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Mountain Heritage Day Seeking Arts and Crafts People

food-contest-for-webArtists and crafts people are being sought to participate in the 40th annual Mountain Heritage Day, Western Carolina University’s annual fall festival of traditional Appalachian culture.

Mountain Heritage Day will be held Saturday, Sept. 27, on the WCU campus in Cullowhee – always the last Saturday of the month. The festival typically attracts more than 20,000 visitors who come to enjoy three stages of continuous music and dance, exhibitions of Cherokee stickball and shape-note singing, a midway of juried arts and crafts, and a variety of festival food.

This year, the festival celebrates its 40th anniversary in conjunction with the university’s 125th year.

The festival arts and crafts are judged for quality of workmanship, booth display and design. Cash awards will be presented to the vendors with the best works. All applicants are juried except the previous year’s winners of the arts and crafts awards.

Applications and instructions for arts and crafts vendors are available on the festival website, www.mountainheritageday.com

WCU Sees Record Breaking Graduation Rates

Western_Carolina_University_sealSurging enrollments has boosted the number of graduates in WCU’s spring class. It has nearly doubled in the last 11 years.

After all the scores from final exams are tallied and academic records are finalized, WCU’s spring class, including recipients of both undergraduate and graduate degrees, is expected to total about 1,385 graduates, which would be the largest class in university history and 45 more graduates than were in last year’s record spring class.

Western Carolina University will host a trio of commencement ceremonies over a two-day period, Friday and Saturday May 9-10 at the Ramsey Center. The university’s commencement ceremonies are open to the public with no limit on the number of family, friends and guests invited by each graduate.

Seeking Community Leadership Nominations

Western_Carolina_University_sealThe Coulter Regional Leadership Program and the Cherokee Right Path Adult Leadership Program are both seeking nominations.

The Coulter Regional Leadership Program is accepting nominations for participation in the 2014-15 program. This 12-month leadership program is for adults ages 25-55 years of age who have some involvement in community activities and have the potential to become dynamic leaders.

Nominees must reside in the counties of Haywood, Macon, Jackson, Swain, Clay, Cherokee, Graham, or the Qualla Boundary. Persons wishing to nominate can go to wnclead.wcu.edu and download the nomination form.

Deadline for submission: Letters of nomination will be accepted until 5 p.m. on June 15

Rabbit Creek Pottery Wins Dillsboro Business Competition

After four months of suspense and tough competition Anne Burrell who operates Rabbit Creek Pottery in Dillsboro was proclaimed the winner of the $5000.00 business development grant competition. The award was announced Thursday at Southwestern Community College. Ms Burrell told WRGC News that they grant would turn their business around. They will now be able to install their Kiln and expand inventory and operations. When asked about the uniqueness of their pottery style, she said that each of the potters in Dillsboro offers a different style which makes the town attractive because of the diversity. The contest has been a collaborative effort among SCC WCU, Dillsboro, and local sponsors. The contestants went through an extensive application process, attended numerous small business management and entrepreneurial classes, developed a a business operational document including a plan for business operations, management team, capitalization, management team, legal ramifications, start-up, and employees. The winner also had a limited time to get their business operational in Dillsboro. Rabbit Creek Pottery was already open for business but were eligible for the competition because they had been open for only a short time before the competition started. In addition to Rabbit Creek pottery the other top two contestants were John Fault and Megan Orr who proposed a Dillsboro event shuttle service, and Anthony Brown who proposed a water park similar to a venue near Benson, NC which pulls skiers through the water with zip lines. Mayor Mike Fitzgerald gave Rabbit Creek Pottery a welcome to Dillsboro, and Tommy Dennison with the WCU Small Business Center who helped with the contest was happy with the intensity of the process and felt that the judges made an excellent decision. Mayor Fitzgerald said the other top finishers in the competition would have their privilege license fee waived if they opened their business in Dillsboro this year.

Sneek Peek At WCU Facility

WCU Facility ConstructionWestern Carolina University will host a “sneak peek” Wednesday, April 16, of the soon-to-be-opened laboratories and classrooms that will enable the expansion of WCU’s undergraduate engineering program to the Asheville-Hendersonville area.  Nearly 11,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of a building located in Biltmore Park Town Square is undergoing renovations to accommodate the expanded engineering program, with classes scheduled to get underway in August. Expansion of WCU’s engineering degree was made possible through more than $1.4 million in the state budget. The N.C. General Assembly approved roughly $700,000 dollars for start-up costs and laboratory equipment for the 2013-14 fiscal year, with nearly $720,000 in recurring funds to cover faculty positions and ongoing operations. Western Carolina began offering the bachelor of science degree in engineering in the fall 2012 at its campus in Cullowhee as a new stand-alone program. The university had partnered with UNC Charlotte to jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from 2004 until 2012. The open house will from 4 until 6 p.m on the 16th and will enable guests to observe renovation work at the facility, followed by a reception and optional tour of WCU’s existing instructional site at Biltmore Park.

