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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.

WCU College of Health and Human Sciences opens pro bono physical therapy clinic

The College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University has launched a pro bono clinic to provide physical therapy services to underserved and underinsured populations of Western North Carolina.

The clinic, operated by students in WCU’s doctoral program in physical therapy under the supervision of faculty members, is open from 6 until 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. It is located in Carolina West Sports Medicine clinic space on the first floor of the Health and Human Sciences Building on Little Savannah Road on WCU’s West Campus.

The physical therapy clinic is among several clinics located in WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building that are designed to provide much-needed health care services to WNC residents while giving students in the health care professions valuable hands-on learning experiences, said Doug Keskula, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“Through the new physical therapy clinic and other clinics in our building, we are able to deliver exceptional health services to our community while simultaneously supporting the education and development of the highly skilled health professionals of the future,” Keskula said.

“The truly extraordinary aspect of this clinic is that it is a student-led initiative,” he said. “Our physical therapy students have been involved in creating and implementing every aspect of this much-needed clinic. Under the guidance of faculty member and clinic director Dr. Ashley Hyatt, our students are learning the professional roles of patient advocacy and social responsibility firsthand.”

Hyatt, who joined the WCU faculty in 2013, has previous experience working in a pro bono clinic during her years in graduate school. “I participated both as a student and as a supervising clinician, and I was able to see firsthand how beneficial the clinic was to the community,” she said.

Soon after her arrival on campus, Hyatt began working on a proposal for a clinic at WCU. Students in the physical therapy program formed a student board to develop plans for the clinic, under the supervision of an advisory board composed of faculty and staff from WCU as well as community partners.

“It has been very exciting to see all of the hard work that these students have put into this clinic come to fruition. It is also really rewarding to see our students apply what they have learned in the classroom to actual patients who truly need their help,” Hyatt said. “We all learn something each clinic night, and this will be a constant work in progress. We would like to start expanding the clinic to other professions in the college once we get a bit more comfortable.”

Last September, WestCare Center for Family Medicine launched a new full-time primary care clinic in the building. That clinic occupies 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

In December 2013, Carolina West Sports Medicine opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building, providing services to the community and clinical practice opportunities for WCU faculty and students. The building’s interdisciplinary clinic also hosts WCU’s nationally recognized Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic, and Vecinos Farmworker Health Program.

Opened in the fall of 2012, the Health and Human Sciences Building is the first facility built on 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus that were acquired by WCU in 2005 as part of the Millennial Initiative. A comprehensive regional economic development strategy, the Millennial Initiative promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative research.

In addition, the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University recently issued a request for qualifications for a project to develop a medical office building to be constructed near the university’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

The office building will be the first privately developed structure to be built on the West Campus as part of the Millennial Initiative. Expected to encompass at least 30,000 square feet of space, the building will become home to a mix of office space for health care professionals, along with space for health-related businesses.

The Mountain Area Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic is available to individuals who do not have insurance coverage for physical therapy.

Spring enrollment tops 9,800 for first time in WCU history

Thanks to an increase in the percentage of first-time freshmen returning after their initial fall semester of study, total spring enrollment at Western Carolina University has topped 9,800 for the first time in university history.

The spring enrollment high-water mark comes after WCU set another fall enrollment record in September, with 10,382 students on the roll, a 2.7 percent jump in the total student population over the previous fall’s tally.

Preliminary census data compiled by the university’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness indicates that enrollment for the 2015 spring semester stands at 9,814. That figure represents a 1.7 percent increase over last spring’s enrollment of 9,650, said Tim Metz, assistant vice chancellor for institutional planning and effectiveness.

Spring enrollment numbers at institutions of higher education typically are lower than fall enrollment as some students do not return for a second semester for reasons that range from academic to personal, Metz said.

The increase in spring enrollment is driven, at least in part, by a higher percentage of first-semester freshmen who returned to campus in the spring for a second semester, Metz said. This year’s fall-to-spring freshman retention rate is 92.4 percent, up from the spring 2014 rate of 90 percent.

University officials point to ongoing efforts to increase the number of students who remain at WCU beyond the freshman year as a factor in recent improvements in retention rates, which also are boosting total enrollment. Higher fall-to-spring rates of retention for freshmen typically also indicate that a larger percentage of students will return for their second year of study.

