Opening Notes

Spring is in the air in the Tuckaseigee River valley, and various shades of green are beginning to inch their way up the mountains that surround our beautiful campus. Days are getting longer, sleeves are getting shorter, and campus, while anything but sleepy during the colder winter months, is alive with the outdoor activities that accompany warmer temperatures. That is especially true this year, as the university is enjoying its largest spring enrollment on record. The 9,361 students enrolled this semester represent an increase of 5 percent over last spring, and send a clear signal that our efforts to recruit students who want to be at WCU and our initiatives to ensure their academic success are paying dividends.

For evidence of the university’s commitment to academic success, look no further than our students’ performance at the 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research. WCU tied for third nationally in terms of the number of projects accepted at this annual assemblage of young scholars from across the United States. Each year since 2006, WCU has placed in the top 10 at NCUR, regarded as the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate research conference. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the role that Brian Railsback, his colleagues in the Honors College and faculty from across campus play in overseeing our students’ success in this annual undertaking. And, while our undergraduate researchers are participating at NCUR, seniors and final-semester graduate students have their eyes on the ultimate prize as Commencement Weekend, May 10-11, approaches.

Since our last edition, we officially dedicated the $46 million, 160,000-square-foot Health and Human Sciences Building, the first structure on our West Campus. If you have not taken the opportunity to venture up Little Savannah Road to visit this magnificent facility that is home to 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students in diverse high-demand, health-related programs, I invite you to do so. Also this year on the West Campus, we opened a multiuse trail system (pictured above) that consists of 6.7 miles of paths for hiking and mountain biking, providing access to healthy recreational opportunities for faculty, staff and students as well as for residents of the surrounding community. Future evolution of WCU’s campus will be guided by the comprehensive campus master planning process currently under way. A direct outgrowth of our recently approved strategic plan, the master planning process is examining issues related to new building needs, utilization of existing space, parking and transportation, technology infrastructure, sustainability, safety and security, preservation of campus heritage, and integration of the campus with the surrounding community. For updates, visit the website masterplanning.wcu.edu.

As those familiar shades of green return to WCU’s beautiful campus, accentuated by the bursts of color of flowers and shrubs, this spring features the return of a familiar old friend, the Cullowhee lily. A white flower with six petals formally named Zephyranthes atamasca, the Cullowhee lily once common at WCU now grows in only a few spots on campus. Through an initiative of the WCU Alumni Association, the beloved flower is scheduled to reappear this spring on campus and throughout the community. In addition, sales of lily bulbs and note cards, along with memberships into the Cullowhee Lily Society, have generated more than $10,000 so far to support the WCU Alumni Scholarship Endowment Fund. This is just one wonderful example of how alumni and friends are stepping up to help ensure student access – and student success. As you will read in this issue, support for endowed scholarships is growing; yet the needs remain great.

Yes, the spring season is a time of renewal, and as Susan and I near the two-year anniversary of our arrival at Western Carolina University, our spirit continues to be renewed by the unflagging enthusiasm we experience each and every day from members of the Catamount family.

Please don’t be a stranger in Cullowhee!

David O. Belcher, Chancellor