WCU joins NC health profession diversity alliance

Western Carolina University has joined 19 North Carolina universities, colleges, organizations and health agencies in the creation of a new statewide alliance designed to increase minority representation in the health professions. Called the North Carolina Alliance for Health Professions Diversity, the partnership between academic institutions and state agencies will work to reduce disparities in health status and health care by increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the state’s health care workforce.

Doug Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said the North Carolina Alliance brings statewide emphasis to the issue of an insufficiently diverse workforce in health care fields, a concern that WCU is working to address regionally through a pair of $1 million federal grants awarded since 2013. “We in the College of Health and Human Sciences have made it a priority to do all that we can to help improve the diversity and quality of nursing care provided to patients in rural Western North Carolina,” Keskula said. “We are pleased to become a part of this important new state alliance.”

In addition to WCU, participating colleges, universities and agencies include Bennett College, Campbell University, Davidson Community College, East Carolina University, Elon University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, North Carolina Central University, High Point University, Appalachian State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, St. Augustine’s University, Winston-Salem State University, N.C. Area Health Education Center, N. C. Department of Health and Human Services, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Forsyth County Department of Public Health. 


Kiplinger names WCU among ‘best values’ in the nation

Western Carolina University has been named a “best value” in the nation among colleges and universities that cost $30,000 per year or less. WCU is listed at No. 19 by Kiplinger Personal Finance in the publication’s rankings of the “24 Best College Values Under $30,000/Year.” WCU was one of two University of North Carolina system schools that made the list.

The rankings are based on data from the 2013-14 academic year, including academic quality, cost and financial aid. Other factors weighed include graduation and freshman retention rates, admissions competitiveness, academic support and student debt.

In addition, WCU earned three top-five national rankings for online programs from GetEducated.com, which gave the programs a “Best Buy” designation in recognition of their high quality and affordable cost. WCU’s master’s degree program in special education was listed at No. 2 among all graduate special education programs. On a rundown of master’s degree programs in the general area of education, WCU’s special education program ranked No. 5 and its school administration program was No. 11. Also, GetEducated.com ranked WCU’s master’s program in educational leadership at No. 5 on a list of programs in that academic area.

Other recent national rankings for WCU’s online programs include:

• The bachelor’s degree program in nursing was ranked No. 3 among nursing programs by CollegeChoice.net.

• WCU’s package of online academic offerings earned a No. 7 ranking on a list of “best online colleges” released by BestValueSchools.com.

• The website OnlineU.org gave WCU’s programs in the general area of education a No. 14 ranking.

• WCU’s master’s degree program in special education was listed No. 15 in the nation on a list of graduate special education programs by TheBestSchools.org.

• U.S. News & World Report included WCU on its 2015 list of schools with the best online bachelor’s programs and the best online graduate programs in business (excluding the master’s in business administration.)   


New program designed to help ex-students complete degrees

Western Carolina University is the recipient of $50,000 in funding from the University of North Carolina General Administration to create a program designed to help former college students who didn’t finish their bachelor’s degrees go back to school. The funding through UNC General Administration’s Office of Academic and Student Success will be used for the planning and implementation of a WCU initiative named the Finish Line. The UNC system allocated a total of $320,000 to fund targeted efforts at UNC campuses to recruit, enroll and retain the students.

The program is for people living in North Carolina who attended a U.S. college or university in the past, but left without earning a diploma. In the UNC system, these former students are known as “part-way home” because they have completed part of their undergraduate studies but, for a variety of reasons, did not make it to graduation.

“We are grateful for the support from the UNC General Administration,” said Iveta Imre, assistant professor in the WCU Department of Communication and coordinator of the Finish Line. “This project will open doors to new opportunities for many students who never graduated.”

The project’s immediate goal is to enroll 15 students for fall semester, with a long-term goal of attracting up to 50 students a year who are “part-way home” in their college educations to enroll at WCU and complete degree requirements, said Lowell Davis, assistant vice chancellor for student success.

UNC enrollment records show that approximately 10,000 bachelor’s degree-seeking students left the UNC system before they earned diplomas and did not graduate or re-enroll in a higher education institution. Finding these students and helping them finish college is one of the strategies included in “Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina,” the long-range plan adopted by the UNC Board of Governors in 2013. The plan outlines goals for higher education to help North Carolina become one of the top 10 “most educated” states in the nation by 2025.   


College of Business forms company to assist economic development

The College of Business is establishing a new, for-profit limited liability company designed to provide entrepreneurial business, scientific and technical services to help spur economic development activity in Western North Carolina. Formation of the new entity was authorized earlier this year by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The LLC will replace WCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, created in 2007 within the College of Business to serve as a catalyst for the creation of successful entrepreneurial ventures in WNC while providing hands-on learning experiences for WCU students. The new entity will be wholly owned by the Western Carolina University Research and Development Corporation, formed in 2001 for the purpose of aiding and promoting the educational and charitable purposes of WCU.

The for-profit company will enable faculty and students to be more nimble and responsive when dealing with requests for services from local entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses, and will allow WCU to engage in commercial activities and enterprises with greater flexibility, said Darrell Parker, dean of the College of Business. Shifting from being a unit of the college to a for-profit associated entity also will increase the potential to generate revenue from professional and consultative services provided by faculty and staff; provide broader access to financing necessary for product development, business expansion and technology transfer; and enhance the potential to generate revenue for internships and other forms of student financial aid, Parker said.

“Small businesses and entrepreneurs represent an increasingly important segment of the economy in Western North Carolina,” he said. “By transferring the activities of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to this new venture, we will be able to better leverage the resources of our faculty, staff and student expertise to create a nourishing environment that will foster the creation of new businesses and new jobs in our region.”