Although the university’s official census day comes after the 10th class day of the semester, enrollment numbers are considered preliminary until they have been submitted to the University of North Carolina General Administration.

World’s best young Elvis’ performs Jan. 31 at WCU

Travis LeDoyt, acclaimed by critics as “the world’s best young Elvis,” will bring his tribute to the king of rock ‘n’ roll to Western Carolina University Saturday, Jan. 31, in honor of what would have been Presley’s 80th birthday.

LeDoyt will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. at WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, as part of the 2014-15 Galaxy of Stars Series. Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935.

Paul Lormand, director of the Bardo Arts Center, says there are five reasons why LeDoyt wins accolades as the top young Elvis.

“He looks like Elvis, he sings like Elvis, he moves like Elvis, his personality and mannerisms both on and off stage are strikingly similar to Elvis, and he sells out nearly every show,” Lormand said. “To those people who think they have seen it all when it comes to Elvis tribute acts, this is the one that makes them do a double take. There is simply no way to describe Travis and his performance except ‘unbelievable.’”

LeDoyt captures the essence of Elvis in his prime, and restricts his shows to the hits and ambience of 1954 through 1962, Lormand said. Utilizing a three-piece band featuring guitar, bass and drums, LeDoyt takes his audience back to the fun and excitement of a 1950s Elvis concert, he said.

“For those who missed seeing an Elvis concert during those years, it is a chance to relive the excitement and aura of an Elvis show and the fun and energy experienced by the audiences,” Lormand said.

LeDoyt has been selling out shows and receiving accolades from audiences from around the world. He has been on four tours in the United Kingdom and has performed in Hong Kong, China, Chile and Canada.

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. Contact the box office at 227-2479 or at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

WCU students to present mock trial based on Ron Rash novel ‘Serena’

Western Carolina University business law students will present a mock trial based on the Ron Rash novel “Serena” at a courtroom in the Jackson County Justice and Administration Building on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The event, which lasts three hours and begins at 5 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, authored “Serena,” and the novel set in Western North Carolina is this year’s selection for the WCU Office of First Year Experience’s One Book program. The program is designed to encourage students to have common intellectual conversation about one book. Freshmen were provided with copies of the novel, which was incorporated into transition courses as well as multiple upper-level courses in a range of disciplines.

Jayne Zanglein, professor of business law, assigned her students to develop a trial based on the characters and a legal issue in “Serena.” They crafted a case set in 1930 titled “Susan Harrill, as spouse ‘ad litem’ on behalf of William Harrill, deceased, Plaintiff v. The Pemberton Lumber Company, Defendant.”

In the lawsuit, Harrill alleges that an agent of the lumber company intentionally cut a cable wire in an attempt to injure or kill her husband.

The mock trial will involve a range of witnesses including the book’s title character, Serena Pemberton, as the wife of the lumber company manager. Exhibits include historical images, detailed information and diagrams of log loaders and equipment, and statistics regarding workplace injuries in the southern United States from pulpwood logging.

For more information, contact Zanglein at 828-227-7191.

WCU Wrapping Up 125th Anniversary Celebration Today

Paws_RunningWestern Carolina University will wrap up the yearlong celebration of the 125th anniversary of its founding with the It’s a Wrap Party at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee.

The event will be highlighted by a cross-campus parade led by WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, which will have just returned from participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Members of the campus and surrounding communities are encouraged to wear their purple-and-gold apparel and join the band in the on-campus march. The It’s a Wrap parade is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Scott Residence Hall and end at the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

WCU To Host Fall Commencement Ceremony

Western Carolina University will hold commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 13, to honor its fall graduating class and some newly minted WCU alumni who received degrees after this year’s summer school sessions.

The 1 p.m. ceremony at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center is open to everyone and no tickets are required for admission. Chancellor David O. Belcher will preside over commencement and deliver his charge to the fall semester degree candidates and summer graduates.

Graduating student Jill Haley West White of Andrews, a secondary English education major, will deliver the primary commencement address.

