The Western Carolinian polled students to find out what questions they would ask Chancellor Brown. The Carolinian then asked Chancellor Brown your questions. Here are her responses.
Diversity, Student Voices
What steps are you taking to ensure that minority students and students from marginalized communities are heard and protected?
This past year we concluded the year-long work of the Blue-Ribbon Task Force, under the leadership of Dr. Kim Gorman, Dr. Katerina Spasovska, Co-chairs, and Dr. Ricardo Nazario-Colón, WCU’s Chief Diversity Officer. They, along with 26 members of our faculty, students, staff and community, created our first institutional Inclusive Excellence strategic action plan titled Lean Forward.
What steps are you taking so students from all walks of life feel valued and heard?
The Lean Forward plan includes specific goals and initiatives to address the issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). You can locate the plan on our website. As we move forward with the implementation strategy of the Lean Forward plan, units across campus will have the opportunity to develop their individual strategies. By choosing this approach, each unit can tailor its initiatives to align with its individual purpose. The collective action by our campus will be measured and assessed to determine how well we are doing at growing our climate of belonging. A strong climate of belonging which we have committed to growing will be the way that our community will feel valued and heard.
What do you think about campus diversity?
I am fully committed to further enhancing our campus diversity. WCU is an institution that values each one of its community members. Our best investment in diversity is our investment in our community members. We invested hundreds of hours in professional development in order to improve our recruitment and hiring process. This year’s first-year students are the most diverse freshman class in Western’s history. As is the nature of higher education, some of our faculty and staff retire, leave higher education, pursue the next chapter of their careers in other places. We work hard each year to replenish our ranks with individuals who will advance our academic mission and support our diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) efforts.
Are there any plans in place to increase and retain diversity in our community?
Again, I would refer you to the many initiatives outlined in the Lean Forward plan. Currently, we have various intentional initiatives that are targeting the increase and retention of diversity in our community. The following were started a year ago:
Teaching & Learning Days
A collaboration between Coulter Faculty Commons for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CFC), Office of the Provost, and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), established Teaching & Learning Day to be held near the start of the Spring and Fall semesters. The first T&L Day was held in January 2021, themed around Inclusive Pedagogy with an external keynote speaker and afternoon workshops for faculty professional development.
Inclusive Pedagogy Faculty Fellows
An initiative led by the Associate Dean of Hunter Library, and supported by the Office of the Provost, and CFC, the program for Inclusive Pedagogy Fellows, paired four WCU faculty with two faculty mentors with expertise in inclusive pedagogy for a year-long program of course redesign with a focus on inclusive teaching best practices. The pilot program launched in Spring 2021.
Faculty Diversity Officer program
The Faculty Diversity Officer (FDO) program was designed to develop faculty to serve as peer search committee members with a particular focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and attention to implicit bias that may occur in faculty searches. FDOs will be assigned to searches outside of their home colleges to bring outside perspectives to the search process. The pilot program is a collaboration between the Office of the Provost, Human Resources, and the CDO and launches in Fall 2021.
These are only but a few initiatives that we have intentionally and strategically started. The implementation of the Lean Forward plan will provide more intentional actions from our campus community.
Facilities, Parking, Dining
What plans are there to improve the food options and quality of the food?
The first few weeks of every Fall semester are challenging as Catamount Dining works to hire and train hundreds of student employees. In addition to professional staff, over 170 employees have been hired since the start of the Fall semester. These employees are key to expanding offerings and providing consistent experiences on campus. Over the coming days and weeks, locations will continue to open and expand hours. Moe’s will be serving lunch and dinner beginning next week, and we plan to open Einstein Bros. Bagels soon after.
Service naturally improves as more options are available and locations are staffed with trained employees. National and regional supply chains continue to present logistical issues, and we work hard to mitigate those issues so that many go unnoticed by our guests. Catamount Dining appreciates the patience and support they have had from the community as they continue to work hard for our students.
What plans are there to improve the parking situation?
Parking on any university campus is a challenge. WCU always considers parking in all campus strategic planning decisions and/or actions. But the thing that we, like most universities, cannot do is provide convenient parking immediately adjacent to every building. Here are some of our paradigms:
- We are always able to provide a parking space for any student who has a parking permit. We are not always able to provide the space close to the destination building.
- A key component to campus master planning is to create and promote safe pedestrian connectivity by minimizing vehicular and pedestrian interaction. WCU encourages a “parking once” mindset. Commuter parking is intentionally located on the campus perimeter with transit service (Cat Tran). This strategy helps to reduce traffic congestion in the center of campus, conflicts with pedestrians, and leads to a parking system that removes the need to drive around to find the best space.
- As previously stated, parking is always a consideration in WCU’s strategic planning. The following are recent parking projects completed:
- A new 413-space parking lot and a new 100-space parking lot were brought online Fall 2019.
- An additional 237-space lot came online during Spring 2020.
- A new 1000-space parking deck came online in Fall 2021.
Are there plans to improve the conditions of the dorms? (i.e. – getting AC in dorms without it, routine maintenance, updating dorms to be disability accessible)
WCU has an ongoing plan to update (or retire) the older residence halls. The addition of Noble Hall in 2016, Allen Hall in 2019, and The Rocks this year are examples of that plan. This addition of 2000 new beds allowed us to retire (replace) Scott and Walker (1100 beds) and will allow us to take our other dorms offline in the coming years for renovation, replacement, or retirement. The next buildings being evaluated for the next phase of work or retirement are Albright-Benton, Robertson, Reynolds, and Buchanan.
What are WCU’s future plans for expansion or development? We just completed a Campus Master Plan Update. It can be found at https://www.wcu.edu/learn/office-of-the-provost/oipe/strategic-planning.aspx or by searching “Campus Master Planning” on the WCU homepage. This is a very comprehensive plan and is a discussion topic by itself.
How can the campus become more disability accessible and friendly? We are currently soliciting a consultant to perform an Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan. This plan will be a study of our campus to identify areas where we need improvement and to help prioritize the recommendations so that we can seek funding for the work. Of course, our topography presents us with some difficult challenges in our outdoor spaces.