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Faculty / Staff Conversation - Session 4

WCU strengths:

  • Faculty and students. We emphasize quality teaching and make an effort to connect.
  • Our regional situation that we are in and that we are invested in is the region. Geographic location is an asset. Our location is a positive aspect for many/most programs.
  • We have a great opportunity for growth in graduate programs. Students come to Western because of the location and the reputation of our programs. One huge resource that we have is graduate studies. We need to treat this more as a priority.
  • The people that like Western like it intensely. There is a deep sense of caring by a lot of the alumni, not always about athletics. they feel sense of “home”. There’s a culture that’s unique to Western that is different from elsewhere.
  • Diversity of students. We have students that need Western where students can recognize their potential.
  • Most in our group felt that around 10,000 is a nice size for the university. Our size allows us to help balance between teaching and research. 

Weaknesses:

  • WCU was described as schizophrenic. There are so many goals that it gets confusing. What is our image; who are we when we try to sell Western? We’re not sure who we are.
  • We fight the same fights over and over like liberal studies and general education. We have too many irons in the fire. It feels like every time we turn around there is a new initiative to work on. We have being doing so much of this that the infrastructure is crumbling. We haven’t been focused. We are letting the support crumble away.
  • Location is also a problem in retention. It’s a tough location for the diverse students and faculty. 
  • The IT issue is a problem. We can’t teach classes effectively.
  • We have at times come at something with the wrong perspective and have to start all over again.
  • Budgeting issues are a big problem. We have these initiatives and maintenance isn’t accommodated. We do not follow best practices that the other UNC campuses do. We do more paperwork and routing. You have to deal with so many people and issues and not being able to reach someone for help.
  • We have too little scholarship money, and we have no help from the scholarship office. That part of the University needs to be more helpful if we want to improve the student body. The academic side is ahead of the administrative side.
  • We have no money for recruiting; if you don’t recruit your program doesn’t grow and it will go away. If you want to recruit you don’t have the money. Here we have goals but no resources to do it.
  • Advising, is a problem. Transfer students come to WCU thinking that classes will transfer and they don’t and have to jump through hoops.
  • So many changes in faculty, staff, and administration. The turnover is a challenge.
  • Whatever happened to UNC tomorrow and the strategic plan? Are we keeping any of that? Big concern about our schools and high school graduates. We do a lot of work on this campus and it goes away or nothing comes of it.   

The priorities and visions that we have for the University. WCU’s number one priority:

  • Participants did not have a lot of specific suggestions for WCU’s number one priority, but suggested that we should maintain and build upon what makes Western distinctive.

Where would we like to see Western in 5-10 years?:

  • Class sizes need to be smaller. They have crept up significantly due to budget. 
  • One person noted that we can have smaller class sizes very easily, we would have to increase faculty load. Others asked what kinds of things can we do and do well here? Another faculty member noted that increasing faculty load is not the only way to get where we want to be.
  • Our long term strategic goals need to be specific; how are they measured and funded? We don’t know when the plan is successful. There are going to be a lot of good goals but they need to align. We just need to know what we are following and not change it the next year. Growth should come naturally from a growth in quality.
  • We have been over emphasizing marketing without demonstrating that what we have is worth coming here for. We are always focused on the numbers and how many freshmen are coming in. Our focus needs to be on retention. The graduate programs are not funded. We have to be very careful. Things need to be prioritized. 
  • Programs? We need to find those things that we do well and do them well; we can’t be everything to everybody. It’s hard for faculty and faculty senate to make academic decisions when they don’t understand the administrative issues driving that action. Programs have to be looked at. We have way too many options at Western. What happened with program prioritization?
  • Academics? I don’t think that there is an agreement what academics is at this institution. There needs to be an agreement across campus.

Community in the regions

  • Positive: We are already doing a lot in the community. I don’t necessarily think that we need to do more.  Our community is a big strength that the University has.
  • Where is the academic slogan? We have an athletic one.
  • Community memory.  We battle a glum cloud in the community.
  • How do we define community? I’m amazed at the number of people who go to school and work at WCU who live in Asheville. It needs to be more than just Sylva and Cullowhee. We need to include Cherokee and Asheville. We need to acquire new ones. We have long term relationships with the school systems and park services. Reciprocal agreements with our surrounding counties would be helpful.
  • Concrete steps to better serve the community? The community feels like they are not heard. We need to listen. The perception is that we don’t.
  • Focus on getting more international students here. 

Free for all/Open Discussion

  • It’s nice that the Chancellor started with this process. We enjoy having a voice, at least having the feeling that we have a voice. It is good that we are letting the community know that we want to hear them. These conversations are also happening off campus as well. Now is a golden opportunity for us to revisit shared governance and have them mesh better.
  • The faculty and staff are invested in the institution. So much of the faculty and staff have been pouring their souls into this place.
  • Everyone is shell shocked after the last few years.
  • Some of the administrative tasks have created wasted effort and work.
  • The lack of raises and increasing workload will get ugly. People will want to leave.
  • The difficult thing is the reality of the economy. The amount of uncertainty has been hard. We have to keep looking for where can I improve my program and still be part of this journey.
  • New faculty that are invested in this University and have no pay raises. That’s a concern.             
 

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