WCU Student Killed in Car Accident In Greensboro

A 22-year-old Western Carolina University student was killed in an automobile accident Thursday night in Greensboro. According My Fox 8 TV News In Greensboro the student was killed when her car was hit head on by a driver driving west on the eastbound lanes of I-40 near the Wendover Avenue exit around ten fifteen last night. The student has been identified as 22-year-old Reagan Hartley who was scheduled to graduate next month from Western Carolina University with her degree in elementary education. Hartley was from the town of Willow Springs NC and a 2010 graduate from West Johnston High School. She was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
The driver of the S U V has been identified as 46-year-old Ronnie Fichera. Police said Fichera entered Greensboro on I-40, exited the interstate at the High Point Road exit leading officers around Four Seasons Mall and reentered the interstate again driving west in the eastbound lanes. He struck the convertible about a mile down the highway. Greensboro police were not involved in the pursuit but are investigating the crash. Units were called to assist when Randleman Police initiated the pursuit. “It’s a tragedy, there’s no way around that,” Lt. C.M. Shultheis said. “I don’t know what goes through a drivers mind when they are trying to elude police. I don’t know what the level of impairment was, the driver may not have realized he was going the wrong way.”
540 A-M WRGC Radio shares the grief with the entire University family with the death of this aspiring teacher who is described by her student teaching supervisor “as having all the qualities for being a really great elementary school teacher.”

WCU Publishes Study

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University researchers have completed a comprehensive study of major demographic, economic, social and political issues and trends facing Western North Carolina, releasing their findings in a 2014 Regional Outlook Report designed to equip residents and policymakers with the information needed to make informed decisions about WNC’s future. The report is based on in-depth analysis of existing economic and demographic data and on responses to a telephone survey last summer, with nearly 900 randomly selected respondents contacted via both wireless and landline numbers. The 2014 report represents the third installment in a series of reports compiled by a multidisciplinary team of researchers – Kathleen M. Brennan, associate professor of sociology; Christopher A. Cooper, associate professor of political science and political affairs; and Inhyuck “Steve” Ha, associate professor of economics. Among their findings: Although the population of WNC continues to grow, the rate of growth has slowed, with much of the increase in population the result of migration to the region from other parts of the nation. Since 1990, racial minority populations have increased, with the Hispanic/Latino population now the largest racial minority in WNC, followed by African-Americans. Compared to five years ago, fewer respondents report that they own their own place of residence, and more respondents say they are living with family or friends without contributing to rent or mortgage payments. Most Western North Carolinians are satisfied with health care in the region; however, more than half of respondents disagree with the statement that health care is affordable. The majority of respondents say they are “fairly satisfied” with education in the region, expressing the highest level of support for higher education. Only about one-third, however, say higher education in the region is affordable. The majority of respondents support land-use planning, and more than half of respondents support policies restricting ridge-top and steep-slope development. Most respondents do not have a high level of trust in government, with the federal government receiving the lowest marks. Many issues show stark contrasts between the opinions of native Western North Carolinians and those who are newcomers to the region. Buncombe County residents often demonstrate unique patterns from residents of other counties of WNC. In 2012, the top three industries in WNC were manufacturing (28 percent), finance/insurance/real estate (16 percent) and services (15 percent). Manufacturing accounted for more than one-quarter of total economic production in 2012. Between 2000 and 2010, approximately 50.6 percent of jobs in the region’s manufacturing industry were lost. During that same time span, most new job creation occurred in the education sector (with a 66.6 percent increase in new jobs) and real estate (a 58.8 percent increase). Counties included in the survey are Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. The complete report is available online at regionalreport2014.wcu.edu. A follow-up report examining the economic impact of Western Carolina University on the region is expected to be delivered at a major conference on economic development to be held in October on the WCU campus.

