Western Chancellor: University leading new renaissance in WNC

CULLOWHEE – By focusing the creative and intellectual energies of a growing faculty and investing resources both in the arts and the sciences, Western Carolina University is becoming the center of a 21st -century renaissance for Western North Carolina.

That was the word from Western Chancellor John W. Bardo during his annual opening-of-school address at the annual General Faculty Meeting on Thursday, Aug. 19.

“Throughout history, science, math and technology have flourished only where and when all of the arts have flourished. No evidence exists that this will not be the case in the future,” Bardo said, quoting John Eger, communications and public policy scholar and author of “The Creative Community.”

“I hope that you are seeing the vision of what this campus can become and how it can help drive the future of this region,” Bardo said. “Cullowhee can be the center of a renaissance in art, literature, science and technology. We can contribute to creating a ‘New Florence’ in Western North Carolina that honors and builds on the traditions of the peoples of this region while adding value and helping the region achieve prosperity and quality of life only dreamed of by past generations.”

As the university begins the formal property acquisition phase of its Millennium Campus, a “knowledge enterprise zone” where university, private industry and government agencies partner to produce scientific and technological innovations, it must examine how to integrate all academic disciplines into a “creative community” in and around Cullowhee, he said.

“I hope that you agree that the next five to 10 years at Western will be a time of unparalleled opportunity. Our Millennium Campus can allow us to focus our attention on what both this university and region need for the future,” Bardo said. “The opportunity is tremendous.”

Among those in attendance at the fall faculty meeting were professors hired to fill 52 new positions made possible by Western’s enrollment growth in recent years, which includes this fall’s expected freshman class of about 1,600 and a total enrollment topping 8,000. Bardo outlined for the newcomers – and charted for the faculty veterans – the progress he has seen the university make in the past 10 years.

“Quite simply, over the last decade, the campus has engaged in a process that most institutions of higher education would find impossible even to contemplate. You have succeeded where lesser faculties blanched at even making the attempt,” he said. “Because of your hard work, Western is on a different path – a path that will undoubtedly lead to academic strength, regional growth and an excellent education for our students.”

Among the highlights of the past 10 years are the raising of academic standards, implementation of the state university system’s first computing admissions standard, opening of a residential Honors College, adoption of a national model Greek organization “plan for excellence,” designation as a National Merit sponsoring university, creation of nine endowed professorships, and $195 million in construction and renovation.

“What has resulted is a true metamorphosis in the institution. Enrollment is up, the quality of students is up, the institution’s academic reputation is improved, and Western is increasingly seen as the key player in the economic and social future of this region,” Bardo said. “Your work has set Western on a track that will increasingly allow us to respond to societal needs. This transformation is crucial to our future.”

Bardo pointed out the recent $10 million in state funding approved for the university’s regional health care initiative with the Mountain Area Health Education Center and University of North Carolina-Asheville as evidence of Western’s reputation across North Carolina. “Western is increasingly known as a UNC campus that is trying to do the right thing by the people of the state, and you are seeing their response in increased support and funding.”

Bardo also urged the faculty to continue to focus on the concept of “engagement” – that is, applying the university’s missions of teaching, research and service to help meet emerging needs of the region.

“There is an old saying, ‘Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.’ Teaching with engagement is a means of involving the student so that he or she may truly understand the lessons we are teaching,” he said. “Engagement ensures that scholarship and service actually meet the needs of the people. Engagement is a means for the university to do good as it is doing well.”

Download and listen to the address (MP3) at:
www.wcu.edu/chancellor/meeting/Faculty/audio/2004.mp3 (link no longer active)