WCU campus leaders explore WNC from Murphy to Asheville

fr wcutourThirty campus leaders from Western Carolina University crisscrossed the mountains of Western North Carolina for a weeklong tour May 12-16 to learn more about the region that the university serves and to help strengthen relationships between WCU and its surrounding communities.

The group consisted of 11 members of the inaugural class of the WCU Leadership Academy and other campus leaders who are either new to the university or in new positions at WCU.

During the week, the leaders learned about everything from IPA (as in integrated power assemblies, during a tour of the Eaton Corp., an electrical components manufacturer in Arden with connections to WCU’s engineering program) to IPA (as in India pale ale, at a stop at Highland Brewing Co. in Asheville, part of an emerging brewing industry becoming an important economic driver).

The trip even took the participants beyond the boundaries of WNC and deep into space, as they peered through telescopes at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman.

The tour also included stops at Clay County Schools in Hayesville; the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown; Tri-County Community College in Murphy; Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Oconaluftee Visitor Center/Mountain Farm Museum; Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort; Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in Otto; Little Tennessee Greenway in Franklin; Highlands Biological Station, Old Edwards Inn and Bascom art center in Highlands; and Biltmore Park.

Stops on the tour were centered on the themes of education, tourism and heritage, recreation and the environment, creative arts and technology and innovation.

Participants said they found the tour to be a very valuable activity. 

“The tour gave me more insight into the region’s needs and how WCU can fit into that puzzle,” said Andy Voelker, manager of student computing. “WCU has to continue to be creative and proactive in working with our community to establish strategic partnerships. I was surprised at how little we knew about each other and how obvious some of these partnerships are. There are a lot of opportunities out there, but it will take a little work to get them going.”

Brett Woods, director of development, said he was pleased at how genuinely appreciative community leaders were of the group’s efforts to visit with them and learn more. “There was a keen sense of desire to collaborate and work together to strengthen the WNC region and to create win-win for all,” Woods said.

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