Theme 1: SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
Strengths: The biggest strength mentioned is the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone on campus. The group referred to this as the “Western Way.” Other big strengths are the mountain location, small classes, faculty who care about being excellent teachers, and a strong liberal arts core. In addition, there was praise for the Coulter Faculty Commons, the registrar’s office, and most support services on campus.
Weaknesses and Concerns:
- We are too much of a suitcase college. Too many students leave on weekends.
- Jackson County being a dry county is a deterrent for recruiting & keeping students because of the lack of restaurants. It contributes to being a suitcase college.
- With current budget constraints, there is concern that class size will increase and we would lose the current quality of education.
- There are too many barriers toward interdisciplinary work and pooling of limited resources. In the past, it seemed like there was a fear of losing programs and departments, causing some to fight for resources; some fear is coming from the economic problems, but the fear was here before the economic problems.
- Too many faculty commute from Asheville causing some division among faculty. We need to be clear about the location when recruiting faculty and students. Also, it is difficult for faculty spouses to get jobs. We should improve support services for new faculty to help find housing and jobs for spouses.
- IT Services. There was strong concern with having computing/printing issues solved in a timely fashion. It was mentioned that charging a $16/computer fee is counterproductive & not competitive; Google charges $12.99 for the same thing.
Theme 2: Priorities and Vision
- Classes: Keep small classes and focus on the core liberal arts program – developing the whole student and not just training for a job. Also don’t lose sight of programs that are already very strong like education and business.
- Students: Keep the focus on a strong residential student program and not overdo distance education. Recruit students from the top 10% of their high school… especially those who want to take heavier loads & finish on time. Increase diversity of students.
- Scholarship: Provide funding/support for faculty to travel to conferences and run experiments (i.e. science). Would like to see the Boyer model strongly embraced.
- Open & transparent governance. Decisions should not all be made from the top down.
- We should be proud of who we are and not try to pretend to be something else.
Theme 3: Community and Region
We have evidently made some locals angry or made them feel stupid. We need to work on relations with the community, recruiting local students to WCU, and work more with local schools. Some local kids think of WCU as a party school or a fall back. We need to change that reputation.