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Project Title:Re-focusing a University on Regional Stewardship and EngagementInstitution Name:Western Carolina University Innovation Category:Research and Regional Stewardship Project Director:John Bardo, ChancellorContact Information:(828) 227-7100 , jbardo@wcu.eduWebsite:
Project Description:Through a commitment to region and community, WCU has re-focused the curriculum around integrated experiential learning; adopting a faculty reward system focused on the Boyer Model; and developing a campus master plan that integrates education, business, governmental agencies, residences, and NGO's within the context of an educational environment. The theoretical model for this development is AASCU's "Stewards of Place."
  1. Creating an approach to education that fully integrates classroom and experiential learning based on learning outcomes.
  2. Assessing complex learning outcomes using longitudinal e-portfolio techniques to assure student intellectual and social growth and program effectiveness.
  3. Focusing faculty hiring and rewards more directly on community relationships and impact.
  4. Managing direct community linkages and stronger curricular approaches.
  1. In 2009-2010, 160 faculty members participated in service-learning projects compared to 75 in 2006-2007. 
  2. Approximately 7,200 (of 9,400) students participated in service learning in 2010 compared to approximately 5,000 in 2006-2007.
  3. The E-portfolio is a core qualitative assessment tool for all implemented curricula; every program must be on-line with the e-portfolio by 2011.
  4. NSSE has shown marked improvement compared to other institutions nationally.
  5. Student retention rates have increased from the upper 60s to the middle 70 percents.
  6. WCU engineering-related programs have intervened with more than 250 businesses in last five years.
  7. WCU was second in nation in number of papers accepted for NCUR in 2010.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:This move represents a major culture change for the institution, its trustees, and for the state.  Reallocating resources, re-focusing curricula, and implementing new and different models of faculty evaluation take a great deal of time, communication and policy changes.
Evaluation Approach:Because this project represents a shift in the direction of the institution, evaluation is institution-wide and involves all divisions.  The Office of Planning and Assessment coordinates collection of data.  However, because this approach will now be the basis of our decennial review by SACS, evaluation is institutional and involves the Strategic Planning Committee, many other institutional committees, and the entire executive team. 
Potential for Replication:This model was developed specifically to be replicated.  It is designed to focus a university on the emerging links between student learning, community and regional engagement, scholarly development, and the rapidly changing conditions in society.  The curriculum model was called the "most important experiment in curriculum change" of which the committee was aware by the SACS visiting team.
AASCU Resources:

Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place (AASCU), 2002 


Additional Resources:

University of North Carolina Tomorrow: http://www.northcarolina.edu/nctomorrow/index.htm 

Western Carolina University: Quality Enhancement Plan: http://www.wcu.edu/12284.asp 

CEO-to-CEO Contact:David O. Belcher , Chancellordbelcher@wcu.edu
(828) 227-7100
Date Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011