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WCU Homecoming Kicks Off October 21st

Homecoming 2014 cheerleaders“Purple on the Prowl!” will be the theme as the Western Carolina University community comes together to celebrate Homecoming 2015, with major public events planned over a five-day period – Wednesday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 25.

Events include comedy and country music shows featuring nationally known performers, a golf tournament, the traditional parade down Main Street in Sylva, a performance by WCU’s Inspirational Choir, and a football game pitting the Catamounts against the Samford Bulldogs.

Scheduled for Oct. 21 is a Homecoming Comedy Show featuring Colin Jost, one of the stars of NBC’s iconic “Saturday Night Live.” Jost, who is currently SNL’s “Weekend Update” host, will be joined by comedians Jose Barrientos, Chloe Hilliard and Kevin Yee. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Student tickets, free with a valid Cat Card, are available at the information desk of A.K. Hinds University Center. General admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu or 828-227-2479.

Activities set for Thursday, Oct. 22, include the “Last Lecture” delivered by Vicki Szabo, WCU associate professor of history, at 4 p.m. in the theater of the University Center. The annual event honors a WCU faculty member who has been recognized by students for teaching with great passion and enthusiasm. Szabo will address the topic “Scholars, Warriors, Cowards and Fools: Fear and Learning from Rome to Raleigh.”

A Homecoming concert featuring rising country star Hunter Hayes will begin at 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Hayes is a four-time Grammy nominee and was named New Artist of the Year in 2012 by the Country Music Association. Advance tickets are $20 for WCU students and $25 for all others, and all tickets are $25 on the day of the show. Tickets are available at ramsey.wcu.edu or by calling 828-227-7722.
Events on Friday, Oct. 23, begin with the annual Alumni Scholarship Homecoming Golf Tournament at 11 a.m. at Maggie Valley Golf Club. The cost of $100 per person includes golf, one mulligan and two raffle tickets. RSVPs are required by Friday, Oct. 16, to WCU’s Office of Alumni Affairs at 877-440-9990 or 828-227-7335, or by emailing bbusby@wcu.edu.

Also on Oct. 23, WCU’s Homecoming Parade will begin at 6:15 p.m. in downtown Sylva. University alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are invited to cheer as community and student floats, Catamount cheerleaders, the Homecoming Court and the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band march and roll down Main Street.

Activities on Saturday, Oct. 24, will begin with the Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. Honorees are Teresa Williams, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, Distinguished Service Award; Keith Ramsey, professor of medicine at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, Academic Achievement Award; Michell Hicks, former principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Professional Achievement Award; and Brandon Robinson, an attorney in Durham, Young Alumnus Award. The cost is $15 per person and business attire is requested. RSVP by Oct. 16 by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs or by emailing magill@wcu.edu.

Football tailgating will begin at noon Oct. 24, and Catamount fans will gather at E.J. Whitmire Stadium at 3:30 p.m. for the Homecoming game versus Samford. Halftime activities will include recognition of the Homecoming award winners and court, plus an announcement of this year’s Homecoming king and queen. Tickets to the game are available from the WCU athletics ticket office at 800-344-6928.

Postgame activities will include the African-American Alumni Reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Peele, Westmoreland Suhre, Hartshorn Hospitality Room at the Ramsey Center. RSVP by Oct. 16 by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs or emailing magill@wcu.edu.

Homecoming 2015 activities will conclude Oct. 25 with the WCU women’s soccer team’s match versus Samford at 2 p.m. at the Catamount Athletic Complex and a concert by WCU’s Inspirational Choir in the University Center Grandroom at 3 p.m.

WCU theater season opening with ‘Who Shot Andy Warhol’

WCU_Pop_NewsThe Mainstage theater season of Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen opens Thursday, Oct. 1, with the college campus premiere of the new high-energy musical comedy-mystery “Pop! Who Shot Andy Warhol?”
Performances are scheduled at WCU’s Hoey Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 3, with a special 3 p.m. matinee on Oct. 3.
With book and lyrics by Maggie-Kate Coleman and music by Anna K. Jacobs, “Pop!” takes the audience back to June 3, 1968, when pop artist and cultural icon Andy Warhol was shot in his Manhattan studio, a place known as the “Silver Factory.” The musical explores Warhol’s relationships with his posse of “Superstars” – historical figures such as socialite Edie Sedgwick and ultra-feminist Valerie Solanas.
The actors portray Warhol’s Superstars, as well as a host of other roles ranging from life-sized dolls to expressionist painters. Every character in the production is a suspect in the shooting – even Warhol. The show’s popular music and outrageous lyrics are punctuated by the sound of a gun.
Michael Gallagher, a senior acting major from Morrisville, will portray Warhol. Other cast members, all musical theatre majors, are Alex Drost, a senior from Blairsville, Georgia, as Candy Darling; Kylee Verhoff, a junior from Jacksonville, as Edie Sedgwick; Samantha Alicandri, a senior from Weehawken, New Jersey, as Viva; Iliana Garcia, a junior from Newnan, Georgia, as Valerie Solanas; Logan Marks, a junior from Mansfield, Massachusetts, as Gerard Malanga; and Benjamin Sears, a sophomore from Waynesville, as Ondine.
“Pop!” is directed by Claire Eye, and music director is Katya Stanislavskaya. Others contributing to the production are John Scacchetti, choreography; Dustin Whitehead, fight choreography; Andrew Mannion, set design; and Susan Brown-Strauss, costume design.
The show includes adult language and content and is not suitable for young audiences.
Tickets are $21 for adults; $16 for senior citizens and WCU faculty and staff; and $10 on the day of the show ($7 in advance) for students. Tickets are available by contacting the box office of the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center at 828-227-2479 or online at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

WCU’s 41st Mountain Heritage Day

The sights, sounds, fragrances and flavors of a bygone era will again draw thousands of visitors to Western Carolina University to experience the region’s rich history of southern Appalachian culture at the 41st annual Mountain Heritage Day on Saturday, Sept. 26.

WCU’s free celebration will feature a full schedule of mountain music, fun activities, more than 80 booths of the region’s finest arts and crafts, and vendors offering ethnic, heritage and festival food.

