Chancellor search process underway as public input phase launches

WCU staff members, including Jamie Raynor, assistant vice chancellor for development (standing), participate in one of seven public forums held over a three-day period to gather input on the characteristics members of the university community would like to see in their next chancellor.

The effort to find a successor for Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher is well underway, as the 22-member committee leading the search for the university’s next CEO is in the midst of obtaining feedback from the university’s various constituent groups.

The committee held seven public forums Feb. 5-7 to seek input from WCU’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members to assist the group as it drafts a leadership statement describing the attributes and responsibilities those constituents would like to see in WCU’s next chancellor.

Western Carolina University’s chancellor since July 1, 2011, Belcher went on medical leave at the end of 2017 after battling brain cancer since April 2016. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar is serving as acting chancellor while he is on leave.

Approximately 150 members of the campus and surrounding communities have participated in the public forums to date, with six sessions held on campus and one session held at the university’s instructional site at Biltmore Park in Asheville.

Another forum designed for community members and alumni is set for 5 until 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, in the Locust Room at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort, in Cherokee.

Although each open forum is designed for a specific constituent group, all sessions are open to anyone who wants to attend. Some of the forums have been livestreamed online, with comments submitted by viewers and read aloud by session moderators.

During sessions, committee members guide participants through discussions centered on four questions:

– “What characteristics, skills and leadership style would you like to see in our next chancellor? What background and experiences do you see as essential, including educational credentials, administrative experience, leadership experience and fundraising?”

– “What are the top priorities of the position, and what should the next chancellor emphasize during their first two years?”

– “What are the current strengths or ‘points of pride’ of Western Carolina University, and what do you see as challenges or opportunities for improvement?”

– “What other considerations should the committee have moving forward with our search for a new chancellor?”

Members of the university community who are unable to attend a forum have the opportunity to provide input into the search process through an online survey available at the website Video from the Feb. 5-7 sessions also will be posted under the “public forums” section of the website.

As of the morning of Thursday, Feb. 8, the online survey instrument had received a total of 258 responses broken down by self-reported demographic: 56 faculty, 58 staff, 75 students, 90 alumni and 15 community members.

The committee, in collaboration with consultant Jerry Baker of the Buffkin Baker executive search firm, is working toward a goal of having a new CEO for the university on the job by Aug. 1.

Composed of members of the WCU Board of Trustees and faculty, student, staff, alumni and community representatives, the committee received instructions Jan. 19 from University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings to bring forward three unranked candidates to present to the WCU Board of Trustees.

After evaluating the committee’s slate of candidates, the WCU trustees will recommend the unranked candidates to Spellings for consideration or will return the slate of candidates to the search committee for further action. Following her evaluation of the candidates, Spellings will then recommend one finalist to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for approval.