Western Carolina University’s Institute for the Economy and the Future announced Thursday, Feb. 2, the appointment of a group of senior policy fellows who will have responsibility for developing policy studies, survey research and public forums on regional economic development issues.
The group of scholars, military leaders, government officials and business professionals will assist the university in crafting a long-range plan for regional growth in Western North Carolina and in pursuing business opportunities for its Millennial Initiative property on 344 acres of land adjacent to the main campus. The university plans to develop the tract as a multiple-use neighborhood that will be home to a mix of academic buildings, research facilities, business, industry and housing.
The senior policy fellows are Alphonse Buccino, a technology consultant who has worked at the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Maj. Gen. Geoff Higginbotham, a retired Marine who served during the Vietnam and Desert Storm campaigns; Daniel Ostergaard, former executive director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council; workforce development authority Arnold Packer, who has worked with the U.S. Department of Labor; William T. Thompkins Jr., an information technology development and management expert; Alan Z. Thornburg, formerly a N.C. Court of Appeals judge; and Robert Warshaw, former U.S. deputy drug czar.
“With the announcement that these distinguished and highly skilled leaders have agreed to serve as senior policy fellows at the IEF, we have taken a very important step in meeting our commitment to build a regional think tank with capacities for rigorous research and economic base analysis that can help Western North Carolina prosper,” said John Bardo, chancellor of Western. “I am deeply appreciative of the willingness of so many highly qualified individuals to give us the benefit of their expertise and time.”
Paul Evans , executive director of the IEF, said the addition of senior policy fellows from a wide variety of backgrounds will allow Western to accelerate its existing efforts to address regional economic development issues.
“Their talent and dedication will enable us to further reinforce the university’s human capital contribution in rebuilding our economy,” Evans said. “We are very fortunate to have this prominent group of professionals. They each bring know-how, experience and wisdom, and they share our common vision for the future of the university and region.”
The senior policy fellows:
Alphonse Buccino – A consultant and scholar with an extensive background in executive management, administration, research management and policy analysis, resource generation, and personnel recruitment and development, Buccino served 10 years as an academic dean at the University of Georgia, where he worked closely with the Georgia Research Alliance. He spent 12 years in the Senior Executive Service at the National Science Foundation and one year on special assignment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Maj. Gen. Geoff Higginbotham – A graduate of East Tennessee State University, Higginbotham joined the Marine Corps and spent 33 years in the military, retiring as a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm. In addition to serving in many leadership and staff positions, he has extensive experience working in Northern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He is a graduate of the National War College of the National Defense University. Prior to retiring, he was senior logistician for the Marines and vice director of logistics with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Daniel Ostergaard – A Jackson County native, Ostergaard recently became a founding partner of Phoenix Strategies, a Washington-based business consulting and development firm. Until earlier this year, he was executive director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council. He previously was a homeland security and criminal justice liaison for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and served 11 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a sea-going officer. He was a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.
Arnold Packer – Packer directed a U.S. Department of Labor initiative called SCANS 2000 Center. The project, which stands for Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, was based at Johns Hopkins University and resulted in the identification of abilities that are the basis for industry skill standards and school curricula in many states. He is co-author of the book “Workforce 2000,” and is former assistant secretary for policy, evaluation and research at the U.S. Department of Labor.
William T. “Tilt” Thompkins Jr . – Thompkins, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has more than 25 years of experience in enterprise infrastructure management, information architecture development, technical consulting and university teaching. He has served as associate director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications for Integrated Decision Technologies and senior academic lead for a Department of Defense program in integrated modeling and testing environments.
Alan Z. Thornburg – A native of Sylva, Thornburg is a former judge on the N.C. Court of Appeals. Earlier in his career, he was a law clerk for Sam J. Ervin, U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Terry Sanford in Washington. Thornburg has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the N.C. Board of Transportation, where he is serving a second four-year appointment; Biotechnology in Western North Carolina; WNC Communities Inc.; and the University of North Carolina-Asheville Foundation Board.
Robert S. Warshaw – President of Warshaw & Associates Inc., a Sylva-based enterprise with a national and international clientele, Warshaw formerly served as associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He was formerly former police chief in Rochester, N.Y., and Statesville, and worked in law enforcement agencies in Atlanta and Miami. Warshaw continues to work with the U.S. Department of Justice and has been as an adviser to both the Department of State and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
For more information about Western Carolina University’s Institute for the Economy and the Future, including complete biographies of the newly appointed senior policy fellows, visit the institute’s Web site at ief.wcu.edu.