A new $46 million Health and Human Sciences Building and a recently renovated residence hall open this fall as Western Carolina University welcomes more than 9,400 students for the start of classes on Monday, Aug. 20. In addition, WCU’s Asheville programs have relocated to space in Biltmore Park Town Square.
The Health and Human Sciences Building, a four-story, 160,000 square-foot structure constructed into a hillside, is the first on WCU’s West Campus. The facility features technologically advanced clinical spaces, classrooms and laboratories that will be used by more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff.
“I am ecstatic to have all of our health programs together under one roof,” said Marie Huff, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. The design enables faculty members from different disciplines to more easily develop learning opportunities together. Huff said examples include films centered on interdisciplinary health topics that will be screened in the building’s community seminar room and simulation labs set up to enable students from different programs to participate in the same simulation scenarios.
The building was built to LEED environmentally friendly and energy-efficient standards and has features such as reflective surfaces on the roof and rooftop garden to keep heat absorption at bay.
Across campus, the $15.5 million renovation and 6,000 square-foot addition at Harrill Hall, which was originally built in 1971, also was built to LEED standards.
The now 77,296-square-foot, 354-bed residence hall features reconfigured suites and expanded gathering spaces as well as a geothermal heating and air-conditioning system. The system harnesses the earth’s energy by transferring heat absorbed by the earth via geothermal wells to heat the building, heat water for showers and power the air-conditioning system.
Taylor Medford, a senior from Waynesville majoring in elementary education, said students will be impressed with the transformation. “It’s hard to believe you are in the same building,” Medford said. “I look forward to seeing the look on people’s faces the first time they walk in – the astonishment of seeing this.”
Meanwhile, more than 500 students enrolled in programs previously offered across Buncombe County will come together at new space in Biltmore Park. Areas of study include business and leadership, education, human services, liberal arts and nursing.
Kelly McIntyre, coordinator of graduate programs for the College of Business, said the new venue not only is beautiful and built specifically to meet program needs but also offers close access to nearby shops and restaurants for faculty, staff and students. Roger Hartley, director of the master’s degree program in public affairs, also said the new location enhances the visibility of WCU’s programs.
“The new location allows us to attract and serve students in areas that we have underserved, including Henderson and Polk counties and possibly the Greenville area,” said Hartley. “It will be nice to have a place of our own where all of our WCU programs are represented under one roof.”
Activity will significantly pick up on the Cullowhee campus Friday, Aug. 17, when the majority of more than 1,500 freshmen move in to their residence halls. Signs will alert drivers to temporary changes in campus traffic patterns, including making University Way one-way. Traffic on campus is expected to be particularly heavy between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
During the following week, an array of activities are planned as part of WCU’s Week of Welcome, which features the annual Valley Ballyhoo outdoor festival on the lawn of A.K. Hinds University Center from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. Two music groups, Asheville band Kovacs and the Polar Bear and Black Mountain group Floating Action, will perform free outdoor concerts starting at 7 p.m. Their shows will be followed by a screening of horror movie “Cabin in the Woods” at 9 p.m. on the lawn of the University Center.
Then on Wednesday, Aug. 22, contemporary vocalist Sean Kingston will perform a free outdoor concert on WCU’s Central Plaza at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, contact WCU police at 828-227-7301, parking services at 828-227-7275 or residential living at 828-227-7303. Visit biltmorepark.wcu.edu to learn more about programs offered at Biltmore Park.