Archive for WCU

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.

WCU establishing for-profit LLC to spur economic development in WNC

The Western Carolina University College of Business is establishing a new, for-profit limited liability company designed to provide entrepreneurial business, scientific and technical services to help spur economic development activity in Western North Carolina.
Formation of the new entity, authorized earlier this year by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, was announced Wednesday, April 22, as part of WCU’s inaugural LEAD:Innovation summit. More than 100 entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners and others interested in regional economic development gathered on campus for a conference focused on topics related to entrepreneurship and small businesses.

The new for-profit LLC will replace WCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which was created in 2007 within the College of Business to serve as a catalyst for the creation of successful entrepreneurial ventures in WNC while providing hands-on learning experiences for WCU students.

The new entity will be wholly owned by the Western Carolina University Research and Development Corporation, which was formed in 2001 for the purpose of aiding and promoting the educational and charitable purposes of WCU.

Once the for-profit entity is fully established, university officials will identify a manager to run its day-to-day operations. Ed Wright, director of the CEI, will be entity’s faculty contact.

Music of the Carpenters to come to life April 26 at WCU’s Bardo Center

The music of one of America’s top-selling duos of all time, the Carpenters, will come to life as Western Carolina University’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center plays host to “We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered” on Sunday, April 26.

The production, which begins at 3 p.m., is the final presentation of WCU’s 2014-15 Galaxy of Stars series.

The sister-and-brother duo of Karen and Richard Carpenter sold more than 100 million records in just over a decade and still hold the record for the most top 10 singles in a row. The combination of Karen’s voice and Richard’s compositions and arrangements created Grammy-winning magic, said Paul Lormand, director of the Bardo Arts Center.

The 90-minute tribute show will feature pop music classics including “For All We Know,” “Goodbye to Love,” “Hurting Each Other,” “I Need to Be in Love,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Superstar,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” “Top of the World,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Yesterday Once More” and many more.

Led by Michelle Berting Brett and accompanied by a live band of versatile Nashville musicians, “Carpenters Remembered” re-creates the Carpenters’ original sound. In addition, Brett shares stories culled from extensive research and interviews with those who knew Karen and Richard personally and professionally “to provide a real behind-the-scenes look at this pop music phenomenon,” Lormand said.

“Michelle Berting Brett sounds as close to Karen Carpenter as you can get. Beautiful voice, music and show,” he said.

Tickets for the WCU show are $21 for adults ($15 in groups of 20 or more), $16 for WCU faculty and staff members, and $7 for students/children of any age. They may be purchased at the Bardo Arts Center box office, by calling 828-227-2479 or visiting the website bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

“Carpenters Remembered” is sponsored by Bear Lake Reserve and 540-AM WRGC Radio.

Harvey Gantt to keynote April 10 symposium at WCU

Harvey Gantt for newspapersHarvey Gantt, an architect and civil rights activist who formerly served as mayor of Charlotte and was a candidate for the U.S. Senate, will be the keynote speaker for a daylong symposium at Western Carolina University – “North Carolina in Dialogue: Our Past, Present and Future.”

Set for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, April 10, the interdisciplinary symposium will provide a platform for the public and WCU’s students, faculty and staff to learn from a lineup of distinguished scholars and public activists and intellectuals who will offer perspectives on North Carolina’s history, politics and culture, said Rob Ferguson, an assistant professor in WCU’s Department of History who co-organized the event with Chris Cooper, head of WCU’s Department of Political Science and Public Affairs.

“Our hope is that we have brought together a wide array of scholars and activists who can offer thoughtful and compelling perspectives on our state,” Ferguson said. “Perhaps more importantly, we want the audience to engage the panelists and each other in productive dialogue regarding the future of North Carolina.”

Cooper said the symposium will offer an impressive and diverse lineup of speakers. “I’m looking forward to hearing their perspectives on North Carolina’s past and present, and I hope that this conference can play a small role in helping shape the future of our state,” he said.

Panel sessions will address issues such a public education, farming and foodways, social change, and politics and voting rights. Panelists will include June Atkinson, N.C. superintendent of public instruction; Elizabeth Engelhardt, the John Shelton Reed Professor of Southern Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; David Cunningham, professor and chair of the sociology department at Brandeis University; Dan Carter, professor emeritus in the history department at the University of South Carolina; and J. Peder Zane, chair of the journalism and mass communications department at St. Augustine’s University and contributor to the Raleigh News and Observer.

The event is free and open to everyone. Individuals planning to attend are asked to register at the event website, which can be accessed by visiting pdp.wcu.edu and clicking on the event link. The website includes a detailed schedule of activities that will be held in the Blue Ridge Hall Conference Room and Grandroom at A.K. Hinds University Center.

The symposium is being sponsored by WCU’s Office of Undergraduate Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Department of History, Department of Political Science and Public Affairs, Public Policy Institute, and Office of Continuing and Professional Education.

WCU’s Alexander Macaulay named among UNC system’s top teachers

Alexander Macaulay, associate professor of history at Western Carolina University, has been named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system in recognition of his ability to convince students that history is more than just the memorization of dates and the study of accomplishments of “dead white men.”