Balsam and Blue Ridge stages and the Circle Tent will offer continuous mountain music, clogging and storytelling. Musical performers will include Balsam Range, Unspoken Tradition, Phil and Gaye Johnson, Stoney Creek Boys, Trevor and Travis Stuart, Foxfire Boys, Back Creek Bluegrass Boys, Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Choir, Whitewater Bluegrass Company, Possum on a Whale, the Queen Family, Sheets Family Band, the Deitz Family and others. Some will accompany the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, Southern Appalachian Cloggers and Tangled Feet Cloggers.

The Circle Tent will feature “Roots of the Banjo,” a musical session themed “Critter Songs,” and a presentation from the Jackson County Historical Society.

Other areas will be active with demonstrations of Cherokee stickball by competitive teams from the area and traditions shared by the Tsalagi Touring Group. “Sacred Harp” and “Christian Harmony” shape-note singing move outside to their own tent this year.

The Children’s Tent will provide entertaining activities for younger visitors throughout the day, ranging from crafts and potato sack races to music and storytelling with Connie Regan-Blake.

Free wagon rides and hayrides and an antique auto show will present visitors with a look back at transportation of former days.

Mountain Heritage Day also offers a variety of contests centered on authentic mountain folk arts and skills, including competitions for best beards and mustaches; period costumes for adults and children; canned, preserved and baked goods; and chainsaw woodcutting. A stroll through other areas will feature demonstrations of black powder shooting, blacksmithing, salt-making, stone carving, banjo-making, corn shuck crafts, Cherokee pottery/crafts and broom-making.

Rain or shine, the festival will bring history to life and fun to thousands. Shuttles will operate throughout the day, with stops at designated free parking and attraction locations.

Though pets are not allowed on festival grounds, service animals are welcome. Festival attendees are encouraged to bring umbrellas, hats and sunblock, as well as lawn chairs and/or blankets for enjoying food, spectator events, and breaks from sensory overload as needed.

Mountain Heritage Day volunteers will welcome visitors between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., preceded by the 5-K foot race at 8 a.m. on festival day.

For more information, visit www.mountainheritageday.com or call 828-227-7129.


8 a.m. – 5K Race Begins

9 a.m. – Registration for Chainsaw Contest and Car Show Begins

10 a.m. – Festival Opens

10:30 a.m. – Black Powder Demonstration and “Sacred Harp” Shape-Note Singing

11 a.m. – Cherokee Stickball Game

Noon – Car Show Awards announced

1:30 p.m. – “Christian Harmony” Shape-Note Singing

2 p.m. – Cherokee Stickball Game

3 p.m. – Black Powder Demonstration

5 p.m. – Festival Closes


Rodney Sutton – Emcee

10 a.m. – The Deitz Family

10:45 a.m. – Heritage Alive! Mountain Youth Talent Award Winners

11:15 a.m. – Queen Family

Noon – Mountain Heritage Award presentation

12:15 p.m. – Trevor and Travis Stuart with Southern Appalachian Cloggers

1 p.m. – Balsam Range with Bailey Mountain Cloggers

2 p.m. – Beard and Moustache & Kid’s Costume contests

2:15 p.m. – The Sheets Family Band

3 p.m. – Tsalagi Touring Group

3:30 p.m. – Connie Regan-Blake

4 p.m. – Highway 74


Bill Nichols – Emcee

10 a.m. – Whitewater Bluegrass Company

11 a.m. – The Foxfire Boys with Bailey Mountain Cloggers

Noon – Phil and Gaye Johnson

12:45 p.m. – Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Choir

1:45 p.m. – Stoney Creek Boys with Southern Appalachian Cloggers

2:45 p.m. – Craft Awards Presentation

3 p.m. – Unspoken Tradition

4 p.m. – Balsam Range


Phil Jamison – Facilitator

10 a.m. – Jackson County Historical Society presentation

11 a.m. – Roots of the Banjo

1 p.m. – Crossing the Pond

3 p.m. – Critter Songs


Barry Clinton – Emcee

10 a.m. – Children’s Heritage Activities and Games

11:45 a.m. – Play-Party Games with Uncle Ted White

12:30 p.m. – The Back Creek Bluegrass Boys

12:45 p.m. – Tsalagi Touring Group

1:30 p.m. – Possum on a Whale

2 p.m. – Tangled Feet Cloggers

2:30 p.m. – Jackson County JAM program

3 p.m. – Connie Regan-Blake

3:30 p.m. – Children’s Heritage Activities and Games

WCU again ranked among best in South by US News & World Report

Western Carolina University once again is ranked among the best universities in the South in two categories in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guidebook released today (Wednesday, Sept. 9).

The guidebook lists WCU as 13th among “top public regional universities” in the South, up two places from last year’s spot at 15th. The publication also has WCU tied with two other schools at No. 32 on a list of the “best regional universities” in the South, five places above last year’s ranking at No. 37 in that category.

The category in which WCU appears includes 618 higher education institutions that offer a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and that tend to attract most of their students from surrounding states.

In addition, Western Carolina ranked at No. 27 among institutions in the South for “best colleges for veterans” and at No. 90 nationally in the category of “best online programs.”

The annual rankings are based on a variety of indicators, including assessment by administrators at peer institutions, graduation rates, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

The rankings come as WCU is celebrating an all-time high in the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who have returned for their sophomore year with 80 percent of last year’s freshman class back in school this fall semester, and as more than 3,000 applications for admission to next year’s freshman class already are being processed.

Although rankings guidebooks can provide some guidance in the college search process, prospective students should concentrate on finding the school that is the right fit for them personally, said Phil Cauley, director of student recruitment and transitions at WCU.

“A great way to learn more about Western Carolina and to see if it is a good fit is to visit during Open House, which allows students to get a feel for the campus by taking a tour, talking with faculty and staff, and learning about academic programs, extracurricular activities, student support programs and financial aid,” Cauley said.

WCU has four Open House events scheduled for this academic year. The first one is Saturday, Oct. 31, and others are scheduled for Nov. 14, Feb. 20 and March 12. Registration and more information are available at the website openhouse.wcu.edu.

Students who cannot attend an Open House have the alternative of participating in a weekday campus tour, Cauley said. More information is available by emailing admiss@wcu.edu or calling 828-227-7317.

