WCU trustees approve strategic plan

The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed a new strategic plan that is designed to guide the institution’s direction and development over the next decade while strengthening relationships with the communities and regions it serves.

Approval by the board as part of its quarterly meeting Friday, June 8, brings to a close the nearly yearlong process of developing a new strategic plan for WCU. The board action also signals the beginning of the next part of the process, as individual divisions and units of the university begin to develop their own strategic plans.

“This is an ambitious plan, but it is an achievable plan,” said WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher. “It is a plan that, while built upon the institution’s strengths and traditions, is forward-looking. It will guide all of the units of the university as they begin to map their own strategic plans to the course charted by this document.”

Titled “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future,” the plan was drafted by the 2020 Commission, a 36-member committee appointed by Belcher, who announced last August that beginning the strategic planning process would be a top priority in the first year of his administration.

It defines six strategic directions the university will take in the years ahead, and spells out numerous initiatives designed to help the institution work toward specific goals.

The plan calls for Western Carolina to:

* Fulfill the educational needs of the state and Western North Carolina through high-quality academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels with a specific focus on curricular areas of creative arts, education, environment, health, innovation and technology, and recreation and tourism.

* Enrich the total student experience through a mix of curricular and co-curricular elements, including programs in leadership, active citizenship, international experiences, diversity and intercollegiate athletics.

* Enhance external partnerships by positioning the institution as a key leader in regional and economic development efforts, developing the Millennial Initiative as a national model for public-private partnerships in a rural environment, and being an active participant in the formation of a formalized community leadership structure for Cullowhee.

* Invest in the university’s human resources by advocating for improved compensation packages for faculty and staff, increasing opportunities for professional development, improving the work-life balance for WCU employees and fostering an inclusive university community.

* Invest in the university’s core resources, including implementation of sustainable funding models, development of a comprehensive master plan, improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of campus business practices, increasing information technology capabilities and capacity, and upgrading campus safety systems.

* Garner support for the vision spelled out by the plan through enhanced communications and marketing to internal and external audiences, and through a balanced mix of financial resources including funding from enrollment growth, summer programming, grants and technology transfer, and a comprehensive fundraising campaign focused on scholarships.

“This really is an impressive piece of work, one that maps the future of Western Carolina in a very thoughtful and ambitious way,” said Joan MacNeill, chair of the Board of Trustees.

Chaired by Melissa Canady Wargo, assistant vice chancellor for institutional planning and effectiveness, the 2020 Commission includes representatives from the university community – faculty, staff and students – and from the broader external community – alumni, donors, friends, and business and community leaders. In addition to on-campus meetings with students, faculty and staff, the commission solicited input from WNC residents through a series of public hearings in Franklin, Sylva, Hendersonville, Asheville, Waynesville, Cherokee and Murphy.

“A lot of times, the process used is as important as the final product,” Belcher said. “I believe that people will feel a sense of ownership of this plan because of their involvement in the process of devising it.”

For more information about the strategic plan, visit the website the2020commission.wcu.edu.