This was a good conversation; although, there were only three participants for this session. Despite the low numbers, the conversation seemed to flow smoothly from staff to staff with limited downtime and very little prompting.
During our SWOT-related discussions, the primary themes for strengths seemed centered around WCU’s physical attributes such as location, size, perceived class size, impact of recent construction projects, and the “trust” that new leadership (Chancellor Belcher) will have positive impacts on our institution. There is also high praise for the work atmosphere seen as positively impacting productivity and providing better job satisfaction despite compensation issues.
The primary comments regarding weaknesses all related to a perceived lack of overall resources and specifically the perception that most WCU staff members are severely undercompensated when compared to equitable roles at other UNC-system institutions. There is also a perception that resources have not kept up with enrollment over the past 10 years and we are suffering because of it.
As related to vision and priorities, the primary themes centered around enrollment growth, focusing on academic programs that are deemed valuable such as education, business, and engineering, increasing scholarship opportunities across the board, address the “suitcase college” reputation, more attention to updating technology, and “making faculty and staff happy” by providing them with adequate resources to perform admirably.
In the next 5-10 years this group feels we need to “internationalize” our campus with real support. They also see transportation to Asheville classes as needing attention. They also felt that our campus and surrounding community needs access to more retail offerings in order to both grow and retain students and faculty/staff. It was also suggested that we work with Sylva as we have recently worked with Dillsboro to help them attract more businesses and consumers. Again the need for stronger scholarship opportunities, including Athletics, was seen as critical. Ideal class size was discussed as opposed to incoming class size; however, there seemed to be some confusion regarding what our average class size is and what classes might typically fall outside or beyond that average. Regardless, this group thought 35 students was the upper limit for average class size.
Again, I appreciate the opportunity to serve the 2020 Commission by facilitating this conversation. I continue to be impressed with the level of strategic thought and obvious “Purple” passion expressed by our staff!