WCU hits all-time high freshman retention rate of 80 percent

Western Carolina University has hit an all-time high in the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who have returned for their sophomore year as 80 percent of last year’s freshman class is back in school this fall semester.
That means the university has achieved one of the major goals of its “2020 Vision” strategic plan five years ahead of schedule, said Tim Metz, WCU assistant vice chancellor for institutional planning and effectiveness.
“Increasing our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate to 80 percent by the year 2020 is spelled out in our strategic plan,” Metz said. “To reach that goal five years early speaks volumes about the work our faculty and student support staff are doing to help ensure that students stay in school and remain on track to graduate.”
This year’s record retention rate of 80.06 percent is 2.2 points higher than last year’s rate of 77.88 percent and nearly 14 points higher than in 2006.
A total of 1,624 new first-time, full-time freshmen are enrolled at WCU this fall. In addition, the academic profile of this year’s freshman class has improved on all fronts, with higher average scores on the SAT and ACT entrance exams and higher high school GPAs than the previous year.
Total student enrollment at WCU remains steady, with a tally of 10,340 undergraduate and graduate students on the books as of the university’s official census day of Friday, Aug. 28.
Undergraduate enrollment is up slightly, increasing to 8,821, a 0.4 percent rise over last year’s tally. Graduate student enrollment is down by 4.8 percent, dropping to 1,519 from last year’s count of 1,595.
The decline is mirroring trends in graduate school enrollment across the state and nation because of an improving economy in which fewer people seek advanced degrees and a recent end to financial incentives for school teachers to seek advanced degrees in education, said Dale Carpenter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions.
Undergraduate programs in WCU’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology and the College of Health and Human Sciences saw some of the most significant growth in undergraduate enrollment this fall, said Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar.
“These programs supply graduates in the fields of engineering, technology, nursing and the health sciences, which are key to regional economic development and to meet the workforce demands of business and industry and the health care needs of the people of Western North Carolina,” Morrison-Shetlar said.
Western Carolina also experienced an increase in the diversity of its student body this fall, with a 16 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students, a 7.5 percent increase in the number of Asian students, and a 20 percent increase in the number of multiracial students.
Although classes began at the university Monday, Aug. 17, enrollment numbers are not official until after the 10th day of classes, referred to as “census day.” Even then, the numbers are not considered final until any errors have been corrected and the files have been submitted to UNC General Administration.
With the books closed on the 2014-15 student recruitment cycle, the Office of Undergraduate Admission now is hard at work building WCU’s freshman class of 2016, with more than 3,000 applications from high school students already submitted for next fall, said Phil Cauley, director of student recruitment and transitions.
The first of four scheduled Open House events for prospective WCU students and their parents is set for Saturday, Oct. 31. Additional events at WCU are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14; Saturday, Feb. 20; and Saturday, March 12.

WCU’s Pride of the Mountains preparing new production, ‘That’s What’s Up’

Nine months after serving as the lead band at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, members of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band are rehearsing their new production, “That’s What’s Up,” and planning trips to the Bands of America Grand National Championship and a Carolina Panthers football game.

Also on the Pride’s fall agenda is a collaboration with a local bluegrass band during a WCU home football game in November.
With a good mix of veteran members and more than 200 freshmen, this year’s Pride of the Mountains will total 475 students, said David Starnes, WCU’s director of athletic bands.

“A leadership team comprised of over 90 students have planned, recruited and trained the band in an effort to maintain the traditions of the program, while elevating musical and visual expectations,” Starnes said.

This year’s production is designed and implemented by Starnes, along with two assistant directors of athletic bands, Matt Henley and Jon Henson. Musical arrangements are by Doug Thrower, a free-lance composer and arranger from Ontario, Canada, and drill design is by Jamey Thompson, a visual designer from Chicago, Starnes said.

“That’s What’s Up” will explore the concept of “up” through the use of emotion, with music made famous by artists ranging from Marvin Gaye to Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay and Fall Out Boy, Starnes said. The new production “illustrates mood, momentum and ascent through music and visual performance,” he said. “The real message of “up” lies in the potential to be our absolute very best in all that we do.”
In addition to performing at WCU home football games, the Pride of the Mountains’ schedule includes a trip to the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis, where more than 90 of the best high school bands from across the nation will compete. The Pride not only will present its new show, but also will take part in the event’s 40th anniversary ceremony, Starnes said. Performing in Indianapolis “is an honor that the band does not take for granted and a performance opportunity that allows Western Carolina University’s name to reach thousands of the top high school band students and parents in Lucas Oil Stadium,” he said.

In July, Henley was contacted by the Carolina Panthers organization with an invitation for the Pride’s drumline to take part in a “Drumline Showcase” during halftime of the Panthers’ game versus the Houston Texans on Sunday, Sept. 20. The Pride has two drumlines, Purple and Gold, and members of both will travel to Charlotte to perform in the showcase with the drumline from South Carolina State University and the Panthers’ drumline, Henley said.

The Panthers are supplying transportation, food and seats for the drumline members to watch the second half of the game, Henley said. “We are honored to be chosen and look forward to throwin’ down some purple and gold beats,” he said.
Another highlight of the Pride’s schedule is hosting its 15th annual Tournament of Champions, a competition for the best high school marching bands across the South, on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Later in the fall, on Saturday, Nov. 7, local bluegrass-gospel group Mountain Faith will join the Pride in performing the National Anthem before the start of WCU’s home football game against Furman. Mountain Faith has been garnering considerable national exposure in recent weeks on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent!”

Other members of the Pride’s 2015 instructional and design team, in addition to Starnes, Henley, Henson, Thrower and Thompson, are Bob Buckner, pregame drill designer; Bobby Richardson, color guard director; Ian Lewis, color guard choreographer; Scott Beck, rifle/saber choreographer; Brittany Mastromatteo, color guard technician; Scott Lanning, Purple drumline director; Chelsea Levine, cymbal technician; and Taylor Barnes, bass drum technician.

Staff coordinators are Jesseca Gregory, Alex Larsen, Brian Porterfield and Daniel Scott. Drum majors are Taylor Andrews, Zach Henderson, Victoria Johnson and Brandon Truitt, and caption coordinators are Malyk Adams, Justin Aponte, Brandon Kasseb, Jamie McDonald and Alaina Seidle.

