WAYNESVILLE – Students from Haywood County’s high schools who are planning to continue their educations at Western Carolina University heard words of encouragement and advice Thursday, April 1, from a university spokesman.
No big deal, right? But this time, the message was delivered not by the admissions staff, but by the university’s No. 1 man. Chancellor John Bardo met with students at Pisgah and Tuscola high schools as part of his Chancellor’s Regional Roundtable sessions, an on-going series of community conversations with students and education and business leaders across Western North Carolina.
“This is the first time I have ever seen a university chancellor come to a high school and meet some of the students who will be coming to his university in the fall,” Pisgah High School Principal Danny Miller told a group of about 20 students. “I think that speaks volumes about the importance the university will be placing on you for the next four years.”
In separate morning sessions at the Canton and Waynesville high schools, Bardo talked about some of Western’s new academic programs, including the emerging areas of genomics, biotechnology, electrical engineering, environmental sciences, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in entrepreneurship.
“We are setting up programs in academic areas that we think could lead to the development of new industry and new jobs for Western North Carolina, so that those of you who want to continue to live in this area after graduation will have jobs here once you graduate,” he told the students.
“Our take is this – the more businesses we can help spin off at Western, the more profitable careers there will be for our students who want to stay in Western North Carolina after they graduate, and the more opportunity there will be for the people of this area to prosper.”
Bardo talked about the $180 million worth of construction that is under way across the campus, warning the incoming students they will be dodging mud holes for most of their four years in Cullowhee. He also urged the Pisgah and Tuscola high school students to take a look at Western’s Honors College, a residential honors program that features smaller classes with faculty members dedicated to working with high-achieving students in an atmosphere of advanced study. Since its formation in 1997, the college has seen its enrollment increase from fewer than 100 students to more than 700 today.
“While the bulk of our student body is now coming from the triangle area, because that’s where the biggest population centers are, it might surprise you to learn that the No. 1 source of students in the Honors College is Haywood County,” Bardo said.
During an afternoon lunch session with business and government leaders from across the county, Bardo repeated the message that Western wants to assist the people of WNC by educating the region’s young people and offering technical assistance to business and industry.
State Sen. Joe Sam Queen commended the university for its efforts to increase the use of the tools of technology on campus, through such programs as electrical engineering and digital television and audio studios.
“I have been so impressed by Chancellor Bardo’s commitment to making the highest level of technology available to the undergraduate students,” Queen said. “It is genuinely exciting to see undergraduates working with the kind of technology he has pulled together and the type of faculty he has pulled together, doing research you really don’t see on the majority of college campuses until the graduate level.”
The next Chancellor’s Roundtable is scheduled for Swain County on Tuesday, April 6.