When WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown walked onto the stage of the Bardo Arts Center’s Performance Hall last Wednesday, she peeked into an auditorium packed with faculty and staff eager to hear expectations. for the 2022-23 academic year. It was the first time in two years that the university could return to its normal seating arrangement for the Fall Opening Assembly prior to COVID-19 protocols.
“I’m so glad you’re here today,” Brown told the crowd. “Whether you’re brand new to the WCU or entering your third or fourth decade here, the year ahead is full of promise. Of course, we will have our challenges. But WCU’s story is one of courage, perseverance and choice.
In a TED Talks-style format, Brown gave faculty and staff a glimpse of what she sees “on the horizon” for WCU in the 2022-23 academic year. Here are the highlights mentioned by Brown as key areas of interest:
- Sense of community: Brown said WCU will make it a priority to renew a sense of community on campus. “Community renewal is important,” she said. “Community is the defining element of Western culture. Over the past two and a half years, many have felt disconnected. We need to make this a priority to re-engage everyone in the campus community. This fall, WCU is offering a full range of on-campus activities and events planned to welcome more than 4,000 students to campus.
- New brand campaign: WCU will launch a new brand campaign, “Live Western,” this fall. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of the university’s academic programs and student experience in regions of the state. The campaign will include numerous advertisements, print materials, etc., across all print, web and social platforms. “Our brand should reflect our mission and our vision, and have power,” she said.
- Full campaign:. Brown said the Honoring Our Promise fundraising campaign will provide the resources needed to provide affordable and accessible academic excellence, student experience, and funds to help us continue to be an economic engine in the region. Renovating sports facilities as a key part of the student and community experience is also a campaign priority. “Our students and the community will be the ones who benefit from this campaign,” she said.
- Registration and success of students: Brown informed the crowd that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has been running a strong freshman course this fall and will soon be “charging hard” in pursuit of meeting WCU enrollment goals for next fall. “Enrollment this fall is looking good for our freshman class, which may be one of the largest ever, but the effects of the pandemic and changing demographics over the past two years will continue to impact overall enrollment, which will likely be down slightly this year. She also mentioned that William Moultrie, the new Associate Vice-Chancellor of Student Success, and his team will work to renew efforts to finish in four, improve academic guidance and strengthen student retention.
- Academic initiatives: Provost Richard Starnes will lead academic affairs to meet the requirements of the new Educational Career Realignment or Return on Investment Study recently enacted by the NC General Assembly. It will also evaluate programs that may be potential candidates for Project Kitty Hawk, the University of North Carolina’s online program management system, targeting adult learners.
- Campus Theme – Mental Health and Wellbeing: Brown told the group there’s a reason mental health and wellness became the top contender for the campus theme this year. “The pandemic and the accompanying economic and social roller coaster that we have all lived on for the past few years have had tangible and detrimental effects on mental health and well-being,” she said. This year, I hope you will enjoy the many events and activities that will revolve around the campus theme. At the institutional level, we continue to seek ways to expand services and provide support. She went on to describe a new employee benefit for on-demand mental health care through a partner called Ginger that offers virtual mental health counseling.
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