YOur Fall Color Prediction 2015

Fall leaf color in the mountains of Western North Carolina should be the best it has been in a number of years because of generally drier-than-normal conditions during 2015.
That’s the word from Western Carolina University’s autumnal season sage Kathy Mathews in her annual prediction of how foliage around the region will perform as the sunlight of summer wanes and days become frosty.
Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, specializes in plant systematics and bases her color forecast on both past and predicted weather conditions. She believes that the formation of higher levels of pigments in the leaves correlates with dry weather throughout the year, but especially as fall comes around the bend.
“This fall could be one of the best leaf color seasons in Western North Carolina in recent memory,” Mathews said. “Three words explain it – unusually dry weather.”
U.S. Geological Survey records indicate that the region had been drier than normal for most of the year, but with enough rain, particularly in the months of April and June, to avoid drought and keep the trees healthy, she said.
Sugar concentrations in the leaves increase during dry weather because the trees are not taking up as much water through their roots, Mathews said. The abundance of sugars leads to the production of more anthocyanins, the red pigments that appear when green chlorophylls begin receding. “That’s what causes the leaf colors to really pop, along with the simultaneous appearance of orange and yellow pigments on the same or different tree species,” she said.
Some foliage fans may be wondering if the much-publicized El Nino weather pattern may affect the fall colors. Meteorologists are predicting a light hurricane season in the Atlantic this year, partly because of dry air over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean caused by El Nino, and that reduces the chances of heavy rain and big wind storms in the mountains in August and September – good news for the leaf display, Mathews said.
Leaf-peepers always want to know when the “peak color” will happen, but the timing of the color change is highly dependent on the decreasing amount of sunlight that comes with the passing days, plus the elevation of a particular location, she said. “The peak of fall color often arrives during the first and second week of October in the highest elevations, above 4,000 feet, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, 2,500 to 3,500 feet,” Mathews said. Visitors can look for leaves to be peaking in color intensity a few days after the first reported frost in any particular area, she said.
Regardless of all the factors that affect leaf color, visitors to Western North Carolina always will find a pleasing leaf display somewhere in the mountains from September into November, with a wide range of color made possible by the region’s elevations ranging from 1,500 feet to over 6,000 feet and the more than 100 tree species, Mathews said.

Forum to update WCU campus on master plan, reaccreditation, enrollment trends

Members of the Western Carolina University community will have an opportunity to hear updates about three important university topics – the campus master plan, the bid for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and emerging enrollment and demographic trends – during a public forum Monday, Aug. 24.

The event will be held in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center from 2 until 3:30 p.m., with WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher providing opening remarks.

Mike Byers, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, will give an update on construction and renovation projects underway as part of the master plan. Approved by the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013, the plan is designed to serve as a tool to closely link physical facilities of the university, including construction and renovation, to goals of its strategic plan.

Arthur Salido, associate professor of analytical chemistry and WCU’s SACSCOC director, will share information about the university’s accreditation reaffirmation process, including development of a Quality Enhancement Plan. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar appointed Salido to take the reins of WCU’s SACSCOC reaffirmation process in May.

A comprehensive multiyear effort, the reaffirmation process involves demonstrating that WCU has met in-depth SACSCOC standards that ensure the university is offering high-quality programs for students. Successful reaffirmation of accreditation is important for reasons such as preserving WCU’s ability to be able to confer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and maintaining eligibility to receive and distribute federal financial aid funds. The university has been continuously accredited by SACSCOC, WCU’s institutional accrediting body, since 1946 and last reaffirmed accreditation for a 10-year period in 2007.

Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, will discuss enrollment and demographic trends that are expected to have an impact on institutions of higher education. Those trends include a predicted decline in the number of college-going North Carolinians in the year 2021 (the result of a drop in birthrates after Sept. 11, 2001), followed by an increase in college-bound residents in regions of the state east of WCU’s service region.

WCU Potential for 4th Year of Record Enrollment

The potential exists for a fourth straight year of record enrollment as the Western Carolina University community prepares to welcome new and returning students for the start of the fall semester.
Fall classes start Monday, Aug. 17, but WCU’s official student headcount will be an unknown until the 10th class day Friday, Aug. 28, which is “census day” as specified by the University of North Carolina General Administration. Current indicators point to the possibility of another all-time high for WCU’s total enrollment, said Phil Cauley, the university’s director of student recruitment.

The recent upward trend in enrollment began in 2012, when 9,608 students attended WCU, followed by 10,107 in 2013 and 10,382 last year. At this time of year, student registration totals ebb and flow as final orientation sessions, course change periods, drop for nonpayment and late registration occur, Cauley said. “Stronger retention rates in the large entering first-year classes in recent years, solid transfer numbers and healthy distance learning registrations could add up to another total record enrollment,” he said.

Last year’s freshman class at WCU exceeded expectations at 1,745 students, the largest class of first-year students since an enrollment boom of the post-Vietnam mid-1970s, Cauley said. “While this fall’s entering first-year class will not challenge last year’s total, the fall 2015 entering class is expected to be the second- or third-largest entering class since the 1970s,” he said.

Author of ‘The Other Wes Moore’ to speak at WCU’s New Student Convocation

Wes Moore, author of The New York Times bestselling book “The Other Wes Moore,” will visit Western Carolina University to deliver the keynote address during the university’s annual New Student Convocation on Friday, Aug. 14.
Members of WCU’s incoming freshman class and new transfer students will have an opportunity to hear Moore’s perspectives during the convocation set for 5:30 p.m. in Ramsey Regional Activity Center. The event is open to everyone.
“The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” is the true story of two young boys who grew up with the same name and in the same city. One of the boys, the Wes Moore who wrote the book, escaped the pitfalls of being raised in a rough neighborhood and became a Rhodes Scholar, decorated military combat veteran, White House Fellow and business leader. He now lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children. The other Wes Moore is currently serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder.
WCU’s new freshmen have been reading Moore’s book his summer as they participate in the university’s “One Book” program. The students received a free copy of the bestseller during June orientation sessions and they are expected to engage in a “common intellectual conversation” about the book as it is incorporated into many first-year courses, said Glenda Hensley, director of WCU’s Office of First Year Experience.
Hensley’s office directs the “One Book” program, which is sponsored by WCU’s Division of Student Success.
Lowell K. Davis, WCU’s assistant vice chancellor for student success, said Moore’s story “compels readers to imagine the many potentials of their own lives and understand the opportunities that are a part of every day.”
“It is my hope that the selection of ‘The Other Wes Moore’ as our ‘One Book’ for this academic year will lead students to this kind of self-reflection and impact the way they make choices during their time here at Western, and beyond,” Davis said.
The Aug. 14 convocation also will include remarks from WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher and university Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar.
A few weeks after the convocation, students will participate in roundtable discussions about the book at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center and at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, in the Blue Ridge Hall conference room. Other panel discussions are planned for September and October.

