WCU looks to the architect of its strategic plan for the retiring chief of staff’s successor


After Dianne G. Lynch announced her retirement as the chancellor’s chief of staff earlier this year, Western Carolina University did not have to look far for her successor. The university found its new chief of staff, Melissa Canady Wargo, working as assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness in the same H.F. Robinson Administration Building where Lynch served for 10 years as senior executive staff member in the Office of the Chancellor.

Chief of staff

Dianne G. Lynch (left) departs the position of WCU’s chief of staff while Melissa C. Wargo (right) assumes the role.

Wargo guided WCU’s yearlong strategic planning process and led a 36-member committee in drafting the “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future” strategic plan approved last June by the Board of Trustees. She currently serves as co-chair of the master planning committee, charged with creating a comprehensive plan to guide development of campus over the next several decades. Her April appointment as chief of staff concluded a national search conducted by a seven-member committee, which presented three finalists to Chancellor David O. Belcher for his consideration.

“Melissa Wargo brings an exceptionally strong skill set to the position of chief of staff. In addition to a keen analytical mind, she has an excellent reputation on and off the campus for her ability to bring together a diverse collection of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community representatives to find common ground and a sense of shared direction in developing our university’s strategic plan,” Belcher said. “She sees the big picture and understands how things work in the University of North Carolina system, as well as at the regional and community levels. She will be able to hit the ground running and have an immediate impact as the university meets the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Wargo assumes her new role as the university is in the first phase of a process of institutional restructuring. In addition to serving as principal aide to the chancellor on important university operational matters and leading the university’s government relations activities, she oversees WCU’s communications and public relations functions and a new marketing unit formed from several existing offices.

Before Wargo changed offices June 1, her predecessor accepted two of the university’s highest honors. Lynch in March became just the 10th person ever to receive the Trustees’ Award, presented only on rare occasions in recognition of exemplary service. “Dianne more than meets the criteria for this award,” said Joan MacNeill, board chair. “Any time that Dianne Lynch is involved in a project, you can rest assured that it will be done to perfection. She makes it all look effortless, but we all know the large amount of effort that she puts into everything she does.” Lynch also received the Paul A. Reid Award for Administrative Staff at WCU’s annual spring Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards event in April.

As chief of staff, Lynch oversaw several high-priority university events and projects, including commencement ceremonies, the Chancellor’s Speaker Series, Fall Opening Assembly activities, and chancellor’s installation events in March 2012. She served as a liaison to local, state and federal elected officials and to the UNC General Administration. She oversaw the renovation of the Chancellor’s Residence and H.F. Robinson Administration Building lobby, co-chaired the university’s organizational structure review process and played an important role in the transition of institutional leadership from former chancellor John W. Bardo to the university’s current leader.