Western Carolina University

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

North Carolina Republican legislative leaders continue to pass ‘mini-budgets’ as negotiations remain stagnant with Democratic governor Roy Cooper over his veto of their full spending plan.  Without a full budget, construction projects across the state are unfinished or un-started. Here’s a look at one such project. 

 Western Carolina University is heated by its steam plant, which was built almost 100 years ago. The university is currently waiting for $16.5 million in state funds to update it. 

Lilly Knoepp

Prescription opioid abuse has been in the national spotlight this summer as new data about the numbers of prescriptions per county has been released. North Carolina is also part of national lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma for their role in the crisis. 

Nick Breedlove/Jackson County TDA

  Fall is not just a beautiful season in the mountains of Western North Carolina. The foliage is also an economic driver for the region.

Dr. Beverly Collins is a biology professor at Western Carolina University. She predicted a bright and colorful leaf season but the September weather might be changing that forecast.

“We’ve been having a pretty intense heat wave since August,” says Collins.


Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

  It was 1957 when Dr. Levern Hamlin Allen headed to what was then called Western Carolina College. Allen remembers the long drive to Cullowhee from her where she was living in Charlotte in those days. 

“Oh 1957 that was a long time ago. When I look at the pictures of how tiny I was,”says Allen.  

Lilly Knoepp

  The Appalachian Regional Commission is holding its annual summit this week in Asheville.  The federal organization funds projects in  420 counties in 13 states from Mississippi to New York – including in Western North Carolina. 

 The Appalachian Regional Commission was created in 1965 to work on economic development and infrastructure projects such as highways in the region. 

Lilly Knoepp

Western Carolina University has been breaking enrollment records for years but as they expand they need to continue to remember their history. BPR digs into their recent archaeological finds. 


Under a hot sun, students wield tiny trowels and dust pans to unearth ancient artifacts under the supervision of their archaeology professor. 


Lilly Knoepp

  The Cherokee language is officially in a state of emergency. The number of fluent speakers has been dwindling for years. BPR spoke with Cherokee language experts about what is being done to teach and preserve their native tongue. 

There are only about 200 fluent Cherokee speakers left in the Eastern Band of the Cherokee(EBCI) and only about 2,000 nationwide.  Leaders in the Eastern Band say that’s not because the language isn’t being taught - but rather a lack of teachers and Cherokee families speaking the language at home. 

Wikimedia Commons

Western Carolina University is adding to its degree offerings, to better reflect the growing diversity on campus. The Latinx student population has increased significantly in less than a decade, to 700 students in 2018, compared to 105 in 2010.

Lilly Knoepp

  Western Carolina’s 12th chancellor was introduced for the first time on campus today.


Chancellor-elect Kelli Brown was welcomed with a standing ovation today in her first address on the Western Carolina University campus. Brown highlighted her commitment to higher education and to first generation college graduates during her speech to faculty and community members.

Lilly Knoepp

  Western Carolina University has grown leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. However, that hasn’t been the case for the Cullowhee area.  Here’s more on the growth of college town.


Courtesy of Western Carolina University

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has announced the new chancellor of Western Carolina University. Kelli R. Brown, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Georgia College & State University, will serve as the 12th chancellor of the University.

Lilly Knoepp

  Artists at Western Carolina University and a historic 20th century house might be an odd combination. But they share a common goal. Here’s how this unlikely duo is hoping to build a community.


Holding onto memories of Appalachian traditions can take many forms. Artists, preservations and oral historians are all working to protect those memories - each in different ways.


Lilly Knoepp

It’s Sunshine Week - which media outlets use to underscore the importance of government transparency and access to public records.  The Sylva Herald recently had to take legal action against Western Carolina University over a public document regarding the Cullowhee Dam. Herald reporter Dave Russell joined BPR’s Lilly Knoepp to talk about why the Jackson County paper felt the document was important enough to fight for.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The Southern Conference basketball championships return to Asheville this weekend.  Both the men's and women's tournaments will be played at the ExploreAsheville.com Arena at the U.S.

Jeremy James

The percentage of black students at four of Western North Carolina's universities is low, and so is the number of faculty members at each schools that could mentors for those students.

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

This week, Western Carolina University Board of Trustees approved increased fees and rates for the 2019-20 academic year. Overall, mandatory fees paid by students will increase by $48 dollars per year or 1.7 percent.

This includes an $8 increase in the health services feel, $14 increase in the student activity fee and a $26 per year increase in the university’s athletics fee as well as other increases.

