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UNC Asheville and Asheville City Schools Dual Enrollment Agreement

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

ASHEVILLE NC – Students of Asheville High School and SILSA (School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville) will soon be able to take courses at UNC Asheville while still in high school beginning next fall as part of a new dual enrollment agreement signed today.

UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant and Asheville City Schools (ACS) Superintendent Pamela Baldwin signed the agreement at UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library as students of both high schools, ACS Board Chair Jacquelyn Hallum, UNC Asheville Provost Joseph Urgo and other education leaders looked on.

“What this means is that students from the Asheville City Schools, in addition to the excellent work that’s happening there, will be able to take real college courses for real college credits which expedites the time toward a degree and exposes them to a higher level of work,” said UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant.

“We are excited that our students will be able to extend their learning throughout their tenure here at Asheville City Schools and work with a wonderful university,” said Asheville City School Superintendent Pamela Baldwin. “This is an opportunity for exposure to college. … Our students will know there’s an avenue for success.”

“Having true partnerships with our K-12 system and early childhood educators is essential,” said Grant. “That is what’s going to set us apart as a community, as a democracy. … And there’s more to come. We’re going to do a lot more with our partners in the schools.”

Grant and Baldwin, who both assumed their positions within the academic year, also thanked key staff members at both institutions for working together to expand the partnerships and focus on student success.

WCU Offering New Online Master’s Degree Programs in Education

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – The University of North Carolina Board of Governors gave its approval Friday, Oct. 24, for Western Carolina University to begin offering its master’s degree programs in middle grades and elementary education exclusively online.

The approval enables WCU to phase out its existing residential-based graduate programs in middle grades and elementary education and replace them with online programs consisting of 30 credit hours each. The new programs, both with a strong focus on professional development, can be completed in as little as two years.

Moving the programs to a totally distance-education format will better serve the needs of prospective students, most of whom are professional educators already working in elementary and middle schools in the region, said Dale Carpenter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions.

“This change will greatly increase the access of our programs to teachers across Western North Carolina and beyond,” Carpenter said. “Public and private school teachers who are interested in enhancing their classroom skills, honing their leadership abilities or moving into other educational positions in their schools or districts often find it difficult to attend evening classes. Those teachers will now be able to access our programs online.”

Completion of the programs will lead to a master of arts degree in education (MAEd), with a concentration in either elementary or middle grades education.

Students in the elementary education program can choose a literacy or academically/intellectually gifted track, while those in the middle grades education program will focus on how to integrate language arts and literacy courses into all content areas including mathematics, science and social studies.

The curricular and instructional delivery changes sought by the College of Education and Allied Professions and approved by the UNC board are pedagogically sound and will have a positive impact in attracting, retaining and teaching students, said Mimi Fenton, WCU’s dean of the Graduate School and Research.

“These changes are poised to make a positive difference by enabling the programs to be able to better serve the needs of teachers in the region and state,” Fenton said.

Applications for the revamped graduate degree programs in middle grades and elementary education are being accepted now for enrollment in the spring semester.

For more information or to apply, contact Roya Scales, program coordinator, at [email protected] or 828-227-2061, or visit WCU School of Teaching and Learning website at stl.wcu.edu.

WCU Enrollment Hits 10,382 for Another Record Year

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – One year after total student enrollment at Western Carolina University topped 10,000 for the first time in the institution’s history, records continue to tumble at WCU as this fall’s official enrollment stands at 10,382.

University officials say the 2.7 percent jump in the total student population over last year’s tally of 10,107 is driven in part by an increase in the size of the freshman class and another year of improved retention rates.

That’s the word from WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, which compiles official census statistics for reporting to the University of North Carolina system.

The number of first-time, full-time freshmen at WCU this fall is 1,745, up 8.1 percent from the fall 2013 freshman class of 1,614, said Tim Metz, assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness.

The university’s freshman retention rate – the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who returned for their sophomore year – is nearly 78 percent, comparable to last year’s record of approximately 79 percent, Metz said.

The average high school weighted grade-point average for the freshman class this year is 3.74, up from last year’s overall freshman class GPA of 3.67, he said.

Although classes began at the university Monday, Aug. 18, enrollment numbers are not official until after the 10th day of classes, referred to as “census day.” Even then, the numbers are not considered final until any errors have been corrected and the files have been submitted to UNC General Administration.

Adjustments do need to be made on occasion, as was the case last year when the university announced a fall 2013 enrollment of 10,106 students, only to find that a coding error resulted in one student being missed in the preliminary count – and to an actual enrollment tally of 10,107.

Despite the fact that the dust barely has settled on the 2013-14 student recruitment cycle, the Office of Undergraduate Admission currently is at work sorting through applications for WCU’s freshman class of 2015.

