Western Carolina University (WCU) is a coeducational public university located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, United States. The university is a constituent campus of the University of North Carolina system.
The fifth oldest institution of the sixteen four-year universities in the UNC system, the university was founded to educate the people of the western North Carolina mountains. The university has expanded its mission to serve the entire state and the nation and has grown to become a major cultural, scientific, and educational force in the state and region. WCU now serves more than 9,500 full-time undergraduate and post graduate students, providing an education to students from 46 states and 39 countries. Enrollment for fall 2012 was 9,608.
Western Carolina University is located in Jackson County, in the unincorporated village of Cullowhee, North Carolina. The university operates learning centers in both Asheville and Cherokee with programs offered online and at various community colleges. The main campus is located in a valley of the Tuckasegee River between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, 52 miles (84 km) west of Asheville, North Carolina and 5 miles south of Sylva, NC. The university lies close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Reservation (officially known as the Qualla Boundary) and some of the nation's most beautiful national forest lands. At an elevation of 2,100 feet (640 m), but located in a thermal valley, the campus enjoys the best of all four seasons but is shielded from most extreme temperatures by surrounding peaks. Cullowhee typically enjoys a rather mild winter season, in fact, Cullowhee can go some winters without snowfall or with just a trace.
While winters in the valley are generally mild, snow is not unusual in the higher elevations of Jackson County around Cashiers or Balsam. In nearby Sapphire Valley, snowmaking machines maintain prime snow skiing conditions from mid-December through February. Locations in Jackson County are also within reasonable driving distance to ski slopes at Maggie Valley. The Blue Ridge Parkway is usually closed during winter weather, and has become popular with cross-country skiers during those times.
The many rivers, streams and forests surrounding Cullowhee, combined with the mild climate of Southern Appalachia, offer many opportunities for outdoor activities. Climbing, hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking, and camping are a few of the outdoor activities nearby. Cities within a three-hour drive of campus include Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Greenville, South Carolina.
In 1888, the residents of Cullowhee desired a better school for the community than was offered in public schools of that day, organized a board of trustees and established a community school that came to be known as Cullowhee Academy. Founded in August 1889 as a semi-public secondary school and chartered as Cullowhee High School in 1891 (also called Cullowhee Academy), it served the Cullowhee community and boarding students from neighboring counties and other states. The founder, Robert Lee Madison, wanted to provide an education for the young people in the region and train teachers to spread education throughout the western part of the state. In 1893, through the efforts of Walter E. Moore, representative from Jackson County, the North Carolina Legislature authorized an appropriation for the establishment of a normal department at the school "for the purpose of training teachers". This designation became the first publicly funded normal school in North Carolina.
In 1905, the state assumed title to the school’s buildings and property and made it a state institution. That same year, the school’s name was changed to Cullowhee Normal & Industrial School. In 1925, the school’s name was changed to Cullowhee State Normal School. During its years as Cullowhee Normal, the stated purpose of the school was to train teachers for the North Carolina public schools. A coeducational institution, Cullowhee Normal trained over two thousand teachers by the mid-1920s.
Over the next forty years, the school expanded its curriculum and evolved into a junior college, and in 1929 it was chartered by the Legislature as a four-year institution under the name Western Carolina Teachers College. Called "the Cullowhee experiment", Madison’s idea became a model for the other regional colleges in the state.
The demand for both liberal arts and other programs led to an expansion of the school's offerings. Postgraduate studies and the Master of Arts in Education degree were added to the curriculum in 1951. In 1953, the name "Western Carolina College" was adopted.
In 1967, the institution was designated a regional university by the North Carolina General Assembly and given its current title, "Western Carolina University." On July 1, 1972, WCU became a member of the University of North Carolina system.
Year – Name and Levels
1889 Semi-private school
1891 Cullowhee High School
1893 First state appropriation; Normal Department established; First graduating class
1905 Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School
1912 Junior College rank established; Secondary school discontinued
1913 First college-level (one-year) degree awarded
1925 Cullowhee State Normal School
1929 Western Carolina Teachers College; Senior College rank established
1931 First Baccalaureate degree awarded
1951 Graduate degree established
1952 First Master's degree awarded
1953 Western Carolina College
1967 Western Carolina University
1972 A constituent institution of the University of North Carolina
The university is led by Chancellor David O. Belcher, the chief administrative officer, along with Provost Angela Laird Brenton and several advisory groups. The institution operates under the guidance and policies of the Board of Trustees of Western Carolina University. WCU also falls under the administration of University of North Carolina system president Thomas W. Ross. The university moved to a provost and senior vice chancellor model in 2004.