WCU’s fall class includes about 800 students who currently are working on final academic requirements to receive their degrees and who qualify to participate in the ceremony. Approximately 140 WCU graduates who completed degree requirements during summer school and who already have been conferred degrees also will be eligible to don caps and gowns for the event.

Individuals attending WCU’s commencement should enter the Ramsey Center through one of four upper concourse doors. Those with physical disabilities should use the northeastern upper entrance, adjacent to the stands of E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

WCU marching band to headline closing event of 125th anniversary celebration

There’s one more parade left on the itinerary this year for members of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, who opened the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just a few days ago.

And the remaining route will be quite a bit different than the trek through the concrete canyons of New York City, as the band will march across the bucolic WCU campus to help wrap up the university’s yearlong celebration of its 125th year of existence.

Titled the “It’s a Wrap Party,” the event is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5, as the Pride of the Mountains will lead a parade of students and campus organizations from Scott Residence Hall to the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center, where the band will reprise its Macy’s parade performance.

The “It’s a Wrap Party” also will include remarks from WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher to bring the 125th anniversary year to a close, along with prizes, giveaways, refreshments and special recognition of alumni and students.

Members of the campus and surrounding communities are invited to wear their own sports uniforms, letter jackets or other purple-and-gold apparel and join the band in the cross-campus march. Those who do not wish to participate in the parade may watch the band and others march across campus, or simply arrive at the Ramsey Center and be seated no later than 4:15 p.m. The doors to the Ramsey Center will open at 3 p.m.

The yearlong celebration of WCU’s 125th anniversary began in January as hundreds of people crowded into the Grandroom of the A.K. Hinds University Center for a kickoff event highlighted by a fashion show of clothing from throughout WCU history, modeled by students, faculty, staff and community members.

The official 125th anniversary bash was held Aug. 26, the month in which the school that became WCU was founded in 1889. The event, attended by thousands, included a picnic on the University Center lawn, remarks from elected officials, a concert on the Central Plaza and old-fashioned games.

The majority of the year’s celebration was designed around traditional highlights of WCU’s annual calendar, such as spring commencement ceremonies, Mountain Heritage Day, the Spring Literary Festival, Homecoming and alumni receptions across the state and the Southeast.

Duke Energy $75,000 gift supports WCU engineering program

Western Carolina University’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology will expand hands-on learning experiences for engineering students and boost efforts to recruit and retain engineering students with a $75,000 gift from the Duke Energy Foundation.

The gift, announced at WCU on Monday, Nov. 17, will fund the purchase of new power systems laboratory equipment and provide student scholarships, faculty development and programming to encourage more students across Western North Carolina to explore engineering as a profession.

Jeffrey L. Ray, dean of the Kimmel School, said WCU is excited to collaborate with Duke Energy to help grow the number of engineering and technology professionals who can help meet the manufacturing and energy needs across Western North Carolina.

“As someone who has worked with multitudes of electric cooperatives around the South, I know firsthand how important and essential electric power is to the economic growth of this region of North Carolina, and we really appreciate Duke Energy’s support,” said Ray.

The Duke Energy Foundation provides philanthropic support to address needs vital to the health of the communities Duke Energy serves, and the gift to WCU fits with the foundation’s commitment to supporting economic and workforce development, said Lisa Leatherman, Duke Energy’s district manager for Jackson County.

“Engaging the future engineering students in hands-on learning experiences ignites excitement for the profession. Duke Energy is proud to partner with Western Carolina to help support and inspire students at Western Carolina,” said Leatherman.

WCU is dedicating $45,000 of the amount awarded to purchase power electronics lab stations and electric drives lab stations. Wes Stone, interim head of the school’s Department of Engineering and Technology, said the equipment for faculty and student research and hands-on lab experiences adds a new dimension to WCU’s engineering programs.

Jordan Chaires, a graduate student from Raleigh pursuing a master’s degree in technology, said he is excited to be able to use the new equipment to measure the efficiency of the solar power equipment and circuitry he will be working with for his thesis project. Chaires said the project fits in with his interest in working in a field in which he can help increase the efficiency and potential for using renewable energy and power sources.

“I know it sounds cliche, but I just want to help the world and the planet,” he said. “If we have the sun and the wind, why not use it?”

