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WCU Stories

Kam A. McDonald Alum of the Month

Kam McDonald


Question.)  When did you graduate from WCU and in what subject area?

A.)  Spring 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.  I completed my MSW in 2013 at Winthrop University

Q.)   What are some of your fondest memories of your days at WCU?

A.)  Some of my fondest memories were with my BFF, Daneen Beverly—and we are still close friends today.  We were roommates and both pledged the Kappa Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.  While students at Western, Daneen and I worked at Wendy’s—but when we were both faced with that difficult choice of whether to go to work or attend homecoming—we decided to resign and instead be with our alumni and friends on homecoming weekend (our parents are going to freak out when they read this!). All’s well that ends well—because we were hired by Burger King the Monday after Homecoming! As a student at Western, I was very involved and loved every minute.  I was a member of the WCU Inspirational Choir and served as treasurer for many years.  I typically spent all of my spring break on tour with the choir. Also, I was President and Vice-President of OES (Organization of Ebony Students) and served on the first StompFest Committee and later served as StompFest Coordinator.  I participated in Last Minute Productions, and was an SGA Senator.  I participated in Project CARE and was a mentor with Western’s B.E.S.T. (Black Educational Support Team) and I still keep in touch with my then peer counselor and the alumni I later mentored.  I was NPHC-Vice President and served as Treasurer and Historian for AKA.  I am still an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated through the Rho Psi Omega Chapter in Charlotte, NC.  I served as Chairman of the Graduate Advisor’s Committee, NPHC Committee, and a member of the Medical Committee.  My leadership and interpersonal skills were honed at WCU because I participated in as many activities and organizations that I could!  I loved hanging out at the bricks with all my friends and sorority sisters and often times they would go home with me during breaks. I met a lot of good people at Western that I still consider family — and for many of us far away from home we were family—  in this somewhat isolated area called Cullowhee—a place we called home.   

Q.)  Who were your favorite professors at Western Carolina and why? 

A.)  Jeanne Dulworth- Social Work Professor
-She was there for me during one of the hardest times of my life and she made me believe that I would succeed because she felt I had all the tools I needed.   Jeanne’s voice was always so calm and comforting and she taught me how to use my own voice in helping others.  

Luann Ham- English Professor
-I just loved Professor Ham!  She was a great English professor and she inspired me.  I still have a passion for writing because of her.  I had her my first semester and actually enjoyed going to her 8:00am class!  It was a true joy to be in her class.

Dr. Brian K. Bridges-Advisor
-Dr. Bridges worked in Student Affairs and was always an advocate for students—he was always warm and welcoming and we spent a lot of time in his office.  He taught us life skills that I use even today.  Dr. Bridges was always there for me and helped me through some real challenges at WCU.  Even today, we call each other on our birthdays and catch up on each other’s life. Dr. Bridges truly changed and influenced my life—and taught me many life skills that I use even today.  

Dr. Bill Haggard
-Dean Haggard will always be my hero because he was a true champion for me in the best way!  He treated me the way a parent would want their child to be treated when they are far away from home.  He provided guidance, protection, and security during a time when, unfortunately, I felt very little of that from the people who were supposed to protect me.  His door was always open, and he was always so approachable and available for his students.

Q.)  You've enjoyed a rewarding career in the school system as a social worker.  Tell us a little about your career path since graduating Western.

A.)  I completed my Social Work internship at Harris Regional Hospital in medical social work.  I worked in an office with two social workers and a nurse and participated with the utilization review team.  Although unbeknownst to me, this served as the foundation for my first job.  In 2006, Governor Mike Easley created the Child and Family Support Team Initiative (known as CFST), which pairs a social worker with a nurse in a school setting.

On May 3rd, 2006, I became the first school social worker at Wadesboro Primary School and I am one of five women who were the first to pilot the school social work program in the Anson County school district.  As a CFST School Social Worker, my job is to identify students who are failing or at risk of failing or have out of home placement.  Together, the nurse and I work with the family to create a mutual plan to combat any health and socio-economic barriers that impede the learning of a child or family. I was licensed by NCDPI in June of 2017 as a certified school social worker.  The courses that I took in my social work program at WCU were so thorough that I only needed to take one class to be certified.  I am so proud to have a Western Carolina University education. I received my MSW from Winthrop University while still working full-time and was nominated as School Social Worker of the Year.  Currently, I serve as secretary of the North Carolina School Social Workers Association.  I also serve my school district as the Toys for Tots representative, and I assist the local Police Chief with "Shop With A Cop."  I’m secretary of the School Health Advisory Council as well as a Homelessness liaison and I’m also PBIS coach at my school Morven Elementary.  

Q.)  Kam, you have been very involved with your alma mater over the years. You have chaired the last two African-American Alumni and Friends Reunion Committees and are a current member of the WCU Alumni Association Board of Directors. Why do you feel it is important for alumni to stay connected with their university? 

A.)  I love a “family reunion”.  I met the best people in the world at WCU and I met my real friends there.  I am a first-generation college student and I feel it is my duty to always give back. There were so many people who helped me along my journey through college. Undergraduates can thrive with the assistance and guidance of alumni.  Making connections with alumni— even during my freshman year— taught me about making good connections and following good life advice. I love to hear from students when they graduate and update me on their next phase in life. I get a lot of gratification when I discover that they followed my advice, and that I was instrumental in helping them get where they are.  Alumni can provide “roots” for current students through mentoring and this stability will give them confidence to succeed.  I work in a “helping” profession because to me it is truly a calling to help people.  The value of alumni guidance and support was imparted to me as an undergraduate.  The support of alumni following graduation propelled me into my career and reaffirmed the importance in giving back through community service.  It seems everywhere I go, I find another alumna or alumnus from WCU.  

Q.)  Tell us a little about the post-game social that is held each year after the Homecoming game. 

A.)  The post-game social is one of my favorite traditions during Homecoming weekend.  I love Homecoming and this social is a place for African-American alumni, family, and friends to reconnect and network together.  It has grown exponentially over the last few years and attendance increases every year.  We use this as a way to reconnect with each other and also socialize with students, faculty, and staff.  Also, it is a great opportunity to find out what is trending in Cullowhee. For me, reminiscing puts me in my happy place—it’s a fun and fulfilling time!

Q.)  Now tell us something unique and interesting about yourself that few people may know.

A.)  I enjoy spending my free time reading and writing.  I seem to have been given the gift of creativity.  When I first entered WCU, I wanted to become an attorney.  I had great professors but, unfortunately business law bored me!  I changed my major to social work for the same reason I was interested in becoming an attorney, so I could be an advocate for children and as a school social worker I fortunately get to do this every day. I am truly humbled and wowed by this honor of being named April 2018 Alum of the Month and I appreciate the opportunity to serve at my alma mater, Western Carolina University!

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