Faculty / Staff Conversation - Session 12

Theme I: SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats):

WCU Strengths:

  • Fantastic faculty and staff. We’ve attracted faculty and staff that really want to be here despite cost-of-living challenges (faculty and staff salaries are low compared with other UNC locations and there are difficulties finding employment for spouses/partners).
  • QEP program for undergraduate education, UNC Tomorrow fit WCU’s mission along with the Boyer model. Campus embracing the Poverty Project shows how many departments can come together to accomplish a large goal.
  • Many participants noted that the university’s small size is a currently a strength, but expressed a fear of excessive growth.
  • Beauty of the campus has improved thanks to architectural vision. Landscaping of the campus has also been well done. 
  • Ability to have smaller class sizes (students can work more closely with faculty) and the affordability of programs.
  • Student body that really wants to be here.
  • Coulter Faculty Commons is a plus.

WCU Weaknesses:

  • Scholarly activity support is lacking. (Funding & staffing support from the Grants office). There is difficulty in raising external funding.  International research connections are difficult to maintain.  There is no release time (someone had to turn down a Fulbright).  Summer grants are a good start but then there is no money to continue.
  • Increasing pressure to do fund-raising, particularly to meet program/departmental needs (fund raising takes time).
  • Expectation of faculty members to be everything to everyone.
  • Development office is a weakness. Money spent in non-academic departments (need more flexibility to meet the differing priorities of academic units, especially the fact the “one size does not fit all”).
  • We say we support the Boyer model, but that is not evident in tenure/promotion as we continue to emphasize traditional scholarship.
  • Many departments (like the arts/music) have small budgets that never change. 
  • Departments do not have adequate funding to maintain laboratories (for instance, difficulty repairing or replacing musical instruments, microscopes, etc). 
  • Departments are expected to grow without increase in faculty.
  • Disconnect in Faculty governance and Faculty Senate. “No challenge to orthodoxy”. Faculty disengagement and distrust.
  • Fear of excessive growth (impact on all levels of teaching/learning).

Theme II: Priorities and Vision:

  • Stick to the priorities in the strategic plan and not have items be important one day and then dismissed the next (i.e. graduate education, distance learning).
  • Regional and comprehensive quality education should be WCU’s #1 priority (not just traditional in-classroom but also getting students ready to take the jobs that we know they’re going to be taking by getting them outside of WNC through field trips and international travel).   Broaden students’ horizons (things such as responsible citizenship).
  • WCU needs to figure out what programs we do best and make decisions that maintain that focus.
  • Increased growth does not focus adequately on clinical education (particular availability of internship opportunities).
  • Cost of education at WCU is a good deal; should continue.  However, we should look at some areas where we could increase fees such as the distance learning technology fee which is too low in comparison to the cost of needed support.

Theme III: Community and the Region

WCU’s Negative influence on the region:

The participants made mention of regional relationships that need to be repaired and reestablished (especially poor relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians).

Concrete steps to better serve the region:

  • WCU needs to continue to make an effort to be a part of merging hospital systems (particularly developing closer relationships with parent corporations such as Carolina’s Health Care System).
  • Reach out and maintain connections to local medical facilities.
  • External funding for community based projects (like clinics, cafes/restaurants that utilize students from Nutrition, hotel-based facilities for Hospitality and Tourism, music camps).

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