Macaulay, a member of the WCU faculty since 2004, is among 17 recipients of the 2015 UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching, announced Monday, March 23.

A member of the Board of Governors is scheduled to present the award at WCU’s undergraduate commencement ceremonies that begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9. Macaulay also will speak at the Graduate School commencement ceremony Friday, May 8.

The UNC committee noted that Macaulay regularly wins rave reviews for being a dynamic teacher who combines the qualities of a gifted storyteller, engaging discussion leader and rigorous academician, prompting many students to continue studying history beyond their undergraduate years.

“Dr. Macaulay demonstrates that he reads every word of the assignments he grades. His comments are thoughtful and concise, and students end up not only with assessments of their work but also with feedback that is useful in developing them as writers and as thinkers,” said 2014 graduate Joshua Wilkey, a WCU master’s degree student in history planning to earn a doctorate and teach at the university level. “Dr. Macaulay is the sort of professor who pushes students to unlock their potential.”

Kaylynn Washnock, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, applauded Macaulay’s availability and open-door policy. “Dr. Macaulay is concerned with both the intellectual and personal development of his students. He takes an interest in his students and their well-being long after time in the classroom has ended,” Washnock said. “Even when I was no longer in his class, Dr. Macaulay would suggest stories for my projects and spend time brainstorming future research topics with me. He truly understands what teaching is all about.”

Macaulay’s faculty colleagues praise his ability to engage students – many of them confessing to not liking the subject of history because they don’t think it matters – in dynamic classroom activities that make history relevant to their lives.

He has linked historical lynchings with more modern cases of institutional violence and injustice, and has shown the connection between late 19th-century labor unions and contemporary issues of free market economy and workplace regulation, said Elizabeth McRae, associate professor of history. “Over and over, students leave his classroom engaged in issues that began for them as facts to memorize about a distant past but ended with them critically analyzing the thorny political issues of both the past and present,” McRae said. “And it is those debates and those discussions that they tell other students about, who then decide to take his class.”

Macaulay’s interest in oral history has led to his students recording histories of veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War and recent conflicts in the Middle East; members of the Jackson County African-American community; residents forced to leave their homes when the construction of Fontana Dam flooded their communities; and long-time residents of Sylva in connection with the town’s recent 125th anniversary celebration.

That work has resulted in the launching of an Appalachian Oral History Project modeled after UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Project. The new project, a collaboration with WCU’s Hunter Library and Special Collections, involves Smoky Mountain High School students who, after training, will conduct the first oral histories for the effort.

In addition to oral history, Macaulay teaches classes in 20th-century U.S. history, the American South, U.S. cultural history, U.S. diplomatic history and gender history. He is author of the book “Marching in Step: Masculinity, Citizenship and the Citadel in Post-World War II America” and numerous articles, book chapters and professional papers.

“I seek out familiar, yet nontraditional topics and sources that will not only pique students’ interests, but also alert them to ways they can analyze and understand the past and the present,” Macaulay said. “For those who believe history is the study of dates and ‘dead white men,’ they learn that history is made by millions of ordinary and extraordinary people who live both everyday and exceptional lives. It also helps me democratize the past and the classroom, encouraging contributions from those who may not know about Alger Hiss, but do know about Elvis Presley.”

The 2011 recipient of WCU’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, he received his bachelor’s degree from the Citadel, master’s degree from the University of Tennessee and doctorate from the University of Georgia.

Macaulay and the other recipients of the UNC honor, representing an array of academic disciplines, were nominated by special committees on their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Personnel and Tenure. Established by the Board of Governors in April 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the university, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years. No one may receive the award more than once.

WCU board approves tailgating changes for 2015 football season

There will be more places to tailgate at Western Carolina University home football games this fall.

The WCU Board of Trustees unanimously approved a revision to the university’s tailgating policy that adds an additional parking lot to areas in which alcohol may be consumed on campus as part of fans’ pregame festivities. Approval of the change came during the board’s regularly scheduled quarterly meeting Friday, March 6.

Beginning this fall, the Belk Building parking lot, which previously had been designated as an alcohol-free zone, will be among the alcohol-permissible tailgating areas.

The move became necessary because of increased interest in pregame tailgating at WCU in the wake of recent improvements to the football program. In 2014, the WCU football team enjoyed its first winning regular season since 2005, earning a second-place finish in Southern Conference play.

With the revision to the policy, parking lots at the H.F. Robinson Administration Building, John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, Camp Building, Jordan-Phillips Field House, Ramsey Center, E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Hennon Baseball Stadium and Belk Building are considered alcohol-permissible areas during approved tailgating hours.

Lots located at Walker and Scott halls remain alcohol-free tailgating areas.

Tailgating at WCU may begin no earlier than three-and-a-half hours before kickoff of the football game. Consumption of alcohol must be discontinued at the start of the game, and tailgating without alcohol beverages may continue after the game for a period of two hours.

Only malt beverages (beers and other brewed libations) and unfortified wine are allowed in approved tailgate areas. Spirituous liquor and kegs or other common-source containers are not permitted.

Campus officials vigorously enforce laws regarding underage consumption of alcohol.