The Story of Our Future

The story of WCU is one deeply connected to the past, to the land, and to the people of our region; thus, the story of our future must be about connections and belonging. We are rooted in our service to the people of Southern Appalachia and beyond. WCU belongs not just to our students and our faculty and staff, but to the whole community, for we are integrally connected to this region as its educational, economic, and cultural center. WCU’s past shapes its future—a future that will have a meaningful impact on the lives of everyone we touch as an institution.

The following vignettes illustrate how we envision the future of WCU for our students, employees, and communities.

The future WCU from a student’s perspective:

WCU is where the citizens of our region, state, and beyond seek and attain the essential abilities, work ethic, and practical knowledge of a university graduate. It is the place where they forge lifelong friendships, explore different philosophies and values, and expand their horizons with international experiences.

The student begins her relationship with WCU with a seamless transition into her new learning environment. Compilation of documentation, evaluation of transfer credit and awarding of financial aid are fully automated and accomplished almost immediately, the processes behind them almost invisible to her. Her primary concern is acquainting herself with the physical and virtual campus, meeting new friends and peers, and selecting from an array of student organizations and activities in which to become engaged.

Once she begins classes, she faces a new set of choices. Most of her professors are encouraging students to participate in research and creative activities. Her student mentor assures her that the experience is invaluable and she will have many such opportunities. Her coursework is rigorous and the expectations are high, but her professors are friendly and approachable, her classes are small, and with the new skills she is learning she feels prepared to meet any challenge. If she experiences personal or academic difficulty, she seeks out one of the many tutoring, counseling, and other support services that help her remain engaged, motivated, and positive.

As she settles into University life, she begins to explore her campus community more deeply. She can often be found at Hunter Library, where she meets classmates and friends in the group learning spaces to work on collaborative projects. She likes that her professors emphasize active and collaborative learning and she finds such projects teach her more than she could have ever anticipated. Her job mentoring new students and her service learning activities help her connect to the larger community. Her faculty research advisor has just told her that her paper was accepted at a national conference and, despite her nerves, she is looking forward to the experience, knowing her research advisor will mentor her through the experience. She is also anxiously waiting to depart for her study abroad program; most of her friends have participated in an international learning experience, and she is ready for the challenge. She keeps track of all of these activities in her eBriefcase, knowing that future employers will be interested in how she integrates her classroom and co-curricular activities.

In her down time, she likes to meet friends at their favorite café in the Town Center where she enjoys discussing her academics and debating current affairs. She often caps off an evening by catching a student production or exhibit. She has also discovered that cheering on her favorite Catamount athletics team or participating in campus events are excellent ways to meet new friends. She loves to hike on one of the many trails that link to the campus to the Jackson County linear park system along the river. She is also learning to kayak at the river park in Cullowhee, and she is almost ready to try out her new skills.

She stays busy both academically and socially, even on the weekends, and she enjoys sharing her experiences with family and friends. When she does leave Cullowhee, she gets to experience that wonderful feeling of returning through Catamount Gap and seeing the campus spread out across the entire valley. When she is in Asheville, she likes seeing the WCU sign proudly adorning the University’s facility in Biltmore Park. She is also impressed with WCU’s virtual campus environments. She especially likes to see the campus buildings mixed in with local businesses, clinics, restaurants, and shops and the people on the sidewalks, hurrying to meet friends, or exercising in the mountain air. WCU is her home now.

As graduation approaches, she feels excited and nostalgic. WCU has offered her so much and she has grown tremendously during her time here. University staff members help her get ready for the big job search, and she has made connections at job fairs held throughout the region, through her professors’ contacts and through the internship she completed for her program. WCU graduates are in high demand and her choices are many. She is also exploring graduate school as an option; her program at WCU has excellent placement rates into well-regarded graduate programs. She feels fortunate that her WCU education has prepared her equally for work or further education.

Several programs that she is participating in help ensure she maintains ties to the University. She plans to recognize one of her professors through the Senior Appreciation Program and attend some fun events for new graduates. She enrolls as a lifetime member of the WCU Alumni Association and the Catamount Club; with their robust social media outlets she will be able to keep up with all that is happening at the University.