WCU Rescheduled Open House

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University will throw open its doors to prospective students and their families and friends as the university holds Open House on Saturday, April 5. Hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Admission, Open House gives visitors a chance to learn about the university’s wide array of academic programs, find out the important details of topics such as financial aid, and tour the campus. The April 5 event was added to the university’s spring schedule after an Open House scheduled for February was canceled due to inclement weather. Because of the many events occurring on campus on April 5, the Open House that day will begin at noon. The schedule starts with an academic and student services information fair from noon to 1:30 p.m. around the concourse of WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Following a welcome session in the Ramsey Center main arena from 1:30 to 2 p.m., prospective students will have a chance to engage in academic sessions led by WCU faculty members from 2:15 to 3 p.m. Visitors can choose among several options for the 3 to 5 p.m. period, including tours of campus and residence halls, information sessions on admissions and financial aid, and participation in campus events. For interested students who cannot attend Open House on April 5, campus tours also are available year-round by appointment for students and their families. Preregistration for Open House and more information are available by going to the website openhouse.wcu.edu or by calling the Office of Undergraduate Admission at 828-227-7317 or toll-free 877-928-4968.

WCU Telescope Viewing Party

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University’s Department of Chemistry and Physics will host an evening telescope viewing party beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Jackson County Airport overlooking the WCU campus. Part of the 2014 North Carolina Science Festival, the event is designed to give members of the campus and surrounding communities an up-close view of stars, the moon and the planets Mars and Jupiter through telescopes at various magnifications. The viewing is open free of charge, and members of the public are welcome to bring their own telescopes. In the event the evening is overcast, the viewing will be canceled. Young children must be accompanied by an adult. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly. For more information about the viewing call 828) 227-2718.

WCU Renovations Moves Ahead

Buchanan Building

Buchanan Building

The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees has given its unanimous approval to allow university officials to proceed with planning and design for renovations and additions to Buchanan Residence Hall and Brown Building in the historic upper part of the Cullowhee campus. Work on the 56-year-old Buchanan Residence Hall will include renovation of existing space, which now provides 180 beds, and an addition of space for 300 beds to create an updated residence facility with 480 beds. The project is currently authorized with a $48 million price tag, but actual construction cost estimates will not be available until advance planning and initial design is complete.

WCU “Dash In Disguise” 5K

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University will host the “Dash In Disguise 5-K and fun run March 29th. The run encourages participants to wear a costume. The fun run starts at 10 a.m. and the 5-K at 11 a.m. near A.K. Hinds University Center. Racers should arrive an hour early to check-in for the event. The cost to participate in the 5-K is $15 for students and $20 for all others. The fun run will be $5 for children. Prizes include gift cards to local eateries and will be awarded in categories such as best dressed and fastest time. Proceeds from the event, which is sponsored by WCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, will benefit the Good Samaritan Clinic along with others. To pre-register CLICK HERE For more information, contact physical therapy student Chris Garcia at cjgarcia1@catamount.wcu.edu

WCU’s Online Programs Receives High Marks

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s online master’s degree programs in human resources and project management have received high national rankings in affordability and “Best Buy” designations from the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com. WCU’s human resources program was ranked No. 3 in affordability following a national survey of 37 regionally accredited higher education institutions that offer online master’s degrees in that academic field, said Melissa Eubank, director of information services for GetEducated.com. The survey showed that the average cost of an online master’s degree in human resources nationwide is about $23,500. The cost of WCU’s program is $9,339 for North Carolina residents. Earlier this year, GetEducated.com gave WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship a No. 2 national ranking in affordability. Other WCU online master’s programs that have received high rankings from the clearinghouse in recent years are nurse educator, nurse administration and health sciences.

Demolition Begins

WCU Business Strip

WCU Business Strip

NEO Corporation began demolition on three fire-damaged restaurants – Subway, Mad Batter and Rolling Stone Burrito – on the WCU campus Tuesday afternoon while students are on spring break. The University Endowment Fund, which owns the buildings on the campus commercial strip, has decided against rebuilding, which officials said is cost-prohibitive, and plans to construct a mixed-use commercial/residential facility in its place.

WCU To Hold Open House

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University will welcome prospective students and their families and friends to campus as the university holds Open House on Saturday, March 22. Open House gives visitors a chance to tour the campus, learn about the university’s wide array of academic programs, and find out the important details of topics such as financial aid. For interested students who cannot attend the March 22 event, campus tours also are available year-round by appointment for students and their families. For more info call 828-227-7317.

