Commencement traffic alert: Families and graduating students who will be traveling on U.S. 23-74 to attend commencement ceremonies are advised to build in extra travel time in case of traffic back-ups between Balsam and Sylva. Bridge construction on the highway that reduces the traffic flow to one lane for a short distance could cause significant delays for those driving to campus from the Waynesville and Asheville areas.
Western Carolina University will hold a trio of commencement ceremonies over a two-day period – Friday and Saturday, May 6-7 – to recognize the academic achievements of what is expected to be the university’s fifth straight record spring graduating class.
Commencement for WCU’s Graduate School will be held at 7 p.m. May 6. Commencement for the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Allied Professions, and Fine and Performing Arts will begin at 10 a.m. May 7, and that event will be followed the same day by a 2 p.m. ceremony for the College of Business, College of Health and Human Sciences, and Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology. All the ceremonies will take place at Ramsey Regional Activity Center.
After all the scores from final exams are tallied and academic records are finalized, WCU’s spring class, including recipients of both undergraduate and graduate degrees, is expected to total approximately 1,465 graduates, which would be the largest class in university history and about 50 more graduates than were in last year’s record spring class. Boosted by surging enrollments, the size of WCU’s spring class has doubled since 2004.
The university schedules three commencements on the Cullowhee campus in the spring to allow the Ramsey Center to accommodate the number of graduating students who will be participating in the ceremonies and the audiences that will attend. A total of about 1,350 students are expected to don caps and gowns for this year’s events. WCU commencements are open to everyone, with no limit on the number of family members and friends who can attend.
For those who cannot attend, all three ceremonies will be streamed live at http://www.wcu.edu/commencement-stream.aspx.
WCU faculty member Carmen Huffman, the university’s recipient of the 2016 University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, will deliver the primary address at the Friday night Graduate School commencement, and then she will be presented the award during the Saturday morning ceremony.
Traffic is always heavy for commencement on WCU’s campus. University officials urge those attending to plan on arriving at the Ramsey Center at least one hour before the events begin. On-campus shuttle services will be available for the Saturday ceremonies.
WCU police recommend that those attending the events consider using Route 1002 (Old Cullowhee Road) to access campus through the back entrance. Drivers also are asked to refrain from dropping off visitors while sitting in travel lanes around the Ramsey Center, as that endangers visitors and creates traffic backups.
More driving and parking information, including a link to a map of traffic patterns, is available at the website http://graduation.wcu.edu.
For more general information about WCU’s May commencement ceremonies, contact the university Registrar’s Office at 828-227-7216.