Region’s future is topic of April 13 brainstorming session at Western

CULLOWHEE – Imagination, ideas, insight, ingenuity, innovation, invention and inspiration. Those will be the guiding themes behind a day of intensive discussion and brainstorming about the future of Western North Carolina as hundreds of “thought leaders” come together Wednesday, April 13, at Western Carolina University.

Christened the i7 Futures Forum, a name derived from seven guiding themes, the event will be held in the Ramsey Regional Activity Center on the Western campus beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing until 4:30 p.m.

“We are bringing together a mix of creative thinkers from science, government, technology, education, arts and the humanities to collectively imagine what our region will look and feel like 20 years from now,” said Paul Evans, director of Western’s Center for Regional Development, which is hosting the forum. “The structure is dialogue – poets talking with economists, engineers talking with painters, philosophers talking with entrepreneurs, and every combination in between – to see what type of future we might envision for our region.”

The i7 Futures Forum is designed as the first part of an on-going effort to help shape the direction of Western’s recently announced Millennial Initiative, a comprehensive regional economic development strategy that includes the addition of 344 acres of property adjacent to the main campus, Evans said.

“The Millennial Initiative represents the university’s creative engagement with the economy, culture and aesthetics of the region and its global counterparts. It will enable the application of the best ideas of the region while also serving as a center of inspiration for students and other regional citizens determined to turn their creativity and education into a viable livelihood,” said Western Chancellor John W. Bardo. “The i7 Futures Forum represents our hopes for the inclusive and dynamic scope of the Millennial Initiative.”

Participants in the forum are anticipated from a variety of backgrounds, including health care, biotechnology, tourism, environment, government, engineering, architecture, education, business, communications, philosophy and art.

The forum will consist of numerous panels – or “strands” – held throughout the day on a wide variety of topics: allied health industries; applied science, biotechnology and native botanicals; recreation, tourism and environment; government policy and research; creative and performing arts; engineering, technology and green construction; architecture and design; new economy workforce; the creative class; teaching and learning; entrepreneurial creation and financing; communications and broadband; the search for meaning; sociology and native culture; and student ingenuity and ideas for the future.

Registration for the event is free of charge. The deadline to register is Friday, April 8.

For more information about the i7 Futures Forum at Western Carolina University or to register, contact the Center for Regional Development at (828) 227-7492 or go to (link no longer active).