WCU students study controversial shootings, make recommendations

Western Carolina University students not only studied numerous cases this summer in which young African-American men around the country were shot by white police officers, but the students also compiled 11 recommendations that were sent to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and other law enforcement officials and legislative bodies across the country.

The students were part of a special summer school criminal justice course taught by former DeKalb County, Georgia, district attorney and criminal defense attorney J. Tom Morgan. The course was the brainchild of Steve Brown, professor and head of WCU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The idea stemmed from the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer – a case that was debated nationally for weeks.

“We want our students to have the opportunity to examine those issues in a thoughtful sort of way as opposed to the highly spirited public debate that injects a lot of other issues that are not necessarily focusing in on the actual workability of different approaches for reform in the justice system,” Brown said.

Morgan said he was initially skeptical as to whether the Ferguson case could provide enough material for an entire summer course. That was until he discovered how many other similar cases there had been across the country.

“It seemed like every time we picked up a paper or turned on the news, there was another fatal shooting,” Morgan said. “We ended up having plenty to talk about all summer, unfortunately.

“It did give a lot of different perspectives that students got to see because many of these were actually on video. It was very eerie seeing people get shot and killed. I’ve been to a lot of autopsies as a district attorney, but I’ve never actually seen anybody gunned down, and we saw it over and over again. And then the students were finding cases that I actually hadn’t even heard about,” he said.

In addition to the Brown shooting, the students reviewed evidence, videos and statements from the deaths of Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York; Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio; Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina; Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland; Cedric Alexander of Chamblee, Georgia; and John Crawford III of Beavercreek, Ohio. The class also examined video from New Richmond, Ohio, where an officer did not fire his weapon, even though it appeared he had legal grounds to do so. They also heard from law enforcement officers from Charlotte.

The class was comprised of African-American and white males and females, all under 30 years of age and hailing from various backgrounds and academic majors, which is what Brown was hoping would occur.

After learning about the law on use of force by law enforcement officers and when lethal force is appropriate, the students examined each case individually and then came up with recommendations on how to decrease the number of fatalities and expand the public’s perception.

The students’ recommendations, titled “Lessons Learned From Ferguson and Other Fatal Encounters With Law Enforcement Officers,” include:

· Having a national protocol that mandates fatalities caused by law enforcement officers be investigated by a special task force comprised of federal- and state-level law enforcement agents and not by fellow officers;

· The jurisdiction for prosecution of these cases should solely be with the U.S. attorney’s office, not the local district attorney;

· Grand juries reviewing fatalities caused by law enforcement officers should consider both evidence of guilt and innocence, and if they decide not to indict, the transcripts should be made available to the public;

· All replicas of real firearms should be required to have a bright orange, easily recognizable band on the end of the muzzle and it should be a crime to erase, remove or paint over the band;

· There should be a national database that keeps track of all fatalities caused by law enforcement officers.

“It was very interesting, from my standpoint, having been in law enforcement both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I was fully unaware of how many of these cases were happening,” Morgan said. “I was learning with the students.”

While this particular course will not be offered again, Brown said there may be some variation of it in the future.

“I don’t think this is a flash-pan issue,” he said. “It’s one that will evolve and discussion will continue for a great while. I think we’re at a turning point in terms of how decisions are made to control police discretion.”

Traffic Delays at Western Carolina University

Traffic delays are expected on two of Western Carolina University’s main thoroughfares – Centennial Drive and Central Drive – to allow blasting activity associated with site preparation for WCU’s planned mixed-use facility.

Traffic delays can be expected at regular intervals in the area where the two roads intersect at the red light. Delays can be expected at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily beginning Wednesday, July 15, and continuing through Saturday, July 25.
Officials have warned that the schedule may be revised due to weather and other factors. Those traveling through campus are advised to consider alternate routes.

The 120,000-square-foot mixed-use facility will include a mix of residential units and commercial and dining establishments. It will replace the commercial strip along Centennial Drive where three businesses were destroyed by fire in November 2013. Completion is expected by August 2016.

WCU grant to help increase family nurse practitioners

The College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University is recipient of a $225,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation to help increase the number of family nurse practitioners working in health care settings in rural Western North Carolina.
Announcement of the two-year grant-funded effort was made Thursday, July 2, at the Good Samaritan Clinic in Sylva. The project is called INPUT, or Increasing Nurse Practitioners in Underserved Territories.
It also is designed to decrease the number of hospital emergency room visits by uninsured residents of rural WNC seeking primary care by providing them with an alternative through access to family nurse practitioner services at the Good Samaritan Clinic.
The project will fund a professional family nurse practitioner at the clinic who will assist in the training of nine graduate students annually from Western Carolina’s FNP program, said Judy Neubrander, director of the WCU School of Nursing.
“Project INPUT will provide valuable training to tomorrow’s family nurse practitioners by giving them experience working in a rural setting while simultaneously improving the health and health care of the region that is served by our friends at the Good Samaritan Clinic,” Neubrander said. “The project also will improve access to health care for people in our region who do not have health care coverage and rely on the emergency room as their primary care medical home.”
The project is expected to be of benefit to residents of Jackson, Swain, Macon, Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties, the primary service area of the Good Samaritan Clinic. Most of those counties are designated tier 1, or economically distressed, by the N.C. Department of Commerce, and all six are designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “health provider shortage areas.”
The project also will seek to identify additional sites in WNC beyond the clinic in Sylva to enable family nurse practitioners to provide health care services to a larger number of patients, said Dan Gerlach, president of Golden Leaf.
“The Golden LEAF Foundation created a special health care initiative to help reduce shortages in the number of professional and highly skilled health care workers in rural, underserved areas of North Carolina,” said Gerlach. “Research has shown that residents trained in rural areas are more likely to practice in rural areas.”
As part of the project, Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva will be collecting data on current emergency room visits for primary care and other non-emergency situations to help determine how successful the project is at diverting those patients away from the ER and to clinics and family nurse practitioners.
If the two-year study demonstrates financial savings for the hospital system, project organizers will seek additional funding sources to sustain the program.
WCU’s School of Nursing launched the family nurse practitioner master’s degree program in 1999 to meet a recognized need for primary care providers in WNC.
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy through grants made possible by a portion of the state’s settlement agreement with cigarette manufacturers.