The university's academic structure is composed of five undergraduate colleges plus the Kimmel School (also undergraduate), the Honors College and Graduate School, and offers several interdisciplinary programs:
With its main campus located on the site of an ancient Cherokee Indian village and adjacent to the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, Western Carolina has a commitment to the rich traditions of both the Appalachian and Cherokee cultures. The university's Mountain Heritage Center; Cherokee Center; Craft Revival Project; Cherokee Studies Program and WCU's partnership to preserve the Cherokee language all reflect that influence – and provide educational resources for the region.
Western is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a comprehensive master’s degree granting institution (Masters/L) in the elective “community engagement” category. WCU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award degrees at the bachelor, masters, intermediate, and doctoral (in education) levels. The university holds 21 program accreditations and is a member of more than 30 state and national associations and organizations to which its professional programs are related. In 2009, the Corporation for National and Community Service recognized WCU by awarding the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for “exemplary commitment to service and civic engagement” on WCU’s campus and beyond.
As the sixth-largest producer of teachers in North Carolina, the College of Education and Allied Professions was the national winner of the Association of Teacher Educators' Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award in 2006. The college is also the 2007 co-winner of the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award presented by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The Christa McAuliffe Award nationally recognizes outstanding programs in teacher education at AASCU member institutions.
Western Carolina's Forensic Research Facility (commonly referred to as the "Body Farm") is just the second facility of its kind nationally. The decomposition research station is an extremely valuable resource for researchers and forensic anthropology students to study natural decomposition.
The residential Honors College was first of its kind in North Carolina. The College is a community of high-achieving students that strives to provide an intellectually inviting atmosphere that offers academic challenge and enrichment for outstanding students. Newly accepted students are invited to live in one of two exclusive residence halls on campus. The Honors College is one of a few in the state to offer a residential option and among a few nationwide to award graduates with a special honors diploma. The college began in 1998 with 77 students and has grown to approximately 1,400. For entering freshman, the Honor's College average weighted GPA is over 4.00 and the average SAT score is 1380. The College is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council. In August 2009, Balsam Hall, the first part of a $50.2 million Honors College residential community located at the center of campus opened, housing 426 students. Set to open for the Fall 2010 semester, Blue Ridge Hall will complete the community and add an additional 400 beds for Honors College students and Teaching Fellows.
In the spring of 2000, WCU was officially designated a National Merit sponsoring university, just the fourth institution of higher education in North Carolina, public or private, to receive that distinction The university grants scholarships to students who qualify as National Merit Finalists. The Western Meritorious Award for Finalists provides a four-year scholarship, which covers the equivalent amount of in-state tuition, fees, room, and board, to National Merit Finalists, who also receive a computer.
The 2012 edition of the U.S. News & World Report guide to “America’s Best Colleges” ranks Western Carolina University 14th among public universities in the South that offer master’s degrees. The 2012 edition of the Princeton Review “Best 294 Business Schools” ranks the College of Business among the nation’s best schools at which to earn a master’s degree in business administration. WCU’s program earned a top-four spot for schools offering the greatest opportunity for women and receiving high marks for small class sizes. Western Carolina's online master’s degree in project management has been ranked at the top nationally in both affordability and quality by GetEducated.com. In 2007, the Master of Entrepreneurship Program was selected as one of the five best online entrepreneurship programs by Fortune Small Business magazine.
Community focus, scholarly research, business development, preservation of the Cherokee & Appalachian Mountain cultures, and the advancement of technology & public policy are the guiding foci of Western Carolina's Centers, Institutes & Affiliates.
The main campus in Cullowhee offers most of the amenities of a small town, including thirteen residence halls, one full-service cafeteria, two food courts with fast-food outlets, health services, counseling, a bookstore, library, two indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, movie theater, jogging trail and quarter-mile track, and intramural fields.
The campus center is the A.K. Hinds University Center. The UC contains the university post office, a movie theater, video and commuter lounges, student organization HQs including the Student Government Association and Last Minute Productions, meeting rooms and office spaces. Outside of the UC is the "Alumni Tower", built in 1989, on the 100th birthday of the university.