Another $15,000 from the gift will support new Duke Energy Scholars Program merit-based scholarships to be awarded in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The first five Duke Energy scholars, announced Nov. 17, are Milton Canupp, a junior from Minneapolis majoring in electrical engineering; Kaleb Frizzell, a junior from Sylva majoring in electrical and computer engineering technology; Adam Gropp, a junior from Enka majoring in electrical engineering; Dylan Shook, a junior from Claremont majoring in engineering technology; and Jacob Spurling, a junior from Boiling Springs majoring in electrical engineering.

The final $15,000 of the gift will support faculty development and initiatives designed to encourage more students from across the region to consider studying engineering.

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher thanked Duke Energy for its generous support, which he said is helping to fuel the momentum of WCU’s Kimmel School in driving innovation and economic development in Western North Carolina. Kimmel School faculty and students, through a range of partnerships and collaborations, are helping sustain, maintain and grow businesses and industries across the region, Belcher said.

Enrollment in the school’s engineering programs soared after the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors approved a stand-alone engineering program for WCU in 2012, said Belcher. In addition, the university recently expanded general engineering program offerings to its Asheville location at Biltmore Park to meet demand among existing and prospective businesses along the Interstate-26 growth corridor. That program expansion was made possible with funding from the N.C. General Assembly through the leadership of N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) in 2013. WCU was the only UNC institution in the state that year to receive program expansion funding, Belcher said.

“The General Assembly thought Western Carolina’s engineering program and what we need to do for this region was so important they found money to support it,” said Belcher. “The work our faculty, staff and students are doing to support businesses and industries in our area is incredible and strengthens the overall economic health of all of Western North Carolina.”

Armed Robbery on WCU Campus; Police Seek Help

Vehicle-of-interest_18498Western Carolina University Police are asking for the public’s help to find three suspects connected to an armed robbery on campus Wednesday night.

Campus police say the suspects — two white males and one black male — were armed with what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun and a baseball bat.

It happened around 9:15 p.m. near the old Brown cafeteria. Police say their vehicle is possibly an older model Ford Escort, appears to be faded red in color.

Suspect 1 is described as a white male, mid 20’s, 5″8″, thin build, facial hair, white t-shirt, blue jeans, dark colored knit type hat, armed with a handgun.

Suspect 2 is a white male, mid 20’s, no further description.

Suspect 3 is a black male, mid 20’s 5’10”, thin build, dark t shirt.

Anyone with information is asked to call Western Carolina University Police Detective Jacob Deal at 828-227-7301.

Iranian-born journalist to speak Nov. 20 at WCU

A native of Iran who is a former Rotary Peace Fellow and past editor of publications now banned or shut down by the Iranian government will present the keynote address for International Education Week at Western Carolina University on Thursday, Nov. 20.

Ali Eshraghi, Iran project manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, will deliver a talk tentatively titled “U.S.-Iran: Reconfiguring the Middle East” in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Eshraghi’s journalism career spans more than 15 years, and he has published hundreds of articles and op-ed pieces in Persian, Arabic and English media outlets, including CNN, the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, PBS Frontline, the New Republic and Al Jazeera.

The nonprofit institute for which Eshraghi works is committed to supporting citizen journalism and media institutions to help people in parts of the world faced with conflict and crisis have the information they need to drive positive changes in their lives.

In Iran, dozens of journalists have served time in prison or been sentenced to lashings after being charged with offenses such as “anti-government publicity” and “meeting and conspiring against the Islamic Republic,” according to information from the nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders.

John Whitmire, associate professor and head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, said Eshraghi’s experience has given him an invaluable expertise and perspective of peace, war and conflict resolution as well as U.S. and Iranian relations.

“He is someone whose life has been committed to speaking truth to power in the interests of reforming his own community and world,” said Whitmire. “In his various vocational lives, he’s been a real exemplar of journalistic and citizen advocacy directed towards changing his own society for the better, which you can’t do unless you really uncover the ways that it is currently falling short. In his case, this has entailed a lot of risk.”

Eshraghi also serves as the chair for the Civic Institute for Advocacy and Networking and a teaching fellow in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He is an alumnus of the Duke-UNC Rotary Center for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution and was a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Journalism and the Institute of International Studies. Eshraghi also was a research fellow at the Religion, Politics and Globalization Program at U.C. Berkeley. He studied political science and Islamic studies at Imam Sadiq University in Tehran.

