Faculty / Staff Conversation - Session 15

WCU Strengths:

  • Location
  • Friendly people, welcoming
  • Strong programs as a whole
  • Good faculty/student ratio
  • Scholarship has gotten better, representative of faculty quality
  • Leadership (particularly at department level) is good at determining what faculty are needed to teach what
  • Collaboration across colleges, departments
  • Strong international programs
  • Understanding of the importance of community
  • Transparency is an emerging strength
  • The quality and focus of the QEP

WCU Weaknesses

  • Western has overpromised to the community. Not sure if intentional – but just focusing on other things.
  • What community are we referring to? Haywood, Jackson, Cherokee, etc.
  • Buncombe County has basically shut us out. They don’t see our involvement in that area.
  • Funding to the system cut dramatically…being in the UNC system is still generally a strength though. Funding not as seriously cut as other systems.
  • Engagement: we have overpromised / under delivered.
  • Perception that we are a source of free labor, Aks: What does it mean to be an academic institution? What kind of engagement do we support as being part of a learning experience as opposed to just labor? (Referring to engagement in Service Learning). Think about what that means as providing an education first.
  • Agrees WCU is oversold…part of that is a lot of us come from outside the community. We don’t have to drive far to see extreme poverty, comes from not having a strong social cultural presence; it’s not just about us helping our students. But be aware about how to benefit those communities.
  • There have been a lot of campaigns that come down from the top. i.e. save Dillsboro. There has not been a lot of follow through. A lot of change mostly top down, transparency lacking and little follow through.Ex Long term care initiative was a topic, did this sort of peter out? It seems to have.
  • Issues we can help with such as water quality, innovation……..longer list. Things that truly strengthen the community in a lot of ways.
  • Strategic Long term leadership.
  • Everything has been a top down process. WCU needs Faculty/staff leadership that id themselves by a community and cross efforts to deal with things. Bottom up…Alliances across disciplines.
  • Where are we internally as an academic community? We seem to not be very focused with where we are.
  • We need to work on advancement, research, reinvent ourselves, reinvent things that enable faculty and students. Need to refocus and understand what our mission is to serve students and redirect funds. Ex: Exorbitant amt spent on freshman that we can’t retain. Need to be more strategic about how we spend our resources. We’ve relied on state appropriations too long rather than relying on outside resources.
  • Need to reform Advancement.
  • Depts don’t have a source of funding, making it difficult to achieve goals.
  • Way we define fees for distance programs. It undermines resident programs;
  • We need to raise fees: greatest deal in town; don’t know why we are giving our product away. It’s a bargain. Hasn’t been focused on.
  • Other UNC institutions have strategically focused on graduate programs. We need certain doctoral programs – we don’t have the money because we diverted it elsewhere. Certain things have been throttled.
  • Some things are restricted even if you bring in revenues; there’s someone saying no you can’t.
  • Banner System: We can’t figure out Banner system. How much money we have in this account? It’s archaic. We need to focus on resources, strengths we have on campus with accounting students etc. to help with this.
  • Athletics
  • Pride in the university is lower here than any other I have been at.

Biggest Barriers to developing off campus partnerships:

  • Faculty workload; too busy. If I invest my time to develop where would I claim credit on evaluations; AFE etc doesn’t fit. You would have to publish it somehow; have to be refereed. This can’t be done easily.
  • Science Labs need to be refurbished; there are people out there who would pay – businesses and others on a service contracts basis.
  • Arboretum has a lot of needs our folks could provide that could help. Provide a service in a way that helps pay for these things. Barrier exists due to business and university council.
  • Which is a higher priority reform Development or Admin/Finance?
  • Our business practices are odd and outdated
  • It is difficult to figure out how much is in your funds. Funds – have to be able to look at what you have, what you have done, spent. Not easily identified.

What is #1 Future Priority?

  • If state is funding on graduation rates, that needs to be priority.
  • We have to get back to what we do best – serve our students. If you spend 1 dime, ask – how will that serve the faculty and students.
  • Can’t count on same level from the state – it’s the new normal…We are going to see a lot of weird financial things…if we are not nimble enough…for sake of fulfilling mandate from the state, we have to be a lot more nimble.
  • Follow thru w/strategic planning, prioritize, and stick with that. We’ve never had that. Money has been diverted.
  • Need to focus on the core – academic. Focus on fact that we are an academic institution. …what do we need to do to define us as an academic institution?
  • Our core mission is to serve students.
  • Internationalizing the curriculum
  • Another important other than academics is getting faculty and staff to really support Western.
  • Need a balance between graduate and undergradate. We’ve invested millions / yr in freshman and it hasn’t produced a significant growth. Money is thrown away irresponsibly. Need a balance, create opportunity to form incentives.
  • Two things: 1) Academic quality, 2)Focus.

Where would u like to see WCU in 5/ 10 yrs?

  • We have improved; would like to see us leverage that and continue and broaden it.
  • Not just the state; draw from neighboring states and regional.
  • Issue with instability financially; students job outlooks – money earned compared to parents.
  • Regionally there is a huge population we need to be drawing from. As net spreads through our community, challenge our students to look at questions that come from the community; relate it to our curriculum.
  • Western needs a portal to receive information to the ppl that can do something about it and process it – some way at university level to receive and do something about it. Communication the way in which we comm. With the communities with what they bring u. Examples: Land use in area. Question comes in – we have CM, Bus, NRM others that should come together – staff to somehow bring this info together OR it maybe a research opportunity for students.
  • Creates collaboration between university & community - “Office of Community Collaboration”
  • We should be dealing with Grad students on very high level as pertains to needs with the community. Ties in with value of a university education – not just teaching a trade.
  • Be strategic about growing programs. Create the infrastructure the numbers will work out.
  • Need a better student mix – more diversity.
  • More international students
  • Having a more broad presence in the region. Meet their needs where they are – not necessarily draw them here.
  • Engage – look at ways to help do that. Maybe reduced teaching and work on the portal as mentioned earlier.
  • Better planning – has been poor. i.e. cafeteria is fine, but put 2000 more students here and it’s not. Myopic planning.
  • To be financially in a good place.
  • Modest growth – as long as infrastructure is in place.
  • More collaborative programs with other institutions. This may be a way in with programs also.
  • Feel like not constantly having to defend Arts and Sciences –a broad education rather than a narrow education is important.
  • Realize that Asia is where we need to focus…plan strategically – offer languages.
  • A language requirement is needed.
  • Need lots of real time information to help make decisions.
  • Something that will allow creativity in scheduling classes. That would allow larger blocks of time, innovative scheduling. Like to see jrs and srs going into the field more; contributing, mini internships in the region. If have to come to class during the usual scheduling that doesn’t work.
  • Be deliberate in decision making.
  • Distance ed is confusing – who is it run by? Do we have enough to push out dist ed? Need to clarify how it is going to be driven and then put support where it is needed. I feel like in a strait jacket with dist ed.
  • What does it mean for a student to graduate with competency using the media of the age. What does it mean in terms of professional development of the faculty? “Digital literacy” Need to focus on professional development of faculty. We have no policy of what it means to be literate…students need flexibility; ability to problem solve.

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