Western Carolina University has grown considerably in the past 30 years and is continuing that progressive movement. The student body has grown to an amazing figure of over 9,000. There are 457 full-time faculty members to assist all aspects of a student’s needs. To accommodate the growing population of the university, the campus grounds have also increased to approximately 600 acres with more construction happening all the time. There is a new cafeteria area now under construction and a new dorm to replace Leatherwood in the works. The academics have also seen many improvements over the years.
Compared to Madison’s handful of courses, let alone majors and concentrations, during the 1880’s, the university currently has 160 accredited, nationally renowned, majors/areas of concentration and 60 graduate school programs. The well-used Hunter Library can boast being the largest in western North Carolina. WCU is also concerned about equal opportunities and equal educational experiences. The University provides programs like the Mountain Heritage Center, Cherokee Center, Craft Revival Project and Hispanic Heritage Month programs to expose students to a wide variety of cultures.
Chancellor John W. Bardo, who has been at the Western Carolina since 1995, has watched the changes that have occurred at WCU with pride. And despite the rare events such as the bear, Chancellor Bardo is optimistic about the future direction of Western Carolina University. Concerning the bear incident, Chancellor Bardo made the statement in a speech given on the UC lawn, Wednesday October 22, “that nine thousand members of this university community did not do that. We are not going to allow seven people to define who we are. You are better than that. You are Western Carolina University.”
WCU admittedly still has a lot of growing to do and many things that could be improved upon. For example, Dr. Terry Nienhuis, a recently retired professor of English, has stated that the faculty at WCU need to provide students with better information to prepare them for the world they are about to go into, and not just academically. However, for all its faults (parking included), WCU is ranked among the nation’s leading colleges with good reason.