In fact, more than 2,000 high school students already have submitted applications for admission for next fall, said Phil Cauley, director of student recruitment and transitions.

“Enrollment growth can’t be attributed to any one thing,” Cauley said. “Certainly, as the student enrollment has grown, word of mouth is a great advantage as there are more WCU students who are back in their hometowns talking up WCU. The momentum we’ve enjoyed from the growth helps with continued momentum, but that momentum didn’t just happen and can be attributed to a mix of strategies and many factors.”

Among those strategies, he said, is increasing the size of the overall pool of prospective students, emphasizing the importance of “fit” so that students select a college that is right for them, and focusing on university programming aimed at helping first-year students successfully make the transition from high school to college life.

The Office of Undergraduate Admission encourages students to visit campus, either through attendance at one of several Open House events held throughout the year or by participating in expanded weekday campus tour options, to see if WCU is the right fit for them, Cauley said.

The first of four scheduled Open House events for prospective WCU students and their parents is set for Saturday, Sept. 20. Additional events at WCU are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 22; Saturday, Feb. 14; and Saturday, March 21.

For more information on Open House at WCU, visit the website openhouse.wcu.edu.

WCU New Lifelong Learning Program for WNC Retirees This Fall

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – Western Carolina University is launching a new lifelong learning institute aimed at people age 50 and older across Western North Carolina who are interested in enriching their lives through the pursuit of knowledge.

The institute, based on the idea that “learning is for everyone” and titled [email protected], will feature weekly interactive seminars in Cullowhee and Asheville. Sessions will focus on a wide variety of topics spanning business, history, science, literature, politics and personal development.

[email protected] is designed to extend to residents of the greater WNC community the wide array of academic resources available at the university and in the community, said Alison Morrison-Shetlar, WCU provost.

“The LIFE program is for retirees, alumni and community members seeking to engage in lifelong learning. It is for those seeking networking, community and engagement in the learning process,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “The program topics will nourish the mind, spirit and body.”

The mission of [email protected] is simple, she said. “We want to establish a community of lifelong learners, age 50 and over, by offering participant-determined topics of interest that promote learning and community-university engagement,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “The programs are intended to enrich the quality of life for seasoned adults as they learn new things, meet new people and exchange ideas.”

The institute will include educational lectures, social opportunities and field trips as presenters, including university faculty, share expertise from a variety of backgrounds, she said.

Sessions are weekly for 12 weeks during the fall and spring semesters. Fall semester programs are tentatively scheduled to get underway Sept. 9 in Cullowhee and Sept. 10 in Asheville.

Participants will register for sessions being held at one of two sites. Programs will be held Tuesdays at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching adjacent to the WCU campus in Cullowhee, and Wednesdays at the university’s instructional site at Biltmore Park Town Square, located at 28 Schenck Parkway in Asheville. Sessions at both sites will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until noon.

Among the proposed topics for this fall are “Operations of the Biltmore House,” “Useful Legal Matters,” “Cherokee and the Seven Clans,” “How the Civil War Affected WNC,” “Native Plants,” “Local Scenic Hikes,” “Making the Theory of Evolution Clear to People Like You and Me,” “Storytelling in Appalachia,” “Seeing, Imagining and Recording: The Process of Creative Writing,” “Theater and Design,” “The Major Differences between the Core Beliefs of Conservatives and Liberals,” “State and Federal Politics and Trends: Impact on the Economy and Education,” “Terrorism and Global Threats,” “Being and Doing Good” and “Living While Dying.

The final lineup of program topics will be announced soon.

Cost of membership in the institute is $125 per year, including 24 engaged learning experiences with opportunities to take part in additional activities related to some of the topics. Participants may attend all or as many sessions as they like.

“For example, participants might hear from the director of a play about how to develop and put on a performance, and then go and see the play,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “Or participants might hear about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, and then go visit the town of Cherokee and see it with different eyes.”

For more information or to register for the [email protected] institute, contact the Division of Educational Outreach at 828-227-7397 or [email protected], or visit the website life.wcu.edu.

Growing Green Schools in NC

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – Six North Carolina schools received NC Green School awards this year in recognition of the schools‘ environmental leadership and engagement in sustainability activities. There are three levels of Green School Recognition Awards: NC Green School of Promise, NC Green School of Quality, and NC Green School of Excellence. Rainbow Community School is the first school to earn the highest recognition as a NC Green School of Excellence. Rainbow’s Director Renee Owen commented, “We are very honored. Rainbow Community School is committed to nurturing children so that they grow and thrive in a sustainable world with an appreciation for the planet in which they live. We hope to be a beacon of light for others to follow.”

