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Western Carolina University

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Type  Public
Endowment  $64 million
Administrative staff  967
Mascot  Paws the Catamount
Chancellor  David O. Belcher
Established  1889
Academic staff  639
Acceptance rate  40% (2015)
Phone  +1 828-227-7211
Colors  Purple, Gold
Western Carolina University
Provost  Alison Morrison-Shetlar
Address  Nantahala National Forest, 1 University Way, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA
Undergraduate tuition and fees  Local tuition: 6,305 USD (2015), Domestic tuition: 16,698 USD (2015)
Notable alumni  Brad Hoover, Wayne Tolleson, James A Beaty Jr, Clyde Simmons, Rachel Reilly
Similar  Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina, University of North Carolina, North Carolina Central U

Western carolina university top five things to do on campus

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, WCU was founded to educate the people of the western North Carolina mountains. WCU now serves more than 10,000 full-time undergraduate and post graduate students, providing an education to students from 48 states and 35 countries. Enrollment for the Fall 2014 semester was 10,382 students.

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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 with little to no snowfall.

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.

Precis of the university's history

Year – Name and Levels

  1. 1889 Semi-private school
  2. 1891 Cullowhee High School
  3. 1893 First state appropriation; Normal Department established; First graduating class
  4. 1905 Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School
  5. 1912 Junior College rank established; Secondary school discontinued
  6. 1913 First college-level (one-year) degree awarded
  7. 1925 Cullowhee State Normal School
  8. 1929 Western Carolina Teachers College; Senior College rank established
  9. 1931 First Baccalaureate degree awarded
  10. 1951 Graduate degree established
  11. 1952 First master's degree awarded
  12. 1953 Western Carolina College
  13. 1967 Western Carolina University
  14. 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 Alison Morrison-Shetlar 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.

Academic structure

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:

Academic 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 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. 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.

Centers, institutes, and affiliates

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.

Main campus

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 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:

  • WWCU-FM: WWCU-FM, Power 90.5, is the broadcast service of WCU and broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as Jackson County's only FM radio station.
  • WCAT: Cable & Internet radio station offering an eclectic mix of music chosen by student DJs, as well as original talk shows and artist interviews. It broadcasts on the campus closed-circuit television station 22.
  • TV 62: The student-run campus television station, offering original programing to the campus on channel 62. It is WCU’s closed-circuit television station with offices located in the A.K. Hinds University Center, an organization offering original programming that allows students to showcase their short films, as well as announce events on campus and highlight recent sporting events.
  • The Nomad: WCU's Literature & Art magazine, published once a year in the Spring semester. Student staff members work together to produce and distribute WCU’s student literary magazine.
  • The Gadfly: WCU's Journal of Social Criticism and Philosophy. Satirical pieces philosophically critiquing society-at-large in a humorous manner. Published once a semester.
  • Western Carolinian Newspaper: A bi-weekly newspaper focusing on news and events relevant to the campus and surrounding community. Includes News, Features, Sports, and Arts & Entertainment sections. Available in print in the local area and on-line at
  • The Western Carolina Journalist: An online newspaper ran by the Communication department covering news about WCU and the surrounding areas
  • The Tuckasegee Valley Historical Review: The Tuckasegee Valley Historical Review is an annually published graduate history journal. The review publishes articles by WCU graduate students in history with a primarily local focus.
  • University media

    The university produces the following publications and broadcasts:

  • Western Carolina Magazine: A seasonal publication primarily for alumni and friends of WCU, Western Carolina Magazine contains features on university people and programs, alumni updates, and news and events.
  • The Reporter: A weekly electronic newsletter for the faculty and staff of WCU, The Reporter features news, events and campus community updates.
  • MountainRise: An open, peer-reviewed, international electronic journal published twice a year by the Coulter Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning at Western Carolina University for the purpose of being an international vehicle for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL).
  • All-Western Carolina: The All-Western Carolina radio program airs during half-time of Catamount Sports Network broadcasts and highlights WCU’s academic all-stars and happenings on campus.
  • WCU students, faculty and staff also contribute to:

  • WCU on iTunes U Faculty and students are podcasting using WCU on iTunes U service from Apple Inc. This media repository was publicly listed on the iTunes U Colleges and Universities listings in August 2009.
  • Greek life

    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.

    Current NCAA sports at WCU include:

  • Men - Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Track and Field
  • Women - Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Track and Field, Volleyball
  • In addition to NCAA athletics, Western Carolina University is also home to many different club sports and intramurals. The club sports include:

  • Aquatics (Swimming)
  • Ballroom Dance
  • Disc Golf
  • Equestrian
  • Fencing
  • Kendo
  • Men's Soccer
  • Men's Rugby
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Women's Lacrosse
  • Women's Rugby
  • Women's Volleyball
  • Wrestling
  • Concerts and recitals

    The Schools of Music and Fine and Performing Arts offer a variety of events featuring students, faculty, and outside performers. These cultural opportunities are typically relatively cheap, and students can often attend them free of charge.