In addition to delivering the keynote address for International Education Week at WCU, Eshraghi will speak to a philosophy and religion class about his experience of religion inside and outside of Iran; an English class that has read Persepolis about life in Iran; and to journalism students about his career and what it takes to succeed.

WCU’s Office of International Programs and Services partnered with the Department of Philosophy and Religion to make Eshraghi’s visit and address at WCU possible.

WCU band selected to lead Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

JDP_9067When the 505 members of the Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains Marching Band pound the pavement of New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they won’t be just taking part in the beloved holiday tradition. They will be the very first parade participants to hit the streets that morning.

That’s because the WCU unit has been selected as the lead band for the parade by organizers of the event, to be held Thursday, Nov. 27.

Wesley Whatley, creative director of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, broke the news to members of the Pride of the Mountains during a recent band tournament held on campus.

“We are so excited that the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band has been chosen to lead the parade through the streets of New York City,” said David Starnes, WCU director of athletic bands. “What this means is that we will be leading the parade from Central Park West along the parade route.”

The parade will be broadcast live by NBC beginning at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. The television broadcast includes other acts that perform for the cameras as the parade moves through the city to the stage area at 34th Street, Starnes said. “We will be the first parade participant to be seen on TV,” he said.

During its time in front of the cameras – and an international TV audience – the band will perform “I’ve Seen the Lights Go out on Broadway” by Billy Joel. During the parade, the band will perform other selections from its 2014 halftime production, “Street Beatz,” a musical travelogue of “The Big Apple.”

The Pride of the Mountains is one of only 10 marching bands selected from across the nation to perform in the 2014 Macy’s parade. The invitation to perform at the event, which came in a surprise on-campus announcement by parade officials in April 2013, is the latest in a long line of accolades bestowed upon the WCU marching band.

The Pride of the Mountains was recipient of the 2009 Sudler Trophy, awarded by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation and considered the nation’s highest and most-coveted award for college and university marching bands.

The band followed that up with an invitation to march in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, where it won “favorite band” in a poll conducted by KTLA-TV, earning 40 percent of all votes cast in the poll and more than any of the parade’s other musical groups.

Next stop, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Founded in 1924, the world-famous Macy’s parade attracts more than 3.5 million spectators lining the streets of New York, and 50 million at-home viewers.

WCU Student Charged with Off Campus Rape

Robert “Bobby” William McRainey is being held under a $100,000 secured bond.

Robert “Bobby” William McRainey is being held under a $100,000 secured bond.

In the early morning hours Saturday the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into a reported sexual assault. The offense was reported to have occurred at Citadel Drive in Cullowhee. During the investigation it was determined this residence was an apartment shared by two persons who are friends with the suspect and victim. The victim is a white female, 20 years of age and is a student at Appalachian State University.

Robert “Bobby” William McRainey, from Shallotte, NC but has a local on campus address at Western Carolina University and was an enrolled student at the time of this offense.

He is charged with Second Degree Rape, arrested on November 2, 2014, and held in the Jackson County Detention Center under a $100,000 secured bond.

WCU vice chancellor honors parents, supports band students with new scholarship

Standing from left, Robert Edwards, Chancellor David O. Belcher and Wayne Edwards join (seated from left) Roy and Hazel Edwards in honor of the establishment of the Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Standing from left, Robert Edwards, Chancellor David O. Belcher and Wayne Edwards join (seated from left) Roy and Hazel Edwards in honor of the establishment of the Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Robert Edwards, who is stepping down in December as Western Carolina University’s vice chancellor for administration and finance after 37 years of service to the university, has turned around the age-old notion of “retirement gift.” Instead of merely accepting a gold watch or a rocking chair, Edwards has made a gift of his own to establish a scholarship fund honoring his parents and his high school band director.

Through contributions totaling more than $10,000, Edwards has created the Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will provide annual support to members of WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band who are from one of the 17 westernmost counties of North Carolina.

