Students, faculty, staff lead with love during ‘I Love WCU’ month

“I Love WCU” month kickoff attendees (from left) Heather McGuire, Cheryl Buchanan, Bridget Lopez and Rachel Wike get into the spirit of the event.

Western Carolina University students, faculty and staff gave their hearts to WCU – so to speak — during the Friday, Feb. 1, kickoff of “I Love WCU” month in the A.K. Hinds University Center.

More than 900 participants gathered on the second floor of the UC from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. for free cookies, hot chocolate, “I Love WCU” T-shirts and eco-friendly straws, distributed by members of the Student Alumni Association, “I Love WCU” faculty and staff Giving Champions, and Division of Advancement staff. But event attendees also gave something back: statements of why they love WCU written on paper hearts, which will be displayed throughout campus during the monthlong initiative.

“I absolutely love Western,” said David Rhode, a junior from Hendersonville and a new member of the Student Government Association. “Western has given me great opportunities. I love WCU because of the community, the people and the culture. Home is where the heart is, and Western Carolina certainly has my heart.”

Monyae Joyner, a freshman from Greensboro who is active in WCU’s Department of Intercultural Affairs, was all smiles when describing her love for WCU. “If I hadn’t come to Western, I probably wouldn’t have met the friends I have today, and I love them with all my heart,” Joyner said. “It’s a great school, beautiful campus, beautiful scenery. I just love it overall.”

Joyner is majoring in biology with a concentration in predentistry. What brought her to WCU was “the tuition, the NC Promise” and additional financial incentives, she said. But it’s more than that keeping her here. “WCU is family, love, friends, home,” she said she wrote on her “I Love WCU” heart.

Dianne Harris, a WCU alumna and business officer at A.K. Hinds University Center, says the university – her employer for the last 36 years – is “awesome.”

Students weren’t the only ones sharing their “love stories” with WCU. Alumna Dianne Harris, business officer for the UC, has worked for WCU for 36 years. “It’s been my home away from home,” said Harris, who grew up in Jackson County. “When I first came here, I got to know the students so well. Always in the past, I had heard ‘Oh, those students, they’re partying all the time. They’re doing this, they’re doing that, they’re ruining this town.’ I got to realize no, they’re not. They’re the best part of this town.’’

So what did she write on her paper heart about WCU? “It’s awesome,” she said.

Throughout February, WCU students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends can show their love for WCU  with social media posts, hand-written notes on paper hearts and financial contributions to help WCU students. Each gift that is made to WCU during “I Love WCU” month will go toward completion of “Lead the Way: A Campaign Inspired by the Belcher Years,” which now stands at $58.7 million.

A special giving challenge issued by four WCU alumni — Brad Bradshaw (class of 1976), Wes Elingburg (1978), Ken Hughes (1974) and Dale Sims (1978) — could help boost funds raised this month. Elingburg is the current chair of the WCU Foundation Board, and Bradshaw, Hughes and Sims are all past chairs. They will make a combined donation of $100,000 if 1,000 people make a gift to WCU during the monthlong effort.

“The pride and support that our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends have for Western Carolina University really shines during February,” said Lori Lewis, vice chancellor for advancement. “This year is extra special because the generous gifts that are made during ‘I Love WCU’ month will get us that much closer to our campaign goal of $60 million. Every gift counts, and we are truly grateful for those who lead with love.”

This year’s “I Love WCU” month also features four focus areas for donors looking to support specific areas within the university. Each week will highlight one of four “Points of Pride” at WCU: Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, athletics, academic support and scholarships.

Additionally, each WCU college and division has a “Giving Champion,” a faculty or staff volunteer who has committed to encouraging his or her colleagues to give back to WCU. The goal for this year’s faculty and staff participation is 50 percent. The college or division that has the highest participation rate wins a trophy and bragging rights for the year. The trophy will be awarded March 1 in a celebration at the Grandroom of the UC.

To make a donation during “I Love WCU” month, call 828-227-7124 or visit love.wcu.edu.