    Pride of the Mountains

    The Pride of the Mountains is the largest college marching band in the Carolinas and Tennessee. As of Fall 2014, the marching band includes just over 500 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 1998, 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 1995, 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, and performed during the 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    Notable alumni

  • Gerald Austin – NFL referee
  • Bobbi Baker – actress, best known for her role as Kiki on the Tyler Perry sitcom House of Payne
  • James A. Beaty, Jr. – current U.S. District Judge and former nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • Dean Biasucci – athlete, actor; former placekicker, Indianapolis Colts (NFL)
  • Sean Bridgers – actor, writer, director, producer
  • Andrew C. Brock – North Carolina State Senator
  • Jared Burton – professional baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball
  • Kevin Cassels and Tommy Dennison – Musicians with the rock band Mother Vinegar
  • Joe Firstman – musician, former musical director for Carson Daly's house band on Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC
  • Ernest A. Fitzgerald (1947) – Bishop of the United Methodist Church
  • Judy Green – head volleyball coach for the University of Alabama
  • Mel Gibson – former basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers
  • Rich Hall – comedian, former cast member on Saturday Night Live Season 10 and writer for the Late Show with David Letterman
  • Jarvis Hayes – current NBA player for the New Jersey Nets, later transferred to the University of Georgia after a year
  • Greg Holland (baseball) – pitcher, Kansas City Royals, participant in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game for the American League
  • Brad Hoover – former fullback for the Carolina Panthers (NFL).
  • Frank Huguelet – retired professional wrestler who wrestled under the name "'Heavy Metal' Ric Savage.'" Now hosts Spike TV series "Savage Family Diggers"
  • Paul Johnson – Head football coach at Georgia Tech, recipient of the coaching profession's most prestigious honor, the 2004 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award
  • Jeanne Jolly – singer/songwriter, former featured vocalist for Grammy Award winning trumpeter Chris Botti
  • Tony Jones – (football) Started Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII with the Denver Broncos
  • Andrew Jordan – in the NFL for eight seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • David Joy (author) – novelist of the Edgar Award nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go and The Weight Of This World
  • Keith LeClair – both an athlete and coach at Western Carolina University (Player-1985-88 & Coach-1992-97)
  • Henry Logan – Athlete, in 1964 became North Carolina’s first African-American collegiate athlete, and the first to play basketball for a "white" public institution in 1964
  • Kevin Martin – shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was drafted No. 26 in the 2004 NBA Draft by Sacramento.
  • Manteo Mitchell – 2012 World Indoor Champion in Men's 4 × 400 m Relay, participant in the 2012 London Olympic games for Track and Field; won Silver medal after helping Team USA advance to finals.
  • Nick McNeil – WWE professional wrestler. Wrestles under the ring name '"Showtime!' Percy Watson" on WWE NXT. He previously played football in the NFL and was a former WCU football all-conference defensive end.
  • David Patten – NFL wide receiver, three-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Currently with the Cleveland Browns
  • Dave Pember – former pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers
  • Rachel Reilly – contestant on the reality television show "Big Brother" in season 12 and winner of "Big Brother" season 13; contestant on season 20 & 24 of the reality television show "The Amazing Race." Network TV Host & Actress
  • David Sedaris – humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor
  • Geno Segers – actor, former WCU football standout, played rugby league for American National Rugby League and professionally for Richmond Rovers in New Zealand. Performed as Mufasa in the Australian production of The Lion King. Currently seen on Disney Channel's Pair of Kings.
  • Clyde Simmons – defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Tim Sinicki – Head baseball coach at Binghamton
  • Matt Stillwell – Nashville recording artist
  • John Taylor – star of the Emmy Award-nominated weight loss series Too Fat for 15: Fighting Back, and New Jersey's State Teacher of the Year for 2016
  • Wayne Tolleson – athlete; former Major League Baseball player.
  • Willie Williams – NFL defensive back for Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks
  • Notable faculty

  • Terrance Mann - Actor, director, singer, songwriter, and dancer who has been prominent on Broadway stage for three decades. Nominated for a 2013 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Pippin.
  • Ron Rash - Pen Faulkner award winning author of Serena. Film adaptation of Serena released in 2015 starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Film adaptation of Rash's 2006 novel The World Made Straight expected in 2015 starring Noah Wyle and Minka Kelly.
  • Robert J. Conley - First American Indian to lead Western Writers of America while at Western Carolina University in 2010. He has received numeroues awards for his writning including the Spur Award for best Western novel in 1995, and short stories in 1988 and 1992. In 2007, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.
  • References

    Western Carolina University Wikipedia

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