The campus residence buildings include one for graduate students and one for married students. Special residence accommodations include honors residence halls and The Village, home to residential Greek organizations. Three new residence facilities were recently completed from a $50.2 million residence hall project. The two newest residence halls on campus are Balsam Residence Hall and Blue Ridge Residence Hall. The $18 million dollar 53,000-square-foot (4,900 m2) campus dining facility was opened in stages beginning in July 2009. Other newly constructed facilities include the Center for Applied Technology (which houses new engineering laboratories); an expanded student life center; new athletic facilities; and a new student support center. A $13.5 million 73,000-square-foot (6,800 m2) Student Recreation Center, was completed over the summer of 2008. Harrill Residence Hall was renovated to add 6,000 square feet (557 m2) and bring the 1971 building to LEED standards of environmental friendliness and energy efficiency, and re-opened in fall 2012.
The new $46.2 million Health and Human Sciences Building opened for use at the start of the 2012–13 academic year, also built to LEED standards. This facility is the first project on the Millennial Initiative property and houses WCU’s educational and outreach programs in the College of Health and Human Sciences. The four-story facility is home to the undergraduate and graduate programs in social work and communication sciences and disorders; graduate programs in physical therapy and health sciences; and undergraduate programs in athletic training, emergency medical care, environmental health, nutrition and dietetics, nursing and recreational therapy.
WCU’s educational facilities in Asheville are located at Biltmore Park, 28 Schenck Pkwy, Ste 300 and the graduate programs are affiliated with the Asheville Graduate Center.
The Western Carolina University Center in Cherokee, North Carolina was established in 1975 in cooperation with the tribal government of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. The center serves Cherokee and the surrounding communities and is available to all of the people of the region.
WCU Student Media
Housed in the Student Media Center (Old Student Union) on the hill area of campus are WCU's Student Media Organizations, which are open to all students and are produced by students. The following organizations are a part of WCU Student Media:
The university produces the following publications and broadcasts:
WCU students, faculty and staff also contribute to:
WCU is home to a wide range of Greek fraternities and sororities, as well as several councils and societies. The Greek community offers many social opportunities to enrich college life. Greeks get personal guidance in planning their curriculum and choosing classes and instructors, and assistance with registration and financial aid. Chapter study sessions, educational programs, tutoring, and study partners and teams offer support for developing and maintaining study skills. Greeks are recognized for their academic successes through Greek scholarship and awards programs and honor societies such as the Order of Omega. According to 2011–12 figures from U.S. News & World Report, 3.4% of WCU's male undergraduate students are in fraternities, while 3.6% of female undergraduate students are in sororities.
As a member of the Southern Conference, Western Carolina University participates in NCAA Division I athletics. Intercollegiate athletics include football, men and women's basketball, baseball, softball, women's soccer, men and women's golf, men and women's track and field (Indoor and Outdoor), cross country running, women's volleyball and tennis. Catamount football is a member of Division I FCS and plays at Whitmire Stadium. The Ramsey Center is home to men's and women's basketball, and women's volleyball. Baseball is played at Hennon Stadium, softball is played at the Catamount Softball Complex, and the Catamount Athletic Complex is home to women's soccer, tennis, and track and field.
On November 29, 1980, Western Carolina's Ronnie Carr made the first intercollegiate three-point field goal in college basketball history versus Middle Tennessee State University, a game WCU won 77–70. The ball he used is on display at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The shot was made from the left corner with 16:09 left in the first half (7:06 pm).
Western Carolina and Appalachian State have a football rivalry in which they Battle for the Old Mountain Jug on an annual basis. The Catamounts football team were runners-up in the Division I-AA National Football Championship Game in 1983.
In addition to NCAA athletics, Western Carolina University is also home to many different club sports and intramurals.  The club sports include:
The Pride of the Mountains is the largest college marching band in the Carolinas and Tennessee. The marching band includes around 380 members, making it one of the largest marching bands in the United States. The band is open to all Western Carolina students regardless of class or major, with approximately 60% of its members non-music majors.
The Pride of the Mountains Marching Band was the special guest at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis in 2003, 2008 and 2012, an honor given to only 1 college band in the United States each year. In addition, the band was also a special guest at the Bands of America Regional’s held in Atlanta in 2006, 2010, and 2011. In 2009, the "Pride of the Mountains" marching band was selected as one of the five best collegiate marching bands in the nation by the College Band Directors National Association and featured in the book "Marching Bands and Drumlines: Secrets of Success from the Best of the Best” by Paul Buyer.
The band is the 2009 recipient of the Sudler Trophy awarded by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. They participated in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, and won the most votes in a "best band" in the parade poll hosted by KTLA-TV. The band also performed at a Carolina Panthers halftime show in 2011.