 The fall semester is coming to a close at Western Carolina University. The last day of class is December 7th but the school still does not have a permanent chancellor.


Western Carolina University

Democrats in North Carolina scored a victory in the mid-term elections at the state level, winning enough seats in both chambers of the General Assembly to break Republican supermajorities.  That will prevent the GOP from over riding vetoes from Democratic governor Roy Cooper through party line votes starting in January.  Most of the Democratic pickups occurred in the Triangle and Charlotte areas, but the party did pick up two critical House seats in the western part of the state.  In District 119, Democrat Joe Sam Queen won his seat back from incumbent Republican Mike Clampitt.  In Distri

Walker Golder

The greatest effect of Hurricane Florence will be felt along the coast from Bald Head Island to Topsail Beach says Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines Robert Young.

Young, who heads the Western Carolina University program in partnership with Duke, has been studying the coast on many front including helping coastal communities plan for sea level rise and hurricanes.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

  Some locations shine in summer or winter but arguably the mountains are the best when there is a chill in the air and bright colors are on the trees.  


Now that summer is winding down, we can expect the leaves to start changing says Beverly Collins, a biology professor and the proclaimed autumnal soothsayer of Western Carolina University.


Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Just as it was thinking of getting out of the public utility business, Western Carolina University will instead be expanding its offerings to include improved internet service in the area around its Cullowhee campus.


Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University classes start on Monday August 20th. The school is expecting a record number of new students in both the freshman class and overall.  This is due, in part, to the launch of the NC Promise program which lowers tuition to just $500 for in-state students. Today, Interim Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar welcomed back staff and faculty at the opening assembly by reflecting on the past year, remembering former Chancellor David Belcher who passed away this summer and looking forward.

The 'Human Stories' Of David Joy

Aug 7, 2018
Garret K. Woodward

Author David Joy has been gaining recognition for a pair of critically acclaimed novels, both set in rural Appalachia.  With a third on the way, Joy has also been gaining national and international recognition as an essayist on Southern culture.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has been searching for a new chancellor since February. They hoped to have chosen a successor for Dr. David Belcher, who passed away last month, by the start of the 2018 fall semester.


Today, UNC Board of Governor’s chair Harry Smith announced that the candidate for chancellor has withdrawn from consideration.


Courtesy of Western Carolina University

 Fondly is how Western Carolina students will remember Western Carolina Chancellor David Belcher says Claire Lemke.  Belcher passed away June 17th.


Lemke was the first recipient of a scholarship in fine and performing arts that Chancellor Belcher established last year in honor of his wife.  Lemke received $1000 for the spring semester of her senior year.


Credit Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Chancellor David Belcher passed away on Sunday, June 17, at the age of 60 after more than two-years of battling brain cancer.


Belcher was chancellor at Western Carolina University from 2011 until he took medical leave at the end of 2017. The native of Barnwell, South Carolina is beloved by his WCU family.


Matt Bush BPR

Western Carolina University is unveiling NCDataDashboard.org, an online resource that shows key economic indicators and trends for all 100 counties in North Carolina.  The site includes 12,000 unique data series according to the school, including information on employment, workforce, land, infrastructure and industry GDP.  That data is broken down county by county.  Two of those instrumental in creating the resource, WCU economics professors Angela Dills and Edward Lopez, joined BPR's Matt Bus

Raleigh has been the scene of a lot of partisan political discord this decade.  But the president of the University of North Carolina system says she’s thankful all that fighting has not impacted higher education funding.  Margaret Spellings says even in North Carolina’s polarized political atmosphere, selling members of the General Assembly on maintaining higher education funding isn’t real tough.

A busy basketball weekend in Asheville will now be even more so.  Not only will the Southern Conference host both it's men's and women's basketball championships at the U.S. Cellular Center, but the quarter and semi-final rounds of the Big South men's basketball championship will be played at the Kimmel Arena on the campus of UNC-Asheville.  That's because the Bulldogs clinched the Big South regular season championship over the weekend.  Doing so means the Bulldogs will play at home during the Big South tournament as long as they are in it.


Matt Bush BPR

Tuesday’s ruling by federal judges that North Carolina’s Congressional district maps are illegal could have wide ranging implications for politics at the local, state and national level.  The court ruled the maps were illegal because they were gerrymandered specifically to benefit Republicans – the first time a court cited partisanship as a reason to throw out Congressional maps created through redistricting.  The city of Asheville saw the biggest change during the redistricting the court just rejected.  The new lines cut the city from one district into two – leading it from being represent