A $250,000 gift from Mission Health System will provide financial assistance to students from Western North Carolina who want to study in health-related programs at Western Carolina University.
WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher announced the gift Wednesday, Sept. 14, to members of the Greater Asheville community who gathered at the North Carolina Arboretum as part of a “get acquainted tour” taking WCU’s new chief executive officer to 15 stops during a four-month span.
Mission Health System will provide $50,000 annually over the next five years to WCU, with the gifts to be used for scholarships for students in WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.
In announcing the gift, Belcher commended Mission for its ongoing commitment to the education of the next generation of health care providers.
“This gift, which represents the latest in Mission’s long history of support for Western Carolina’s educational efforts in the area of the health sciences, will provide critical financial assistance to students who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend the university, with the hope that these students will graduate and serve the region as health care professionals,” Belcher said.
“It’s a prudent investment by Mission, which through its generosity also is helping ensure that it continues providing the highest quality health care to the people of Western North Carolina,” he said.
Mission Health System previously has contributed significant financial support to help establish WCU’s physical therapy program and its program in certified registered nurse anesthesiology, joining other regional hospitals, medical centers and health care organizations comprising the WNC Health Network in efforts to address a shortage in those health care professions.
“One of the goals of Mission’s community benefits committee is to ensure we are investing in our region. We felt there was no stronger investment than in helping motivated young people from this part of the state get interested in health careers at Western Carolina by providing them scholarships,” said Cindy Shivers, chair of the committee. “We feel this is a very wise and well-placed grant and will pay many rewards to the region.”
The Mission Health System Scholarship Fund will assist WCU students in health and human sciences, which includes programs in nursing, communication sciences and disorders, athletic training, emergency medical care, environmental health, health information administration, nutrition and dietetics, recreational therapy, physical therapy and social work.
Those programs will be housed in a new Health and Human Sciences Building currently under construction on the opposite side of N.C. Highway 107 from the main Cullowhee campus. Scheduled to open in fall 2012, the facility will contain classrooms and laboratories in which recipients of the Mission Health System Scholarships will learn, said Linda Seestedt-Stanford, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.
“Mission Health System has been a supportive partner for decades in the education of our students,” Seestedt-Stanford said. “As we look to move into our new building next year, this generous donation focused on health-related scholarships will assure that WCU continues to recruit and retain high-quality students who will graduate and serve our region.”
The 160,000-square-foot, $46 million Health and Human Sciences Building is the first project on 344 acres property acquired by the university as part of the Millennial Initiative, a comprehensive regional economic development strategy that involves private industry and government partners.
The building is expected to be the hub of a new health sciences neighborhood, expanding partnership opportunities with private clinics and other health care providers that enhance hands-on student learning and fostering collaborative research and development of scientific and technological innovations with potential commercial applications.
The interior will feature clinical and laboratory spaces, offices and meeting areas for College of Health and Human Sciences programs currently located across four buildings. The building will be certified at the silver level by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design through standards developed by the United States Green Building Council.
Mission also sponsored the Sept. 14 reception hosted by the North Carolina Arboretum.