Edwards, a 1977 graduate of WCU, said he named the scholarship in honor of his parents, Roy and Hazel Edwards of Sylva, because he wanted to publicly thank them for enabling him and his brother, Wayne Edwards of Waynesville, to attend and graduate from the university. Wayne Edwards, a 1979 graduate of WCU, is a Haywood County insurance executive.

“I know that my mother and father sacrificed quite a bit financially and in other ways so that Wayne and I were able to go to Western Carolina University,” he said. “Without their sacrifices and support, neither of us would have been able to have obtained a college education, and I felt it was important to recognize that fact by naming this scholarship fund in their honor.”

Edwards said there are two main reasons why he stipulated that the scholarships supported by the endowed fund should benefit students who are part of WCU’s marching band program.

“First, I truly believe that the marching band is one of the best things we have going at Western Carolina,” he said. “With its growth in size and quality, it has become a significant part of recruiting students to come to Cullowhee, and I wanted to do what I could to help with that.”

In directing his gifts to support the marching band program, Edwards also wanted to pay homage to his former band director at Sylva-Webster (now Smoky Mountain) High School, Bob Buckner, who would go on to assume the reins of WCU’s marching band program and help it grow from fewer than 90 members to more than 400 when he retired. The band, now directed by David Starnes, has more than 500 members this year.

“Bob is truly the mastermind of what we have going on today in our marching band program. The program is thriving because of the strong foundation that Bob left when he retired. Besides my mom and dad, Bob Bucker is the individual who has had the most influence in my life,” Edwards said.

“He taught me that perfection is only obtained through hard dedicated work. I learned how to be a winner with humility and modesty and I learned how to accept losing with dignity and grace,” he said. “Bob always had a special talent of getting more out of us than 100 percent. He taught all of us to do more than what we thought we were capable of doing. Throughout my life, there have been numerous times when I found myself digging deep within myself, remembering these life lessons from Bob.”

Buckner, a 1967 graduate of Western Carolina, became director of WCU’s marching band in 1991. During his tenure, the band received the 2009 John Philip Sousa Foundation’s prestigious Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest and most-coveted award for college and university marching bands. Capping his career was a 2011 New Year’s Day appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade by the Pride of the Mountains, which was named “best band” in the parade in an online poll conducted by KTLA-TV of Los Angeles. Buckner retired in the summer of 2011 after 20 years as director.

This year, the band will be participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Edwards became vice chancellor for administration and finance on July 1, 2011, after serving in the role in an interim capacity. He had previously worked as the university’s internal auditor for 27 years. Born and raised in Jackson County, he graduated from Sylva-Webster High School in 1973.

The Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship is expected to be awarded for the first time next year, with preference given to a graduate of Smoky Mountain High School who is a member of the WCU marching band. Recipients must demonstrate financial need, and may be either new or continuing WCU students who are in good academic standing.

The gift from Edwards is the latest in a series of new endowed scholarships created at WCU since the installation of Chancellor David O. Belcher in March 2012. During his installation address, Belcher identified raising funds for endowed scholarships as the top philanthropic priority for WCU.

WCU Homecoming Parade & Activities

Western Carolina University will hold its homecoming parade Friday, Oct. 24, in downtown Sylva.The parade begins at 6:15 p.m., and 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.
The parade will start at Mark Watson Park and march toward downtown Sylva along Main Street. As parade participants reach the east Main and Mill street intersection, a Sylva police officer will determine which floats continue straight or turn onto Mill Street, depending on their size. Floats that cannot make the turn will continue to Jackson Paper to turn around.

Starting at 6:10 p.m., Main Street traffic will be diverted at the old Rescue Squad building onto Dillsboro Road. Westbound traffic into town will be stopped at Speedy’s and rerouted onto Municipal Drive.

WCU will celebrate with events that include a professional step show performance, golf tournament and football game against The Citadel.
This year’s theme is “Cheers to 125 Years of Catamount Pride!,” a tip of the hat to 2014 being the 125th anniversary of WCU’s founding.
Activities set for Thursday include the “Last Lecture” delivered by Lisa Briggs, WCU associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, 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. Briggs, who holds two degrees from WCU, will address the topic “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Please Help Guide Us Through it All.”

Later today, Catamount fans will gather for the Spirit Night pep rally at Central Plaza. The 6 p.m. event will feature a free cookout and appearances by the cheerleaders, dance team, Homecoming court, athletic teams and pep band.

