Archive for Western Carolina University

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

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

Study Predicts Fall Tourism Increase

Although many of us still may be shaking the sand out of our bathing suits from summer’s final trip to the beach over Labor Day weekend, a few students and faculty members at Western Carolina University have turned their attention to autumn and the mountains.

Students in a senior-level “Tourism Strategies” class taught by Steve Morse, economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism Program in WCU’s College of Business, are predicting a noticeable increase in hotel occupancy rates in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park gateway counties of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.

The students analyzed October hotel room demand trends since 2009 using data supplied by Smith Travel Research, a leading source of information for the hospitality industry, to develop the third annual October tourism forecast for 21 counties in WNC. New for this year’s forecast is the inclusion of three counties on the Tennessee side of the park.

“The class took into account factors that influence travel demand during October in the area including dramatically falling gas prices, an expanding array of fall festivals and events, new attractions and venues, new destination marketing and promotion programs, and, best of all, predictions of a vibrant fall color show in the Smoky Mountain and Blue Ridge region this year,” Morse said.

“Gas prices in the Southeast are about 22 percent lower now than at this time last year,” he said. “The lower gas prices in 2015 means that the average family has an additional $1,100 to spend in disposable income that they are not spending on gas.”

Among the fall foliage forecasters cited by the students is Kathy Mathews, WCU associate professor of biology, who is calling for one of the best leaf-looking seasons in recent years because of drier-than-normal conditions in 2015.

In the tourism study, the WCU students divided 21 WNC counties into five groups, adding a group for the Tennessee counties. The students examined the total number of hotel rooms sold and the overall occupancy rates for October 2014; compared weekday and weekend occupancy rates from last October; and determined the average change in the number of hotel nights sold for October during the previous three years.
The students’ predictions for North Carolina regions:

Region 1 – Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties: A 5.2 percent increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. Among the reasons for the increase, the students said, is the opening this fall of the new Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy.
Region 2 – Haywood, Jackson, Transylvania and Swain counties: A 4.4 percent increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. Among the factors, the students said, are increased entertainment options this fall at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort and three home football games at WCU this October.

Region 3 – Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties: A 5 percent increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. Contributing factors include proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway coupled with falling gas prices, the students said.

Region 4 – Burke, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties: A 5 percent increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. The students again cited proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and cheaper gasoline as reasons behind the expected increase.

Region 5 – Buncombe and Henderson counties: A 4.2 percent increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. “A 4.2 percent increase for this October over last year is a very significant uptick for an already-strong tourism market in the Buncombe and Henderson areas,” Morse said. “They have launched new destination advertising and promotions programs and have extended their media reach into new feeder cities, with an increase in festivals and events around the growing craft beer industry.”

The students’ predictions for the three Tennessee counties:
Sevier County: A 4.2 increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. The students cited the strong tourism market in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville supplemented by new attractions and restaurants including Dollywood’s new four-star family resort hotel called DreamMore, the Jimmy Buffet-themed Margaritaville hotel and restaurant in Pigeon Forge and the Rocky Top Sports World complex in Gatlinburg.
Blount and Monroe counties: A 4.1 increase in October 2015 tourism compared to last October. Contributing factors include the expected vibrant fall colors and lower gas prices, prompting more travel along Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and along the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico Plains in Tennessee to Robbinsville in North Carolina

Sixth annual Public Lecture on Indian Health at WCU

Sarah Sneed, a resident of Cherokee’s Birdtown community who earned her law degree at Harvard Law School, will visit the Western Carolina University campus Wednesday, Sept. 2, to deliver the sixth annual Public Lecture on Indian Health.

Sneed will speak on the topic “Federal Indian Health Policy and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians” at 6 p.m. in Room 204 of WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

Sneed’s lecture will provide an in-depth look at federal Indian policy in relationship to the evolution of health care for the Eastern Band, said Lisa J. Lefler, director of WCU’s Culturally Based Native Health Programs.

