College of Arts and Sciences announces new student engagement awards fund

Thanks to a gift from an alumnus of the history department, Western Carolina University’s College of Arts and Sciences is launching a new program that will support student participation in engaging learning activities that extend beyond the classroom.

Wendy Ford, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, announced the creation of the Arts and Sciences’ Student Engagement Awards during a faculty meeting Monday, April 12. Ford called the award program a part of the college’s efforts to embrace the Quality Enhancement Plan, a universitywide effort to improve the quality of undergraduate education by helping students link academic and co-curricular activities.

“Perfectly aligned with our college’s QEP initiatives, the new awards support our students’ participation in meaningful engagement opportunities that extend and enrich their education at Western Carolina,” she said. “The awards may support professional field experiences or internships, service-learning and volunteer projects, international studies, research and participation in conferences, and other engagement activities that extend beyond the classroom.”

Ford said she believes engagement opportunities are particularly valuable to students in liberal arts and sciences disciplines. “These disciplines promote the development of competencies that are broadly applicable to a variety of career and life directions,” she said. “The students especially benefit from engagement opportunities that enable them to apply their competencies in real-world settings with faculty oversight.”

The program was initiated by a $1,000 gift from Bob Thomas, a 1970 graduate of the WCU history program, and his wife, Pam. Thomas is president and chief executive officer of EIS, a leading distributor of electrical apparatus, equipment, wiring supplies and related equipment based in Atlanta.

The gift is being matched with $1,000 in contributions received from other alumni of the college, for a total of $2,000 to provide four awards of $500 each to undergraduate or graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Faculty members within the college are encouraging students to apply for the awards. Applications are due by Friday, April 23. Selection will be made by the college’s student honors and awards committee, with announcement of winners made by the end of the spring semester.