Activities on Saturday, Oct. 25, will begin with the Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Ceremony from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in the Grandroom of the University Center. Honorees include Robert Edwards, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, Distinguished Service Award; and Jarrett Frazier, ingest coordinator in video controls for NBC Sports in Stamford, Conn., Young Alumnus Award. Football tailgating will begin at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 25, and Catamount fans will gather at E.J. Whitmire Stadium at 2 p.m. 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.

For more information about Homecoming events, visit homecoming.wcu.edu or contact WCU’s Alumni Affairs office.

WCU faculty to discuss Ebola crisis risk and response at Nov. 4 event

A panel of Western Carolina University faculty members, including an environmental health professor who has studied the spread and control of infectious agents such as Ebola for more than two decades, will take part in a discussion about the virus on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Part of WCU’s Global Spotlight Series, the event will be held in the auditorium of the Forsyth Building from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Faculty members Burton Ogle, Jen Schiff, Rebecca Dobbs and Saheed Aderinto will offer environmental health, political, geographic and historical perspectives of Ebola based on their expertise and participate in a question-and-answer session.

Ogle, director of WCU’s environmental health program, will discuss the risk of exposure and transmission of Ebola and prevention strategies. Ogle was consulted 25 years ago when a strain of Ebola was detected in monkeys in Reston, Virginia, and has researched the virus and the connection to infectious disease transmission protection and bioterrorism preparedness.

The primary transmission of Ebola is through direct contact with bodily fluids such as urine and blood and waste material such as feces, and the country’s health care facilities follow protocols that assume people are carriers of infectious disease and thus take action such as wearing protective clothing, masks, eye protection, gloves and other gear to reduce the risk of transmission, Ogle said.

“In the U.S., we have very little chance of contracting the disease,” he said.

Ogle anticipates there will be more isolated “travelers cases” similar to the recent situation in which a man who was exposed to Ebola in Liberia and traveled to Texas was diagnosed in the United States with Ebola. He died Oct. 8. Despite dozens of people having contact with the man and continuing to be monitored for symptoms by health authorities, as of Wednesday, Oct. 15, only two people – nurses who treated him directly – have been diagnosed with Ebola. An investigation is under way to discover how they were exposed and how safety could be further enhanced at all health care facilities to prevent such exposure.

Schiff, an assistant professor of political science and public affairs, will discuss which countries and organizations are supporting humanitarian efforts to help stop the spread of Ebola. In addition, she will speak about “why shutting down the borders won’t necessarily solve the problem,” and could do more long-term damage to countries battling the spread of Ebola and efforts to halt the spread of the virus, she said.

Dobbs, an instructor of geography, will talk about spatial patterns of the current Ebola outbreak and past outbreaks, the role of environmental changes such as deforestation and climate change in the current outbreak, and geographic considerations associated with human travel and interaction.

“Both local and global conditions matter in understanding the origin of the outbreak and its potential for broader diffusion,” said Dobbs.

Aderinto, an assistant professor of history with expertise in African history who is a native of Nigeria, will discuss the spread of Ebola in the context of African’s underdevelopment – a process he traces to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“The entrenchment of epidemic diseases, whether Ebola or HIV/AIDS, are obvious manifestations of poor medical facilities, illiteracy, politicization of knowledge, poverty across ethnicity, social class, gender and generation – all of which should be traced to colonialism, neo-colonialism and the corruption of African leaders,” said Aderinto. “Ebola – like HIV/AIDS – hit the poorest countries in Africa really hard because disease and disease control cannot be understood in isolation from the broader crisis of underdevelopment.”

David Dorondo, an associate professor of history with expertise in European military and political history and one of the panel organizers, said Ebola also is important in the discussion of national security, which is increasingly defined in terms broader than traditional military terms.

“Issues such as climate change, epidemic – or even pandemic – disease, water shortages, uncontrolled migration and others are appearing ever more frequently in the calculations of governments and the leadership of their armed forces,” he said.

Today’s armed forces are involved in supporting civilian aid agencies and humanitarian efforts including the fight to stop Ebola, and the reduction of military budgets in recent years could “hamstring some of the most effective ways to get massive aid to faraway places in rapid fashion,” he said.