Other NC schools also earned awards, including one NC Green Schools of Promise: Fairview Elementary (Buncombe), and four NC Green Schools of Quality: Hall Fletcher Elementary (Asheville), Queens Creek Elementary (Swansboro), Koontz Intermediate (Buncombe), and Cane Creek Middle School (Buncombe). “We understand how stretched teachers are these days and we are so proud of these schools for their commitment to having a lighter footprint and teaching with the environment in mind,” said Katie Cavert Ferrell, Program Director of NC Green Schools. Schools will be honored at award ceremonies.

A volunteer team of professional architects, county planners and community educators ranked the school applications on how well they met certain criteria based on these five components: Culture and Community, School Sustainability, Healthy Schools, Curriculum Integration, and Innovation. The schools with the highest scores are ones who engage the most students, teachers, parents and the surrounding community in school projects that have a positive impact on student learning and the environment. “I enjoyed this process and am proud to serve the community in this way.Rainbow Community School has made an amazing effort to green their school and I am glad to know so much more about the school than I did before. In my opinion they are very deserving of the Green School of Excellence designation!” said Torin Kexel, Building Performance Director at Green Opportunities in Asheville and a NC Green Schools judge.

NC Green Schools evolved from Reading Riding Retrofit, a program created to help reduce energy costs, support environmental education and encourage sustainability practices within the public schools in Buncombe County. In 2010-2012, the program made a significant impact with an EPA Sustainable Communities Showcase Grant. “We built a strong team of community partners and the schools successfully cut $250,000 from the school’s energy budget per year and have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by over 1250 tons, annually!” said Robin Cape, Executive Director of NC Green Schools. “Since then, we have worked to support schools across the state with resources and tools for teachers and we are excited to celebrate these green schools’ successes.” said Ferrell. The NC Green Schools Learning Network plans to offer workshops for teachers who want to learn more and connect with like-minded educators about how their school can implement programs like Hall Fletcher’s successful composting initiative and Rainbow Community’s use of outdoor educational space.

A-B Tech Students in NASA’s Aerospace Scholars Program

Monday, March 24th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – A-B Tech Community College students Kris Ridenour and Mike Blackwater were two of the 40 students in the United States chosen by NASA to participate as Aerospace Scholars at the Marshall Space Flight Center February 26-28.

Community and junior college students from across the nation apply to be part of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) project. Participants apply what they have learned during the year to work with NASA engineers.

“The NASA NCAS engineering contest was the most challenging fun we have ever experienced. The three-day contest, coupled with the three interactive engineering lab tours, was very educational and will most likely end up being a career changing experience,” said Blackwater.

They competed for a spot in Huntsville through an application process and scores from online lessons, where they created plans for their own Mars mission including a 3D rover design.

Ridenour and Blackwater were encouraged to apply for the program by instructors Tammy Sullivan, Math Chair and Jim Sullivan, Civil Engineering and Geomatics Technology Chair. “I wouldn’t have tried to do it if it weren’t for her (Tammy’s) encouragement,” Ridenour said.

Ridenour is studying computer engineering after 10 years in the Army where he served as a scout. “I decided to come to A-B Tech to do something more out of life,” he said.

“Kris is extremely bright, dedicated and loves to learn.  He is such a wonderful addition to our class with his real-world knowledge and experiences.  For example, when we were studying Laws of Sines and Cosines, he shared with the class how this is used in the Army during different missions and in-field training,” Tammy Sullivan said.

Blackwater was in the rental real estate field and wanted a bigger challenge. He said his dream job has always been to work at NASA. “As long as I’ve known him, he’s been interested in space and NASA, and at one point he was signing his e-mail with, ‘Mike Blackwater – Future NASA Scientist,’” Jim Sullivan said.

“He’s a pleasure to have in class, in many ways a catalyst who makes the entire class more engaged with his enthusiasm for learning. He’s taken the initiative to form study groups for many of his classes, which improves the performance of everyone in the group. He’s a great student and a natural leader, gregarious and fun to be around,” Jim Sullivan said.

While at NASA, students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for building a functional prototype rover and forming a company infrastructure, including budget, communications and presentations. A-B Tech was represented on the team that won the rover competition held at Marshall. The on-site experience at NASA includes a tour of facilities and briefings by NASA subject matter

Star Party and Solar Observing NC Science Festival at UNC Asheville

Monday, March 24th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – UNC Asheville’s main quad will be part of a statewide star viewing party and also will host a solar observing event in April. Both events are free and open to the public, presented jointly by the UNC Asheville Department of Physics and the Astronomy Club of Asheville as part of the North Carolina Science Festival.

The star viewing party will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 4 on UNC Asheville’s main quad. Participants will use telescopes to view the moon, Jupiter, star clusters and galaxies. The evening will include two indoor educational activity sessions as well, where participants can model moon phases and cratering processes, from 7:45–8:30 p.m. and 8:45–9:30 p.m. in Rhoades Robinson Hall, room 119.

The solar observing event will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, April 11 on UNC Asheville’s main quad, and will include safely observing the sun through telescopes with a variety of filters to see sunspots, prominences and more.