The big day is here – graduation at last! She feels strong, she feels prepared, and she knows the value of her WCU education will increase. Her journey continues, but WCU will always feel like home.

The future WCU from a faculty and staff perspective:

WCU is the place where faculty and staff are excited to come to work, where the administration values their voice, and where they are empowered to make a difference in our students’ lives and in their own professional pursuits.

The WCU employee knows the primary aim of the institution is to create an environment in which student learning is paramount. He also recognizes the roles that the University plays in our communities, from economic development to community revitalization. He knows that he will be rewarded for diligence and excellence in his work. The criteria and benchmarks for determining job performance are explicit and he understands them well. His compensation is competitive and consistent with market demand. He also knows that his supervisor or chair will do all she can to support his professional development. He knows that the University also cares about his quality of life and contributes to his personal wellbeing, with dependable and convenient childcare, wellness programs, and assistance for his life partner in finding work in the area. Multiple opportunities for advancement are available to him, and he knows that the University mentorship program will help him to take his teaching, research, or other skills to the next level.

As he goes about his work on a daily basis, he draws on the expertise and knowledge of colleagues in a variety of units and departments. Communications from colleagues and campus administration keep him up to date on important matters and, where appropriate, invite his input. He especially enjoys the team-based engagement activities that the University sponsors. The campus community relations office often makes referrals in response to requests for assistance from external organizations. As a result, he finds that he is frequently invited to present or consult on projects external to the University.

His work at WCU is more than just a job. He gets tremendous personal satisfaction from being a member of a tight-knit and supportive campus environment. He notices that this satisfaction spills over into the larger community, where he and his colleagues are involved in local school, sports, and community activities. All in all, WCU feels more like an extended family than a place of work—a place where he and his family feel at home.

The future WCU from our communities’ perspective:

For our communities, WCU is a diverse and vibrant place where alumni come to reconnect and continue to shape their futures; regional businesses and industries, local governments, and civic organizations seek assistance and support in developing and revitalizing our communities; educators in our schools and community colleges turn for advice and expertise; and local residents come to experience first class cultural and sporting events and mark special events in their own lives.

For the community member, a visit to WCU is a routine and frequent occurrence conducted with no real sense of what is ‘on’ campus and what is ‘off’. A typical week for a member of the community is as follows …

On Monday, she visits the west side of campus for an appointment with one of the health clinics which operates in conjunction with our College of Health and Human Sciences. After her appointment, she decides to grab coffee with a friend and do a little shopping at the Town Center complex on campus. That evening, she logs onto WCU’s learning management system to work on an online course she is taking. She appreciates the flexibility and high quality of the online programs offered by WCU.

On Tuesday, her oldest daughter has rehearsal for her upcoming high school graduation in the Ramsey Center and her youngest is involved in a Catamount Athletics sports camp. That evening, she participates in a parent panel at her son’s school with future teachers from the College of Education and Allied Professions.

On Wednesday, she meets with WCU’s community relations officer at the county offices in Sylva regarding a grant to expand sidewalks through the Tuckaseigee River Park in Cullowhee. The office has been tremendously supportive in the past, resulting in grants to promote development around the river.

On Thursday, her company is hosting a regional conference for its clients at WCU. The University’s conference services, meeting spaces and catering services are in high demand. Conference services at WCU showcase the many activities and recreational opportunities that make the Southern Appalachian region so popular. Her company is expecting record attendance.

On Friday, she attends a workshop in Murphy, where a faculty member from WCU’s College of Business is giving a presentation on area economic trends for regional business owners. That evening, she and a friend attend their favorite Broadway production in the Bardo Arts Center. She loves the high level of talent in the WCU Theatre program and is impressed by their collaboration with well-known artists.

On Saturday, it’s time to cheer her favorite Catamount team! She and her family hold season passes to all the home games and it’s a tradition to attend together. The quality of the teams and the family-friendly experience is unequaled in the region.

On Sunday, she and her partner can be found strolling along the river on the many paths and trails that link the campus with the Jackson County linear park trails. They deeply enjoy the mountain landscapes, the sense of belonging, the sense that they are at home.

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