The Global Spotlight Series is organized by Dorondo, Schiff and Niall Michelsen, associate professor of political science and public affairs.

Info: Michelsen (828) 227-3336.

WCU social work program receives $1.1 million federal grant

Western Carolina University’s social work program is the recipient of a federal grant of more than $1.1 million to expand the number of social workers qualified to practice in the areas of substance abuse prevention and behavioral health in Cherokee and other underserved areas of Western North Carolina.

The grant, totaling $1,177,354 and to be awarded to WCU over a three-year period, is from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Working in collaboration with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and the Center for Native Health, the university will receive $321,764 in the initiative’s first year, $420,902 in its second year and $424,688 in the third year.

The grant will provide up to $10,000 in individual stipends to students in WCU’s master’s degree program in social work who plan to serve the behavioral health needs of the people of WNC. It is designed to produce social workers with the skills to prevent and intervene in the high-risk behaviors of youth by using a family-focused health care model that is sensitive to the culture and needs of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and other youth populations across the rural Southern Appalachians, said Pat Morse, head of the social work department and director of WCU’s graduate program in social work.

“It is a pleasure and honor to collaborate with the Center for Native Health, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the behavioral health services agencies across Western North Carolina on this important project,” said Morse.

Douglas Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said the grant will fund an innovative project that will contribute to promoting, supporting and sustaining a much-needed behavioral health workforce in Cherokee and across the mountain region.

“This will be an exciting project for the university and for the region we serve,” Keskula said. “This initiative will provide critical behavioral health services to a medically underserved region while providing an exceptional educational experience for our students. This is a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between WCU, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and regional providers with the shared goal of building and training the behavioral health workforce of the future.”

The funding marks the 13th grant awarded by federal or regional agencies for research conducted by faculty in WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences to date since the 2012 fiscal year, with nearly $6 million in grants for projects ranging from improving diversity in the region’s nursing workforce to health care assessment for older adults.

Governor McCrory to Visit WCU

Jackson County residents can expect a visit from the Governor on Friday.  N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory will be visiting WCU to deliver remarks to the Board of Governors during its regular monthly meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m. Friday in the Grandroom of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center. Other activities scheduled for that meeting are the presentation of a major WCU award to a Western North Carolina political leader and a special 125th anniversary presentation.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the 32-member policy-making body for the entire UNC system, will be gathering on WCU’s campus in Cullowhee on Wednesday through Friday (Sept. 10-12) for a series of meetings and activities. Board members and UNC President Tom Ross are coming to WCU in honor of the 125th anniversary of WCU’s founding.

 

Another Record Enrollment at WCU

One year after total student enrollment at Western Carolina University topped 10,000 for the first time in the institution’s history, records continue to tumble at WCU as this fall’s official enrollment stands at 10,382.

 University officials say the 2.7 percent jump in the total student population over last year’s tally of 10,107 is driven in part by an increase in the size of the freshman class and another year of improved retention rates.

 That’s the word from WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, which compiles official census statistics for reporting to the University of North Carolina system.

Western Carolina University Welcomes Freshmen On Move In Day

DSC_0067Thousands of moms, dads, grandparents and siblings ascended upon Western Carolina University on Friday to help their freshmen move into the dorms. The move in process begin at 7 am and continued into the late afternoon. The system was ran like a well oiled machine. Traffic patterns were easily laid out around the campus with public safety and volunteers assisting with directing those moving in. Faculty, staff and student volunteers were there to assist the families.

Indicators are pointing to another all-time high in student enrollment, and WCU should exceed last year’s record enrollment of 10,107. Also, WCU anticipate that they will  surpass last year’s first-year student enrollment of 1,614, and could even see an entering class of 1,700 or more. The official fall enrollment will be established Friday, Aug. 29, which is the 10th class day and the census date as specified by the University of North Carolina General Administration.

A week of activities has been planned to welcome all the students for the 2014-15 academic year, including WCU’s annual Valley Ballyhoo celebration Saturday, Aug. 16. More than 5,000 WCU students typically attend Valley Ballyhoo each year to enjoy the festivities and visit information tables hosted by campus and community organizations.