouses on campus, and University Communications and Marketing shared those stories on WCU’s social media platforms.