Storm Tears Through Cullowhee; Damages Hunter Library

Attachment-1A storm hit campus at 7:20 Wednesday evening. High winds, heavy rain, reports of trees down and power lines down all over Jackson County.
Hardest hit area of campus was Hunter Library.

Nine trees fell onto the roof of the library, and another 10 trees down that blocked the road. Those trees are probably 50 years old or older.
Also some trees down in other areas of campus, but not nearly to the same extent as at the library.

Two trees down near Scott residence hall, and a tree on the upper campus that apparently was struck by lighting and split in two.

Library sustained damage to the roof. Our crews estimated 50 to 60 puncture holes in the roof.

Work crews have already patched those holes, and were done doing so by about 4:30 this morning.

In addition, there is some water damage to the interior of the library. Debris from the trees, pine needles, leaves and other debris clogged up the drainage system, and also water came through the holes in the roof…probably hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water.

But the library has a plan to handle situations like this, and the library staff went into high gear to implement the plan, moved books and maps, and used plastic to cover items in the library to protect them from further damage.

The area of the library affected the most was the map collections area, which experienced some flooding and water damage. It appears that the damage is minimal.

We do not yet have an estimate of cost of damages to the campus from the storm.

Wells Fargo Diversity and Leadership Scholars Program

Western Carolina University is creating a new endowed scholarship initiative designed to provide financial support to underserved students who exhibit leadership qualities and who come from diverse populations, thanks to a gift of $150,000 from Wells Fargo.
Announcement of the Wells Fargo Diversity and Leadership Scholars Program came Friday, June 5, at the Wells Fargo Business Center in WCU’s College of Business.
Proceeds from the endowment will be used to provide annual assistance to a minimum of three students at Western Carolina. Preference will be given to low-income students from diverse backgrounds who are the first generation in their families to attend college.
“This new scholarship program will help underserved and underrepresented students to complete their studies at Western Carolina University and move into leadership positions, to lead productive lives and to leave a positive impact on the communities in which they live,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said.
“The creation of additional endowed scholarship funds to provide financial support to deserving students is our university’s top philanthropic priority,” Belcher said. “We are pleased that Wells Fargo once again is demonstrating its commitment to being a key partner in the education and development of WCU students who will graduate with the skills and competencies necessary to make a significant and immediate contribution to our regional and state economy.”
Recipients of Wells Fargo Diversity and Leadership Scholarships must have completed freshman year requirements with no sanctions in place and must demonstrate characteristics of outstanding leadership.
The scholarship will be aimed at students residing in one of the 48 counties comprising the Western North Carolina, Greater Charlotte and Triad regions of North Carolina, and at those majoring in programs in WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, College of Business or College of Health and Human Sciences.
“The success of students is a critical element in keeping our communities strong and prosperous, and Wells Fargo is committed to providing them with every possible resource to achieve long-term success,” said Jim Wood, Wells Fargo’s WNC business banking manager. “Today’s young people are tomorrow’s business owners, leaders and teachers, and we are proud to support our partners at WCU in their efforts to provide scholarships to underserved students.”
The gift for the new scholarship program represents the latest example of a long-standing partnership between Western Carolina and Wells Fargo.
In 2011, WCU named the newly refurbished auditorium in the Forsyth Building, home to the College of Business, as the Wells Fargo Business Center in recognition of contributions totaling $150,000. The funds helped equip and furnish the renovated center, and provide scholarship assistance to students in the College of Business and financial support for faculty development efforts within the college.
In previous years, Wells Fargo provided support for the Professional Sales Center in the College of Business, graduate research activities, programming in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, and celebration of the College of Education and Allied Professions’ receipt of the 2007 Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award presented by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
“Wells Fargo fully believes that supporting education is one of the most important investments we can make in our country’s future,” said Rusty Edwards, area business banking manager for Wells Fargo’s Triad and WNC regions. “We are honored to work together with educational organizations like WCU to help create a competitive workforce and a sustainable economy for generations to come.”
Frank Lockwood, WCU associate professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, provided data and research about underserved and underrepresented students that were used in the university’s proposal submitted to Wells Fargo in support of the most recent gift.

WCU’s A.J. Grube elected Southern Conference president

A.J. Grube, Western Carolina University’s faculty athletics representative, was elected president of the Southern Conference at the intercollegiate athletics association’s annual spring meetings recently in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Grube, director of WCU’s School of Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and Business Law, will serve a two-year term, effective June 1. She has served as vice president of the Southern Conference for the past two years, with Chip Taylor from the Citadel serving as president.

“The Southern Conference is one of a few conferences where the faculty athletics representatives serve as the officers of the conference and, hence, cast his or her institution’s vote when needed. Most conferences don’t work this way,” she said. “I’m truly excited about this opportunity.”

A faculty member at WCU since 1999, Grube also was recently named to the NCAA legislative committee, a 19-member group whose primary responsibility is to review and make recommendations regarding the merits of proposals developed through the association’s shared governance process.

She chaired a campuswide review committee a decade ago that led WCU’s yearlong NCAA recertification process, culminating in notice of unconditional certification of the university’s intercollegiate athletics programs in March 2005.

Formerly assistant vice chancellor for operations and research in the Division of Academic Affairs, Grube earned her doctorate at Florida State University, master’s degrees at Georgia College & State University and Georgia Southern University, and bachelor’s degree at Georgia College & State University.

The Southern Conference is an NCAA Division I conference with headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In addition to WCU, its members are the Citadel, East Tennessee State University, Furman University, Mercer University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Samford University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Virginia Military Institute and Wofford College.

The conference’s four-day meetings, which concluded Friday, May 29, were attended by the institutional presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, senior women administrators and faculty athletic representatives. The league’s football and men’s and women’s basketball coaches also held meetings.

In addition to the election of Grube as president, Wofford’s Jameica Hill was selected as vice president. Nayef Samhat of Wofford was elected chairman of the Council of Presidents for 2015-16 while Brian Noland of ETSU was chosen to serve as the vice chairman.

The conference also finalized sites for select championships. Sites for men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball were selected through 2018.
ETSU, Samford and Mercer were chosen as host sites for women’s soccer, while UNCG, Mercer and ETSU were selected on the men’s side. Western Carolina and UNCG were tabbed to host the volleyball tournament in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

WCU Announces Summer Concert Series

The rock trio American Gonzos will kick off WCU’s Summer Concert Series on Thursday, June 11. The Asheville-based musicians are (from left) Michael Dean, Toby Burleson and Andrew Thelston. Dean and Thelston are WCU alumni.

