Input sought for WCU’s master plan

What’s your favorite place to hang out on the Western Carolina University campus? Do you have a preferred spot to study or read? Is there a location on campus that you tend to avoid at all costs? Is there really a parking problem on campus?

Answers to those types of questions – and more – will be collected Monday, April 15, and Tuesday, April 16, as WCU’s comprehensive master planning process enters “full-blown data collection mode.”

Representatives of Hanbury, Evans, Wright and Vlattas, a firm specializing in campus design and planning, will begin gathering information and feedback from members of the campus community to help develop a new master plan. They will be located on the second floor of A.K. Hinds University Center from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. April 15, soliciting feedback and conducting impromptu focus groups with students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

They also will be meeting with deans, department heads and members of a master planning steering committee and several task forces that are studying issues ranging from technology infrastructure to parking, and from sustainability to community integration and campus heritage.

The design consulting team will be working with the architecture firm McMillan, Pazdan and Smith, whose principal consultants include Ron G. Smith, a Sylva native who has worked on the renovation project for the Jackson County Public Library and WCU’s Hunter Library master  plan.

“This is an opportunity for all members of our community to provide valuable input on the future development of the WCU campus,” said Melissa Wargo, assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness and co-chair of the steering committee. “We know that April is a very busy time on campus, and while there will be other opportunities for input, we really want to hear from as many people as possible in this early data collection phase.”

Launched last fall, the 17-month comprehensive master planning process will guide the development and improvements of the campus over the next several decades. Directly related to the university strategic plan, the campus master planning process will entail a comprehensive examination of the university’s infrastructure, including transportation, technology and utilities; possible location of new buildings and utilization of existing space; and parking and greenways.

A wooden sign commemorates the founding in 1889 of Western Carolina, which began as Cullowhee Academy.

A wooden sign commemorates the founding in 1889 of Western Carolina, which began as Cullowhee Academy.

Public forums were held on and off campus in the late fall to help the steering committee set directions, and additional sessions are being planned for later this spring. A preliminary report and plan by the consultants is expected to be completed by early September, followed by a series of campus and community presentations for reaction in October and November. After revisions based on that feedback, the final master plan should be ready for consideration by the WCU Board of Trustees at its meeting in December.

In addition to Wargo, members of the campus master planning steering committee are co-chair Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs; Peg Connolly, associate professor, recreational therapy; Robert Edwards, vice chancellor for administration and finance; Craig Fowler, chief information officer; Gerald Green, Jackson County director of planning; Larry Hammer, university registrar; Roger Hartley, associate professor, political science and public affairs; Mark Lord, interim associate provost; Alecia Page, president, Student Government Association; Darrell Parker, dean, College of Business; Kim Ruebel, associate dean, College of Education and Allied Professions; Joe Walker, associate vice chancellor for facilities management; Benjamin Ward, Graduate Student Association; and Shawna Young, director, student affairs outreach and assessment.

Task forces are examining the topics of building and facility needs and space utilization, transportation and parking, technology infrastructure, creating a sustainable campus, integrating community and preserving campus heritage, and ensuring safety and security.

For more information on the master planning process, visit the website

In 2005, the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center opened and the Millennial Initiative was announced.

In 2005, the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center opened and the Millennial Initiative was announced.