Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has removed the name of former North Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator Clyde Hoey from its auditorium on campus.  

Lilly Knoepp

(Update 4/23) 

Jackson County Public Health Department has announced that 3 additonal people working on the Apodaca Science Building at Western Carolina University’s campus have tested postitive for COVID-19. This brings the total to four positive cases on the work site. 

Lilly Knoepp

Western Carolina University is keeping its campus open while transitioning classes online. BPR spoke to a university official about what students should do at this time.  

On a Thursday morning the Cullowhee campus is mostly empty because of spring break. 

That break has now been extended through March 23. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sam Miller says over a hundred students are on campus but all will need to weigh their options to figure out what is best for them: 

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina Chancellor Kelli Brown sent out a notice on Wednesday evening in alignment with a UNC system decision to move all students online and out of the classroom. 


WCU is extending its official spring break by an additional week until Monday, March 23. 


Matt Peiken | BPR News

It’s a Monday afternoon, and John West is rehearsing a wind and brass ensemble at Western Carolina University. West had already been teaching here about 15 years when most of these students were born.

“Clarinet section, can you give me more on those 16th notes there?” he asks his students. “Just a little early on that last leg. Deee-dahh, da-da-deee-dahhh. Wait for that, alright?”

On the eve of his retirement, after 35 years at the university, West said his job has evolved beyond teaching and conducting. West takes the podium a final time March 28 in a concert in the university’s Coulter Building.

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has named a former Catamount baseball player as the school’s new athletic director.  Alex Gary will now oversee the Western Carolina athletic department which fields teams in 16 sports.

Lilly Knoepp

Update 2/7/2020: 

(4pm) The Health and Human Sciences Building at Western Carolina University is scheduled to reopen Monday, February 10, after county, state, and university officials have determined that there are no public health or safety issues.  Multiple investigations revealed no definitive cause for the incident. 


Western Carolina University chancellor Dr. Kelli Brown says North Carolina's ongoing state budget stalement will likely take a toll on the school's record enrollment numbers if it continues.  

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

On the official Western Carolina University E.J. Whitmire stadium information page the first line says: “Alcohol and alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited in E.J. Whitmire Stadium.” 


But that is changing. 


The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan to sell beer and wine at campus athletic venues. This resolution comes after a three month long study of the benefits and drawbacks to having alcoholic beverages available at sporting events. 

Western Carolina's 'Opportunity Game' Against Alabama

Nov 27, 2019
Bill Killillay / Killillay.com

Thanksgiving has many traditions.  One of them is football, with three NFL games on the holiday and a long list of heated college rivalry games this weekend.  Western Carolina isn’t playing, as the Catamounts finished out their season last weekend.  They did it in a big way though, traveling to the University of Alabama to play the Crimson Tide. While the game may have been a loss on the field, it was a big win for the Catamounts in terms of exposure, experience, and more.

Lilly Knoepp

  You might see some familiar faces at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  For the second time, Western Carolina University’s “Pride of The Mountains” band will march in New York City.  

It’s Friday afternoon and the band is running through its final rehearsal. 

The students line up on the brown intramural practice fields. The group is just trying to beat the rain clouds forming overhead. 

Photo by Ingrid Christie

Renowned author and satirist David Sedaris is making his way back to Western North Carolina next week. 

It may come as a surprise to some of Sedaris’ followers that he spent a year of his early life in the mountains, as a student at Western Carolina University.

Lilly Knoepp

Blue Ridge Public Radio’s Lilly Knoepp sat down with North Carolina’s Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green after she visited Western Carolina University writing students. Shelton Green talked about how she views her work as a part of Southern Literature, why poetry is important and where real change happens. Here are some key parts of the conversation. 

How people should be introduced: 


Lilly Knoepp

North Carolina’s Poet Laureate stopped by Western Carolina University this week to hear students share their poetry. 

Pam Duncan is an associate English professor at Western Carolina. Every year she starts her creative writing class with poetry. 

“I’m hoping that they will see that poetry can live in the real world. It’s not just limited to the classroom,” says Duncan. “I believe we all need poetry everyday.” 

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.