WCU Dean Of Construction Management

James Zhang

James Zhang

James Zhang, dean of Western Carolina University’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology since October 2012, will be stepping down from the post in May to become provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Kettering University in Flint, Mich. Zhang will be joining another former Kimmel School dean, Robert McMahan, who is serving as Kettering’s president. After McMahan’s departure in summer 2011, Zhang served as interim dean of the Kimmel School until his appointment as permanent dean in fall 2012. Kettering University, formerly General Motors Institute, is known for its top-ranked undergraduate programs in engineering, mathematics, science and business. “Kettering is getting a proven leader with an extensive track record in the field of engineering education and project-based learning,” said WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “James is leaving the Kimmel School stronger than he found it. The school is well-positioned for the future, with rising student enrollments, the expansion of the engineering program to the Biltmore Park facility, and the strengthening of partnerships with community colleges across Western North Carolina.” Morrison-Shetlar said a national search for a new dean to lead the Kimmel School will begin immediately. Under Zhang’s leadership, WCU’s Kimmel School won approval in February 2012 from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to offer the bachelor of science degree in engineering, a strategic step in the university’s efforts to help meet the needs of WNC business and industry. The stand-alone BSE program, which began in the fall of 2012, developed from a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering (the BSEE) that WCU had offered jointly with UNC Charlotte since 2004. The N.C. General Assembly appropriated $1.4 million to WCU last year for the expansion of its undergraduate engineering program to Biltmore Park Town Square, located in the fast-growing corridor between Asheville and Hendersonville, to help meet increasing industry and business demand for a highly qualified workforce. Zhang joined the WCU faculty in 2003 with more than 10 years of industry experience in electrical engineering research, development and management, and was named associate dean in 2008. From 2009 to 2010, he also served as interim head of the Department of Construction Management. Zhang holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, master’s degrees in telecommunications and electrical engineering and a doctorate in electrical engineering.  During his tenure at WCU, he has generated more than 50 publications. He also holds seven U.S. and international patents. The Kimmel School is home to the Department of Construction Management, Department of Engineering and Technology, and Center for Rapid Product Realization. The “engagement arm” of the Kimmel School, the Rapid Center provides technical assistance to companies, organizations and entrepreneurs through faculty expertise and hands-on learning activities for students.

WCU Masters Degree Program

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University’s master’s degree program in business administration is hosting a series of information sessions for prospective students in Asheville, Cherokee, Cullowhee and Franklin. Kelly McIntyre, graduate programs manager for WCU’s College of Business, will lead the sessions and discuss the advantages of WCU’s “hands-on” MBA, which focuses on the unique challenges facing Western North Carolina and its economy. The program accepts both part-time and full-time students, and the degree can be completed in 34 months on a part-time track or 16 months on a full-time track. For dates and times of the program visit mba.wcu.edu

WCU Ballon Recovered in Outer Banks

WCU CAT 7 Baloon Launch

WCU CAT 7 Baloon Launch

The seventh Western Carolina University physics research balloon to be launched to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere – Cat 7 – left Cullowhee on Saturday, Feb. 1, and traveled unexpectedly to Tennessee, across Virginia and on to the Atlantic Ocean, where it appeared to be lost at sea.  The hydrogen-filled balloons carry about $1,500 worth of equipment – cameras, tracking devices, sensors and a radiation detector. The data collected helps students learn more about radiation levels and radiation sources in the atmosphere and about weather phenomena such as dark lightning, said Enrique Gomez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy. Dark lightning is an invisible burst of high-energy radiation immediately preceding a flash of lightning. About a week after the Cat 7 flight, Coker received surprising and good news. Two teachers walking on the beach at the Outer Banks found the balloon’s science box, and a few days later, a Southern Shores resident located part of the radio box. Although the equipment will have to be replaced, Coker is excited about the possibility of being able to retrieve some of the data from it and continuing to investigate what happened with Cat 7. The crew assisting with the launch was small, which made holding on to the balloon difficult. The craft ascended more slowly than previous balloons but clocked 130 mph at just under 50,000 feet “When the balloon got into the upper jetstream, it took off and was soon halfway through Virginia,” said Coker. Coker met up with chase team volunteers including members of the Catamount Amateur Radio Group and the Haywood County Amateur Radio Club at Cracker Barrel in Statesville. They monitored the balloon’s radio signals, some of which were not functioning properly, and periodic location updates. The balloon traveled about 560 miles in 6 hours and 41 minutes, reporting a maximum altitude of 90,510 feet over Gloucester, Va. The craft continued east, and the group realized continuing the chase would likely require a boat. Coker said she notified the Coast Guard about Cat 7 and reached out to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, which gave her updates about conditions and accessibility. The equipment continued to transmit location coordinates through the night before falling quiet. A week later and about 100 miles away from the balloon’s last reported location, two teachers from Poquoson Middle School in Virginia walking on the beach noticed what looked like a cooler held together with duct tape and wires washing up on the beach. Out of an abundance of caution, Penny Huskey and Doreen Nadolny left the package on the beach and had fun letting their imaginations wander.  An officer contacted the radio group using a phone number found online and spoke with Daniel deCourt, a WCU alumnus who had been part of past balloon flight projects. The science box of Western Carolina University’s Cat 7 research balloon washed up on shore in the Town of Nags Head. the research balloon experiments help teach about basic science as well as how to carry an experiment from conception to design, deployment, retrieval and analysis. As for Cat 7, they have high hopes that the flight’s research data can be retrieved from the salvaged equipment. Previous flights have suggested a peak of radiation at that layer of transition between atmospheric layers, which is expected from cosmic rays.

