Western Carolina University’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday (March 11) to endorse a resolution calling on North Carolinians to vote “yes” for the proposed state bond issue Connect NC, which would provide $110 million for replacement of WCU’s Natural Sciences Building.
The trustees also approved the appointments of two current WCU faculty members to distinguished professorships during their quarterly meeting.
The Connect NC Bond Act will be voted on when the state’s voters go to the polls on primary election day – Tuesday, March 15. In addition to providing funding for replacement of WCU’s 1970s-era building, the $2 billion bond issue would finance improvements at other University of North Carolina system institutions, the North Carolina Community College System, the state park system, the N.C. Department of Agriculture, the North Carolina Zoo and the National Guard, and it would help local governments pay for water and sewer infrastructure.
WCU’s Natural Sciences Building needs to be replaced so the university can provide more graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to meet growing regional workforce demands in health care, high-tech manufacturing and agricultural and natural products development, university Chancellor David O. Belcher said. Approval of the bond issue, which has bipartisan support, would not result in any tax increase and would not negatively affect the state’s strong credit ratings, he said.
In other action, the trustees approved the appointment of Lisa Bloom, currently a professor in WCU’s School of Teaching and Learning, to the position of Jay M. Robinson Distinguished Professor in Educational Technologies, and the appointment of Todd Collins, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs, as the inaugural David and Lois Steed Distinguished Professor in Public Policy.
Bloom, who earned her doctorate in special education at West Virginia University, has been a member of the WCU faculty since 1989. She is coordinator of the special education program and previously served as a department head for five years. The honors she has received over the years include the WCU Graduate School Creative Research Award, the Chancellor’s Engaged Teaching Award, and the College of Education and Allied Professions’ Taft B. Botner Award for Superior Teaching.
The Robinson Professorship is named in honor of Jay Robinson, the late former chairman of the State Board of Education and brother of the late H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, who served as WCU chancellor from 1974 to 1984. The professorship was endowed at more than $500,000 with a combination of contributions from the late former president of the UNC system, C.D. Spangler Jr., and matching state funds.
Established in 1997, the Robinson Professorship is designed to attract or retain experts from the educational or corporate sectors who are using electronic technologies to enhance the teaching and learning process.
Collins earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Georgia and his law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A member of WCU’s faculty since 2007, he currently serves as director of the university’s Public Policy Institute. He has twice been honored for his work in combining teaching and service-learning, and in 2011-12 he served as WCU’s Hunter Scholar, a designation that recognizes the exceptional scholarship of faculty members while supporting their research.
The Steed Professorship, endowed at $1 million, was created through a combination of a $250,000 gift by David and Lois Steed of Mooresville, $250,000 from the C.D. Spangler Foundation and $500,000 in matching state funds. David Steed received his bachelor’s degree in marketing at WCU in 1973 and went on to a 37-year career with home improvement retailer Lowe’s. He and his wife made their gift to the university in honor and memory of their mothers, Erlene Steed and Gladys Bennett.
The Steed Professorship is designed to attract an individual with a record of public service and proven capability in teaching and research who can guide the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs’ efforts to enhance the quality of life in the region by forming effective partnerships to elevate the policy dialogue and increasing the expertise of government and nonprofit professionals.