Both events are part of the North Carolina Science Festival, a two-week statewide series of events showcasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The North Carolina Science Festival provides us with a wonderful opportunity to bring people together to share in the excitement of astronomical observing,” said Judy Beck, lecturer in physics at UNC Asheville. “Viewing the moon’s impressive, cratered surface through a telescope gives people a whole new appreciation of our closest astronomical neighbor, and glimpsing star clusters, nebulae and distant galaxies is also a thrill.”

For more information about the North Carolina Science Festival, visit the festival’s website. For information on the events at UNC Asheville, including the latest updates regarding cloudy weather and possible cancellations, visit the Astronomy Club’s website, or contact Bud Holmes at 828.251.6442.

WCU’s HR Program Earns “Best Buy” Designation

Monday, March 24th, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – Western Carolina University’s online master’s degree programs in human resources and project management have received high national rankings in affordability and “Best Buy” designations from the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com.

WCU’s human resources program was ranked No. 3 in affordability following a national survey of 37 regionally accredited higher education institutions that offer online master’s degrees in that academic field, said Melissa Eubank, director of information services for GetEducated.com.

The survey showed that the average cost of an online master’s degree in human resources nationwide is about $23,500. The cost of WCU’s program is $9,339 for North Carolina residents.

WCU’s project management program was ranked No. 5 in affordability based on a survey of 69 regionally accredited colleges that offer online master’s degrees in management and administration.

The survey showed that the average cost of an online master’s degree in project management nationwide is about $23,200. North Carolina residents pay $9,339 to take the program at WCU.

Earlier this year, GetEducated.com gave WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship a No. 2 national ranking in affordability. Other WCU online master’s programs that have received high rankings from the clearinghouse in recent years are nurse educator, nurse administration and health sciences.

Information about the university’s online programs is available at the website distance.wcu.edu or by calling the Division of Educational Outreach at 828-227-7397.

WCU Offering Business Communications Series in Asheville

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – Western Carolina University’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education is offering a series of three workshops in Asheville to help business owners and employees learn to communicate more professionally and effectively through their writing.

Each session will be held on a Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at WCU’s instructional site at Biltmore Park Town Square. Instructors will be WCU Department of English faculty members Diane Martinez and Drew Virtue.

The cost is $79 for each session or $220 for all three, and lunch is included. Participants completing all three workshops will earn a non-credit certificate in business communications.

The first workshop, “Essentials of Excellent Business Writing,” will be held Feb. 7. A morning class on “Most Common Writing Mistakes and How to Correct Them” will cover topics such as grammar, lack of audience, purpose and context. An afternoon class on “Hallmarks of Effective Business Writing” will build on the morning class and allow participants to learn how to turn mistakes into effective and compelling business writing in various formats.

The second workshop, “Writing for Web and Social Media,” is set for March 7. Participants will learn about business applications and successful business writing for social media, and also the basics of writing Web content.

The third workshop, “Proposals and Grant Writing,” will be held April 4 and will cover the basics of how to write effective proposals and grants in the workplace. The information provided will be applicable to both commercial and nonprofit organizations.

For more information or to register, go to learn.wcu.edu and click on “Professional Development” or call 828-227-7397.

WCU’s Online Entrepreneurship Program Earns “Best Buy” Designation

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

ASHEVILLE NC – Western Carolina University’s online bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship has received a high national ranking in affordability and “Best Buy” designation from the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com.

WCU’s program was ranked No. 2 in affordability following a national survey of 69 regionally accredited higher education institutions that offer 165 business management-related online bachelor’s degrees, said Melissa Eubank, director of information services for GetEducated.com.

The survey showed that the average cost of an online bachelor’s degree in business is about $53,000, with the most expensive program coming in at more than $131,000, Eubank said. The cost of WCU’s program is $19,715 for North Carolina residents.

“WCU’s College of Business is always pleased to see third-party affirmation of our quality and affordability,” said Darrell Parker, dean of the college. “Our bachelor of science in business administration degree in entrepreneurship is an excellent choice for those students seeking an online accredited business degree.”

Earlier this month, WCU was listed among the nation’s best providers of online bachelor’s degree programs in a collection of rankings released by U.S. News and World Report. The magazine ranked WCU in 34th place on a list of 205 schools that offer the “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.”

WCU’s online bachelor’s program in criminal justice and another online undergraduate program that allows registered nurses to enhance their educations by earning bachelor’s degrees in nursing, known as the RN to BSN, have previously received high national rankings and have been listed as “Best Buys” by GetEducated.com. Online master’s programs that have received those distinctions are project management, human resources, nurse educator, nurse administration and health sciences.

Information about the university’s online programs is available at the website distance.wcu.edu or by calling the Office of Educational Outreach at 828-227-7397.