Sneed graduated with honors with a degree in history at the University of Colorado at Boulder prior to earning her law degree. She has worked in various capacities with Indian tribes throughout her career.

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.

Developer sought for medical office building project at WCU

The Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University has 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 building will be the first privately developed structure to be built on WCU’s 344-acre West Campus as part of the university’s 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, said Tony Johnson, executive director for the Millennial Initiative.

“We envision this building as a hub of collaboration, where WCU faculty and students will work alongside health care professionals,” Johnson said. “The health care practitioners who locate there will help meet the medical needs of the people of the region, and simultaneously will provide hands-on learning experiences for our students and opportunities for professional practice and research for our faculty.”

The request for qualifications is the initial step in the process of selecting a full-service developer to design, finance, construct and manage a medical office building or similar specialty medical center. Selection of the developer is expected to take place in June, with construction to begin as early as January 2016 and occupancy of the building in early 2017.

The medical office building is anticipated to be the first of five phases of building projects designed to complement the Health and Human Sciences Building as part of the long-range planning for the development of the West Campus, Johnson said.

The area around the HHS Building is expected to become the hub of a health sciences cluster, which will expand collaborative opportunities with partners such as private clinics, medical device companies and other health-related businesses. The partnerships will be intended to enhance hands-on student learning, foster collaborative research and promote development of scientific and technological innovations with potential commercial applications, and provide needed services to the community.

Completion of the medical office building will represent an additional collaboration between WCU and private health care partners. Last September, WestCare Health launched a new full-time primary care clinic in the HHS Building. The clinic occupies 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

In December 2013, WestCare opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building, joining Carolina West Sports Medicine, which provides care to the community and collaborates clinically with WCU rehabilitation and sports medicine faculty, staff and students.

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.

The medical office building project is made possible because the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013 endorsed a proposal to lease the “millennial campus” tract to the university’s Endowment Fund, a move designed to enable WCU to respond rapidly and nimbly to potential public-private economic development opportunities.

The lease proposal was subsequently approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the governor and the Council of State. It enables WCU to follow a strategic economic development model similar to what is in use at other UNC institutions, including N.C. State University for its Centennial Campus and UNC Charlotte for its Charlotte Research Initiative, where institutional endowment funds already owned tracts prior to their designation as “millennial campuses.”

For more information about the Millennial Initiative, contact Tony Johnson at 828-227-2596 or tonyjohnson@wcu.edu.

Developers interested in the medical office building project can find the request for qualifications online at www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/RFQMOBFINAL11215.pdf.

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.

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.

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.

Serena Author to Appear At WCU for reading; book signing

Western Carolina University’s Office of First Year Experience will host “An Evening with Ron Rash” on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Coulter Building recital hall at 7 p.m.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, will read from his novel “Serena,” answer questions about the book and sign copies at the event, which is free and open to the public. Serena has now been made into a motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which has a February 2015 release date in the US.

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.

WCU Named Top Adventure School

Results from an online poll have been tallied, and Western Carolina University has been announced as the No. 1 college for outdoor adventure in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic by a leading outdoors magazine.

Western Carolina captured the title of “top adventure college” over the second-place school, Garrett College in Maryland, following several rounds of voting in which WCU also came out on top against Emory University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Virginia Tech and Appalachian State. Representatives of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine said that more than 115,000 visitors to its website cast votes during the competition held earlier this summer, and results are listed in the publication’s new August issue.

In her story about the poll results, magazine staff member Jess Daddio wrote that “WCU’s stunning campus is home to some serious adventure. Both the Parks and Recreation Management (PRM) department and the Base Camp Cullowheeouting program offer students a chance to get the quintessential experiential education experience.”

Base Camp Cullowhee has long offered dozens of outdoor recreation trips for students and equipment rental, but in recent years the staff has increased its experiential education services to integrate outdoor activities with students’ classroom curriculum, said Josh Whitmore, WCU’s associate director of outdoor programs. “For example, a professor might approach us about including a climbing wall session, a group development team-building activity or a guided hike to a geologic feature in a class,” Whitmore said.

