Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo discussed with university trustees Thursday, June 7, several campus reorganizations that are designed to forge a stronger link between students and faculty and WCU’s regional outreach programs. “This new process should allow the university to bring increased resources to the benefit of the region, even in tight budget times,” Bardo told the trustees at their quarterly meeting.
Under the reorganization plan, to take effect this academic year, the title of the Mountain Resource Center will change to the Center for Regional Development. The center, which provides regional development assistance to the westernmost counties of North Carolina, will report to the vice chancellor for academic affairs.
To improve the university’s ability to assist the hospitality industry in Western North Carolina and to provide extensive educational opportunities for students in hospitality management, Bardo announced the establishment of an educational institute for tourism research within the hospitality management program in the College of Applied Sciences.
The tourism research institute will focus on data collection and data analysis related to marketing hospitality businesses in WNC. The changes, which come as the university is facing a possible cut of 2 percent, or about $1 million, in the state-funded portion of its operating budget, are designed to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve the effectiveness of outreach services to the region, Bardo told the board. “This process of increasing effectiveness and efficiency in certain areas if the institution also will enable us to minimize the effects of the budget cut on other programs where we have made important strides over the last several years,” Bardo said. The Mountain Resource Center’s economic development activities and other regional outreach efforts now will be carried out by the Center for Regional Development, which will increase its focus on such areas as polling, citizen attitude analysis, grant proposal assistance and short-term intervention to assist towns, counties and non-profit organizations. Moving the Center for Regional Development to the Division of Academic Affairs will bring greater faculty and student involvement to the university’s outreach and service arm, Bardo said, assuring a connection between crucial academic programs and outreach services and increasing the intellectual resources available to the region. Western North Carolina Tomorrow, a 17-county regional leadership organization headquartered in the MRC, and the University Economic Development Administration Center, which provides specialized services for local government, will be part of the new Center for Regional Development. Creation of the Institute for Tourism Research comes as Western is in the early stages of planning a new Hospitality Management Center that is expected to be funded by federal grants from the Small Business Administration.
Western has been working with Smokey Mountain Host, a regional travel and tourism organization, for the last two years on the possible development of a specialization in tourism research.
The Mountain Resource Center’s Local Government Training Program, which links the region with the N.C. Institute of Government, and its on-going programs in nonprofit management offered in partnership with Duke University will continue under the jurisdiction of the Division of Continuing Education and Summer School. The western region of the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center, currently part of MRC, will be moved to the College of Business. The SBTDC offers business counseling services throughout the region. The trustees also endorsed the creation of a Residential Center for Service Learning, a student community that will be designed to integrate student community service and volunteerism as part of the academic curriculum. The living and learning center will be housed in the building that is currently home to University Health Services, after the completion of renovations approved in the November 2000 higher education bond referendum.