WCU Fire Update

FireThe Board of Trustees of the WCU Endowment Fund, which owns the commercial strip affected by the fire, reviewed the cost estimates, tax assessments, and anticipated insurance proceeds at their February 5th meeting. Independent cost estimates to repair or replace the damaged buildings ranged between $629,000 and $1.5 million. The tax assessment of the buildings was approximately $250,000, which would likely be the maximum the University could receive from the Department of Insurance. The Board also explored the possibility of using assets from the endowment fund for repair or replacement and learned that those funds are primarily used for academic purposes, such as scholarships and student support.  They determined that use of these funds to repair the buildings for use by private businesses would negatively affect the amount of dollars available for academic purposes.  In addition, the Board reviewed the recommendations from the recently approved Campus Master Plan, which called for replacing the commercial strip with a mixed-use development that incorporates student housing with retail space. After thoughtfully weighing the information above, the Board has decided against replacing or repairing the buildings housing and the three dining establishments said David Belcher. Board members also weighed cost estimates, tax assessments, and anticipated insurance proceeds against  other factors such as the historic significance of the property to the campus community, the contributions to WCU culture made by private businesses operating in the center of campus, and ongoing support by members of the campus community for owners and employees of the affected businesses. The formal resolution approved by the Endowment Fund Board further authorizes WCU officers to demolish the buildings damaged by the fire and notify all endowment fund tenants that lease terms expiring in May 2014 will not be renewed, except on a month-to-month basis. After a competitive process determined by the University, the Board will select a private developer to build a mixed-use facility on the site with a goal of occupancy in August 2016.  Owners of the existing establishments along the commercial strip will have the right of first refusal for commercial space in the new facility. Belcher Said “Please know that we have personally notified all owners of the business enterprises on Centennial Drive of this decision”.  Demolition of the damaged property is tentatively scheduled to begin March 10. Belcher continued; “In closing, let me thank Teresa Williams, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund, and the other members of the Board for their leadership and work on this issue. Theirs was not an easy task, but I know that she and her fellow Board members made the decision they carefully determined would be in the best interests of the University.”

Special Visit to WCU

Mercedes Ellington

Mercedes Ellington

The “Echoes of the Cotton Club” spring radio show re-creation at Western Carolina University will start preproduction Wednesday, Feb. 26, with a visit to campus by internationally known choreographer and dancer Mercedes Ellington. Ellington is the president of the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts in New York City and is the granddaughter of music legend Duke Ellington, a bandleader at the Cotton Club nightclub in Harlem on which the show, an original production written by WCU’s Don Connelly, is based. She will be on campus working with singers, dancers and musicians preparing for the radio show. Ellington also will present a free public presentation on Friday, Feb. 28, about her professional life and the work of her grandfather and her father, Mercer Ellington. The event, to be held at 11:15 a.m. in the recital hall of the Coulter Building, is free and open to the public, and will feature performances of Duke Ellington’s greatest hits by the Catamount Singers and Electric Soul. “Echoes of the Cotton Club” is the sixth in a series of academic-based entertainment projects mounted in collaboration with four departments and three colleges at WCU. Each of the shows in the series hearkens back to the golden age of radio, featuring a live orchestra and sound effects, and performed only once before a live audience. “Echoes of the Cotton Club” will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24, in the John C. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 and proceeds will benefit scholarships in participating academic departments. The group’s first five shows have raised nearly $25,000 for student scholarships.

Communicative Disorders Confrence

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s College of Health and Human Sciences will host the 22nd annual Cullowhee Conference on Communicative Disorders on Thursday, March 27 from 1pm to 5pm, and Friday, March 28 from 8:30am to 5pm. The event, a regional favorite for continuing education in the field of communication sciences and disorders, will feature a broad range of presentations designed to be of interest to speech/language pathologists, allied health providers and family members of individuals with communication disorders. or more information about the conference, contact Bill Ogletree, head of the WCU Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, at ogletree@wcu.edu.