Forum to update campus on three vital topics

Members of the Western Carolina University community will have an opportunity to hear updates about three important university topics – the campus master plan, the bid for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and emerging enrollment and demographic trends – during a public forum Monday, Aug. 24.

The event will be held in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center from 2 until 3:30 p.m., with WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher providing opening remarks.

Mike Byers, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, will give an update on construction and renovation projects underway as part of the master plan. Approved by the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013, the plan is designed to serve as a tool to closely link physical facilities of the university, including construction and renovation, to goals of its strategic plan.

Arthur Salido, associate professor of analytical chemistry and WCU’s SACSCOC director, will share information about the university’s accreditation reaffirmation process, including development of a Quality Enhancement Plan. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar appointed Salido to take the reins of WCU’s SACSCOC reaffirmation process in May.

A comprehensive multiyear effort, the reaffirmation process involves demonstrating that WCU has met in-depth SACSCOC standards that ensure the university is offering high-quality programs for students. Successful reaffirmation of accreditation is important for reasons such as preserving WCU’s ability to be able to confer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and maintaining eligibility to receive and distribute federal financial aid funds. The university has been continuously accredited by SACSCOC, WCU’s institutional accrediting body, since 1946 and last reaffirmed accreditation for a 10-year period in 2007.

Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, will discuss enrollment and demographic trends that are expected to have an impact on institutions of higher education. Those trends include a predicted decline in the number of college-going North Carolinians in the year 2021 (the result of a drop in birthrates after Sept. 11, 2001), followed by an increase in college-bound residents in regions of the state east of WCU’s service region.