When it comes to total student participation in Base Camp’s programming, numbers have skyrocketed in the last decade, Whitmore said. “When I first started here nearly 10 years ago, we would run about 300 to 400 touches (student participations) for a year, and we have about 7,000 to 8,000 now,” he said. The growth has followed along with improvements in the university’s recreational facilities, such as the indoor climbing wall at the Campus Recreation Center, which sometimes averages up to 800 student visits per month, he said. Also, WCU’s on-campus trail system – with seven miles of pathway for mountain biking, hiking and running – opened last year.

A decade ago, the Base Camp staff included Whitmore and about half a dozen student workers, but now it takes three full-time staffers and 20 to 25 students to keep the outdoor program going, he said.

Accordingly, the university’s reputation among the general public and prospective students as an epicenter of outdoor adventure has grown over the years, Whitmore said. “Certainly, the mountain lifestyle is a big draw for folks. This (“top adventure college” title) is a big part of building that reputation and will help with that for sure.”

In its rundown of the top eight vote-getting schools, the magazine also included profiles of two accomplished alumni from each institution. WCU’s featured students, both graduates of the Parks and Recreation Management Program, are Glenville native Bobby Bryson and Laurinburg native William Butler. Bryson is now a captain for the Charlotte Fire Department, and as a member of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, takes part in search and rescue operations that utilize Blackhawk helicopters for swift-water, flood, urban and wilderness rescue. Butler is an educational technician for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in that position he introduces visitors to outdoor adventure and educates them about using the wilderness responsibly.

In addition to parks and recreation management, other academic programs offered by WCU for students interested in careers in the outdoors are forest resourceshospitality and tourism and natural resource conservation and management.

Blue Ridge Outdoors’ coverage of the “top adventure college” competition is available online at http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/biking/alumni-souths-best-adventure-colleges/.

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 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’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.

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.

Record Rainfall May Dampen Fall Color Show

mfec4S8 In the yearly tradition that is the Western Carolina University foliage forecast, given by Kathy Mathews, this years forecast has been delivered. Abundant rainfall during one of the wettest summers in Western North Carolina history may portend a dampening of the intensity of the fall color show this year unless autumn brings vastly drier conditions, predicts Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster. Mathews went on to explain; “With record rainfall during July, the trees in the mountains look healthy and green at the moment, and that’s a good thing for the trees. But leaf-lookers need to keep their fingers crossed for some drier weather in the next couple of months in order for us to see the development of vibrant fall leaf color.” Leaf looking tourists may be in for some disappointment this year, which will possibly affect the local businesses in our area. “There always will be plenty of color in the yellow and orange hues,” Mathews said. “However, if the days remain cloudy throughout September, there won’t be as much of a pop of bright reds on the leaves.” The red pigments called “anthocyanins”, are manufactured by leaves mainly in the fall in response to cooling temperatures and excess sugar production caused by lots of sun, Mathews said. “Dryness also causes production of more red pigment,” she said. “Studies have shown that trees stressed out by dry soils and nutrient deficiency produce more red pigment in the fall. Ample sunshine and dry weather is the combination necessary for brilliant fall foliage.” Another factor in the annual fall color show is temperature. “Cool nights in September, with temperatures dropping into the low 40s, release the yellow, orange and red colors because chlorophyll degrades faster at lower temperatures,” Mathews said. “Temperature may work in our favor this year, as we have seen relatively cool summer months. If this trend continues, colors may be more vivid despite the rainfall.” And there is an upside to all the rainfall, even if it means less-vibrant fall colors, the leaves should hang around longer, “With healthy, well-watered trees, we should not see much early leaf drop,” Mathews said. The color change should begin at the higher mountain elevations in late September and continue through mid-November in the lower levels of WNC. Regardless of when the peak is and how intense the hues are, visitors always can find good fall color somewhere in the WNC mountains, with more than 100 tree species in the Southern Appalachians. That means not only many different colors of leaves in the fall, but also a lengthy fall color season, Mathews said.