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WCU trustees approve chancellor candidates

WCU trustees approve chancellor candidates

The second go-around in the search for the next chancellor of Western Carolina University is nearing completion with the Board of Trustees’ unanimous vote March 1 to approve a list of three names for consideration. 

The names, which are confidential, now go to Interim UNC System President Dr. Bill Roper. Roper will choose one of the three names and submit that nomination to the UNC Board of Governors, whose members will make the final decision on the appointment. Jason Tyson, director of media relations for the UNC System, said that final candidate interviews will be held soon with a vote on the final pick likely during a special-called meeting in April or May and the new chancellor formally introduced at the meeting scheduled for May 20 to 22, though that timeline is certainly not set in stone. 

According to the university, 58 people applied for the job. A 20-member search committee developed the job description, advertised the position, sifted through applications and interviewed contenders. The search committee held off-campus interviews with the top 10 candidates Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, selecting a handful of finalists for on-campus interviews later in February before submitting the final three to trustees. 

Provost Allison Morrison-Shetlar has been serving as chancellor since January 2018, when Chancellor David O. Belcher left his post following a battle with brain cancer. Belcher passed away on June 17, 2018. 

The university had hoped to have a new chancellor in place for the fall 2018 semester, with the search committee embarking on an energetic effort to gather community input on what qualities the new chancellor should possess and choose the best candidates to fill Belcher’s decidedly large shoes. The search followed a similar process to that used this go-around, with trustees approving a list of three potential chancellors in June 2018 and sending those names to then-President Margaret Spellings. That round was also confidential.

Spellings submitted her pick to the board of governors, but following a reportedly contentious closed session meeting July 12, the board failed to vote on the selection and the candidate withdrew from consideration. At the time, Chairman Harry Smith said the board wanted to review the chancellor search process to “refine and improve it,” implying that this should be done before WCU resumed its chancellor search. However, after a two-month hiatus the search process relaunched in September, using the same process as the previous search. 

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In the midst of all this, Spellings abruptly resigned her post in October 2018, less than three years into her tenure. She did not give any specific reason for leaving, saying in a press conference that “times change and those changes demand new leaders and new approaches.” 

The Board of Governors appointed Roper as the interim president, and he has served in that capacity since January. The board has not held any formal meetings on choosing his replacement, but the system does have a current policy in place for selecting presidents. 

WCU is optimistic that this round of the chancellor search will yield a leader who can arrive prior to the start of the fall 2019 semester. 

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