The rock trio American Gonzos will kick off WCU’s Summer Concert Series on Thursday, June 11. The Asheville-based musicians are (from left) Michael Dean, Toby Burleson and Andrew Thelston. Dean and Thelston are WCU alumni.

The 2015 Summer Concert Series at Western Carolina University gets underway Thursday, June 11, with a free performance featuring the rock trio American Gonzos.
The Asheville-based musicians will take the stage at 7 p.m. at WCU’s Central Plaza. Those attending are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs for comfortable seating.
American Gonzo includes two WCU alumni from the class of 2009 – Andrew Thelston, guitarist and lead vocalist, and Michael Dean, who plays bass and provides backup vocals. The third member of the trio is Toby Burleson, drummer and backup vocalist.
Known for their musicianship and catchy tunes, members of the trio say they gather inspiration from many genres of music, including rock, funk, punk and alternative. The band was organized in 2010, and in 2011 the three musicians released their self-titled debut album, which was followed by their second album, “No Way to Live,” in 2013. The band members are currently working on a new collection of songs with longtime producer Randall Harris.
All concerts in the free series are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursdays in June and July. Upcoming acts include Bubonik Funk, June 25; Doug Gibson, July 16; Buchanan Boys, July 23; and Steph Stewart and the Boyfriends, July 30. The rain location for all the events is Illusions in A.K. Hinds University Center.

Governor seeks support for bond package, $114.9 million for WCU science building

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory visited Western Carolina University on Friday, May 22, seeking support for his proposed $3 billion bond package that would fund state infrastructure improvements and transportation projects, a plan that would include $114.9 million for a new WCU science building.

McCrory told a standing-room-only crowd assembled in a laboratory in WCU’s existing Natural Science Building, which was originally built in the 1970s and is no longer considered suitable for science education, that the time for the bond issue is now because of low interest rates and growing infrastructure needs.

“It’s not if you need a new building, it’s when are you going to do it. The longer you wait, the more expensive it’s going to get, and the less productivity you’re going to have with your students,” he said, pointing out broken ceiling tiles and antiquated lab equipment. “These in the real estate world would be considered D-minus buildings, which would be torn down.”

In his plan, titled “Connect NC,” McCrory has proposed nearly $3 billion in bond issues for state projects, with about half of that amount to fund highway improvements and the other half to pay for other infrastructure, renovation and construction projects across the state, including $504 million for the University of North Carolina system.

The $114.9 million proposed for WCU would be used to replace a building constructed when the university had only 15 nursing majors and no engineering majors. Today, WCU has about 2,300 students in health and human sciences programs, nearly 600 in technology and engineering programs, and about 500 in biological and physical science programs.

McCrory said he understands the need for educational improvements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (often called the STEM programs) because of the competition he sees from other states in recruiting business and industry.

“There is a skills gap in our country and in North Carolina, and as I’m recruiting industry to come to North Carolina, including to Western North Carolina, the first question I’m asked is ‘Do you have the talent necessary to fill the jobs at all levels.’ If you can’t answer yes to that question, they will go to another state or to another country,” he said.

“If we don’t get the scientists, if we don’t get the engineers, if we don’t get the mechanics and if we don’t get the electricians, then we’re not going to keep the industry that we have in North Carolina, let alone attract industry to North Carolina,” he said.

McCrory also reminded the crowd that North Carolina recently passed Michigan to become the ninth most-populated state in the nation. “And we’re going to keep growing,” he said. “We have a choice – do we prepare for that growth, or do we react to that growth? And that’s where I think government has a role in preparing its infrastructure.”

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher thanked McCrory for his endorsement of a new science building at WCU, calling the visit “an important and significant day for our institution.”

“We cannot adequately express our appreciation for affirming us as an institution through your understanding of the integral role this institution plays in the economy of Western North Carolina and your belief in our further potential to deepen and strengthen our impact on this part of the state in helping this wonderful part of our state to achieve the kind of economic vitality of some of our urban sisters in this state,” Belcher said.

Belcher expressed appreciation to members of the legislature, including Rep. Chuck McGrady and Sen. Tom Apodaca, both of Hendersonville, for their support of the project, reading a letter from Apodaca, a WCU alumnus and former member of the WCU Board of Trustees.

“As an advocate of STEM education, I am excited to see this idea gaining attention and support,” Apodaca wrote. “I am encouraged by the support for this important project, and hope that any future bond package will address such needs of Western Carolina and its students. While the bond discussion will continue, and may ultimately be decided by voters, I am glad to see the interests of Western Carolina recognized as integral to our state’s long-term success.”

For the bond package to become reality, the proposal must be endorsed by the General Assembly to be placed on the ballot for November’s elections, and then approved by voters statewide.

Also participating in a discussion of the proposed bond issue were State Budget Director Lee Roberts; Nick Tennyson, deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary; Teresa Williams, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees; other university and community leaders; and WCU student Mariah James, a junior biology major characterized by Belcher as “the most person here” because she represented the students who study in the building.

After the discussion, McCrory and the group took a brief tour of the Natural Sciences Building. That was followed by a visit to the WCU steam plant, which was built in the 1920s and is in need of significant renovations, as an example of the extensive amount of repair and renovation funding needs throughout the entire UNC system.

WCU has $511 million impact on WNC economy, statewide study of education says

Western Carolina University was responsible for injecting an estimated $511.3 million into the Western North Carolina economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through the combined impact of payroll, operational, construction and research expenditures by the university and the spending habits of its students, visitors and alumni.

That is among the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International to examine the impact of higher education on North Carolina. The EMSI study examined the combined impact of the University of North Carolina system, North Carolina Community College system and private institutions, and also assessed the impact of individual UNC campuses, private colleges and community colleges on their local economies.

Western Carolina’s estimated impact of $511.3 million represents approximately 2.7 percent of the total gross regional product for the 10 counties examined in the WCU regional study – Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Swain and Transylvania. The added regional income created by WCU is equivalent to creating 10,475 new jobs, the study indicates.

