Master planners to seek community input in Sylva on May 13

Representatives of the firms assisting Western Carolina University in drafting a comprehensive master plan that will guide campus development and improvements in the years ahead will seek input from members of the community Monday, May 13, in Sylva.

The session is scheduled for between 5 and 6:30 p.m. in the atrium of Jackson County Public Library. Refreshments will be served, and community members can arrive at any point during the event to offer input.

The public session will be led by Ron G. Smith, a Sylva native who has worked on the renovation project for the Jackson County Public Library and on WCU’s Hunter Library master plan. Smith is among the principal consultants with the architecture firm McMillan, Pazdan and Smith, which is working on the WCU project with Hanbury, Evans, Wright and Vlattas, a firm specializing in campus design and planning.

A direct outgrowth of the university’s strategic plan, titled “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future,” the campus master planning process will address issues related to new building needs, utilization of existing space, parking and transportation, technology infrastructure, sustainability, safety and security, preservation of campus heritage and integration of the campus with the surrounding community.

“Western Carolina University is a big part of Jackson County, and Jackson County is a big part of the university,” said Melissa Canady Wargo, assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness, who is co-chair of WCU’s master planning steering committee. “We hope our friends and neighbors in Jackson County will drop by to share their thoughts on the future direction for the university and how it will interact with the surrounding community. If you have 5, 10 or 15 minutes, we’d love to hear from you.”

Launched last year, the 17-month master planning process has included public forums held on and off campus in the late fall to help the steering committee set directions, with a community meeting at Cullowhee Valley School. Consultants were on campus in April soliciting feedback, gathering information and conducting impromptu focus groups with students, faculty, staff and members of the community. Additional sessions are being planned for later this spring.

A preliminary report and plan by the consultants are 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 representative; and Shawna Young, director, student affairs outreach and assessment.

For more information about the master planning effort, contact the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness at 828-227-7239, email or visit the website, where there is a “share your feedback” link.