WCU Board of Trustees approves new CIO

Chris Williams was approved as Western Carolina University's new chief information officer by the WCU Board of Trustees Friday, June 14. WCU photo Chris Williams was approved as Western Carolina University's new chief information officer by the WCU Board of Trustees Friday, June 14. WCU photo

On Friday, June 14, Western Carolina University’s Board of Trustees approved Chris Williams’ selection as its chief information officer. Williams, who comes to WCU after spending the last nine years as the IT director for Student Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will begin his new position Monday, June 24. 

Since graduating from UNC Chapel Hill in 1999, Williams has spent the last 25 years working his way up the ladder, while also continuing his academic journey to prepare himself for future advancement. Last year, he completed his MBA with a concentration in information systems at UNC Wilmington. He recently completed the NC Certified Government CIO program at UNC Chapel Hill.

Those accomplishments, Williams said, helped prepare him for his move to WCU as the CIO.

“It’s a huge honor,” Williams said. “It happened to come at the right time when I was ready for the next step in my career. I’ve been at UNC Chapel Hill my entire career, all 25 years, plus four years as an undergrad. I honestly never thought I would leave.

“When this opportunity came along, it was the first time I had to think creatively about not staying at the same place forever. Ultimately, what it means to me is a chance to go somewhere new where I can add value, be supported by peers, team members, the campus, to really do good work. WCU is a community where IT is appreciated and where I’m hoping I’ll find ways to support other students on their career journey, or their journey though academics.” 

For Williams, a native of Robbins, the work he was doing was enjoyable. But it was no longer challenging. He found himself desiring something more complicated.

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After applying for the WCU opening, Williams eventually saw the university’s IT annual report. His interest piqued.

“It was just amazing,” he said. “At one point, I thought, ‘Why do they even need a CIO?’ The team appeared to be mature, and they were doing such great work. It was just really exciting. I felt like I had written so much of the content that was in there. I had that connection to begin with prior to my first interview.” 

Still, Williams wondered if his initial impressions might wane once he arrived in Cullowhee for his in-person interview. Would he no longer be interested?

“Every single thing I looked for, I was proven wrong,” he said. “I was satisfied that this place is really a community where people are supportive. They really operate as a family. That’s an aspect of my job I really value. It makes me excited to want to go to work every day and to serve the community. That’s what it felt like, that this is a community where I could be accepted and supported and be successful. Moving my family to the Cullowhee area, I needed to know that I was going to be happy in the role and to be successful. Both of those things, they just knocked it out of the park.”

Williams described himself as self-driven. One of the things he takes pride in is his ability to problem-solve, whether it’s an IT-related issue, or something unrelated.

Upon coming to WCU, Williams looks forward to building relationships across campus while realizing that it will take time. What he hopes is that the campus community sees IT as a partner.

Williams said, “I knew Western was the right place for me when Chancellor [Kelli R.] Brown stressed that she fosters a collaborative family culture with student success and academic excellence as primary goals. That is an area that I champion daily.”

“I’m incredibly excited to welcome Chris Williams to the role of CIO for WCU,” Brown said. “Chris joins us with over 25 years of experience in the higher education IT field and I am confident he will provide a wealth of knowledge and innovative ideas to the IT team and the university as a whole. His work in the UNC System will also be a tremendous asset for WCU. Chris and his family are thrilled to get involved with the WCU community and make this region their new home.”

He is moving with his wife, Nicole, and 12-year-old son, Alex. Williams said he and his wife spend a lot of time supporting Alex and his love of playing football, whether it’s tackle leagues during the school year or 7-on-7 leagues in the spring.

Outside of that, they enjoy spending time on their boat on the weekends with friends. Williams also gets joy from working on things, which he will get to do while setting up their new home.

“The thing that really stood out to me that I’m excited about is fishing with my son, the mountain views, being able to go hiking,” Williams said. “There’s so much to do just in the area that doesn’t require stores and businesses. We all will be looking forward to the Western football games. We already have friends who are connected to some of the teams [WCU plays] planning to meet us at games. So, we already feel like we’re at home.”

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