In addition, the study calculates the return on investment in WCU for students, society and taxpayers, finding that for every dollar students invest in their educations, they will receive $2.90 in higher future income. From a statewide societal perspective, for each dollar that society spent on education at WCU in the year analyzed, North Carolina will receive a cumulative value of $10.60 in benefits such as savings related to reduced crime, lower unemployment and increased health and well-being across the state.

For every dollar invested by state and local taxpayers to support the operations of WCU in the 2012-13 fiscal year, those taxpayers gained $5.40 in added tax revenues collected and public sector savings, the EMSI researchers said. Specifically, taxpayers contributed $85 million toward WCU that year, while the added tax revenue stemming from students’ higher lifetime incomes and increased output of businesses totaled $358.6 million, with another $103.6 million in benefits because of reduced demand for government-funded services, the study revealed.

“It has been no secret that Western Carolina University and our UNC system, community college and private institution partners in higher education are engines of economic and community development for the communities and regions we serve,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said.

“It is heartening to read the results of this study, which clearly demonstrates the incredible value that WCU and other institutions bring to the state and to the region. I trust that elected officials, taxpayers, students, parents, alumni, donors, and the business community will appreciate the exceptional return on investment our state and region receive when they invest in higher education, whether through appropriations, tax dollars, tuition and fees, or charitable contributions,” Belcher said.

Other findings from the EMSI report about the impact of WCU on the regional economy in the year of the study:

* Research at WCU generated $849,700 in added regional income, which is equivalent to creating 15 new jobs.

* Construction spending by WCU was $2.3 million, equivalent to 79 new jobs.

* About 67 percent of the undergraduate and graduate students at WCU originated from outside the 10-county region. Spending by those students who relocated to the region added approximately $39.9 million to the regional economy, equivalent to 895 new jobs.

* Out-of-region visitors attracted to WNC because of activities at WCU spent about $34.8 million at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other regional businesses, equivalent to creating 897 new jobs.

* The accumulated contribution of WCU alumni who are employed in the 10-county region amounted to $266.7 million in added regional income, equivalent to creating 5,643 new jobs.

Leaders from WCU, UNC Asheville and Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College gathered Friday, Feb. 20, at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impacts of their respective institutions – and of Blue Ridge, Haywood, Southwestern and Tri-County community colleges – on the communities that that they serve.

Belcher, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant and A-B Tech President Dennis F. King announced that public higher education institutions in WNC were responsible for injecting at least $2 billion into the state and regional economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through their institutional expenditures and the spending habits of their students, visitors and alumni. Of that $2 billion, roughly 75 percent ($1.52 billion) stays in the 11 counties of WNC (Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain and Transylvania), they said.

“I am a proud product of North Carolina’s public higher education system, as are my wife and my children, so I know first-hand of the value that the UNC system and the North Carolina Community College system bring to the people of North Carolina,” said N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, a 1980 graduate of WCU.

“From laid-off factory workers seeking retraining at their local community colleges so they can re-enter the workforce of the 21st century to first-generation college students finding a welcoming environment at our regional universities, the people of our communities benefit tremendously from public higher education,” Apodaca said. “The results of this economic impact study also show the impact that these institutions are having on our state and regional businesses and on society as a whole.”

The meeting of regional leaders of public higher education followed on the heels of a Feb. 18 announcement of the statewide impact of the UNC and community college systems and private institutions. That statewide study reported the UNC system alone, including campuses and affiliated medical institutions, created $27.9 billion in added state income, which is equal to approximately 6.4 percent of the total Gross State Product of North Carolina and is equivalent to creating 426,052 new jobs.

Looking at the statewide picture, WCU created $901.8 million in additional income in North Carolina during the 2012-13 fiscal year, an economic impact equivalent to creating 15,381 new jobs.

The EMSI researchers say that initial spending by colleges and universities on payroll, operations or goods and services creates a multiplier effect across other businesses throughout the state and regional economy. Data and methods used in the study are based on several sources, including the 2012-13 academic and financial reports from the campuses, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, and a variety of studies and surveys relating education to social behavior.

Researchers say the study applies a conservative methodology and follows standard practice using only the most recognized indicators of investment effect and economic impact.

For a copy of the full report, including a description of the data and methods used, visit the University of North Carolina website at www.northcarolina.edu/economic-impact-2015.

For more information about WCU’s regional economic impact, a printable PDF is available at www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/15-123-Economic-Impact-Report-Western-Version.pdf.

WNC entrepreneurs win $7,000 in prize money at WCU innovation conference

Entrepreneurs and owners of existing small businesses from Asheville, Sylva and Hickory shared $7,000 in prize money to help launch or grow their companies during the inaugural LEAD:Innovation conference Wednesday, April 22, at Western Carolina University.

Billed as kinder, gentler versions of the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” competitions included the “Bright Ideas Rocket Pitches” event, a series of fast-paced proposals from entrepreneurs and inventors aimed at potential investors, and the “Promising Business Acceleration” contest, in which owners of promising existing businesses make proposals for additional capital to accelerate growth.

Paul Hedgecock of Asheville won first prize of $2,500 in the “Bright Ideas Rocket Pitch” competition for his pitch for Ugo Tour, a travel and tourism smartphone app for Western North Carolina points of interest.

Second place and $1,000 went to Emily Edmonds of Sylva for her concept for WNC Brewhub, a proposal to establish a shared beer production and distribution facility for breweries across the region.

In the “Promising Business Acceleration” competition, Ted and Flori Pate of Asheville claimed first prize and $2,500 to build their business Local Flavor, which provides a free app for smartphones that promotes only local, non-franchise businesses.

Steward and Tammy Cook of Hickory took second prize and $1,000 for Cook Consulting App Garden University, a virtual training tool that provides training for substitute teachers customized for individual school districts.

The LEAD:Innovation conference included nine “Bright Ideas Rocket Pitches” and six “Promising Business Acceleration” presentations, said Ed Wright, WCU associate professor of global management and strategy and among the event organizers.

“The subjects of the pitches were quite varied, ranging from an online physicians’ tele-health start-up to new products for stroke rehabilitation,” Wright said. “Overall, the quality of the pitches was excellent, and we look forward to doing this event on a larger scale next year.”

About 100 entrepreneurs, prospective entrepreneurs, investors and others interested in the economic development of Western North Carolina attended the entrepreneurship and small business summit.

The conference was part of a series of scheduled “spin-off events” from November’s LEAD:WNC, a one-day summit convened by WCU to discuss solutions leading to sustainable economic and community development.