I Love WCU

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We want to spread the message that our alumni come from very diverse backgrounds and that there are tons of ways to re-connect to WCU through our geographic clubs and chapters, and our newly created LatinX and Military affinity groups. In addition to highlighting special alumni, this year’s celebration also will feature a new giving society for faculty and staff and mentoring opportunities for WCU students.

We are particularly excited about the launch of the Shetland Society, which is exclusive to faculty and staff who donate annually. Many are already members and just don't know it, so we are looking forward to celebrating their membership and encouraging all other employees to join the Shetland Society by June 30. The Shetland Society membership is annual, and gifts made between July 1 - June 30 of any amount to any fund will qualify an employee for membership into the Shetland Society.

Of course, everybody is able to join 1889 Club by making gifts to the Fund for WCU or join the Catamount Club. 

WCU students looking for a great way to get to know the university and its alumni are urged to apply to be a Chatty Cat Engagement Officer. Students will serve as ambassadors and personal representatives of WCU, its programs and the Division of Advancement, while building relationships with constituents, raising money and offering updates on university events. Students can apply to be an Engagement Officer at: https://jobs.wcu.edu/postings/13101. Students can improve their professional skills and gain knowledge from WCU’s accomplished alumni through the newly launched P.A.W.S. Mentorship Program. If students are interested, they can contact Toni Nelson, Assistant Director of Student and Young Alumni Engagement at nelsona@wcu.edu.

Alumni who want to become active members of their local club or chapter can contact Beau Busby, assistant director of Alumni Engagement at bbusby@wcu.edu.

Alumni interested in becoming an active member of one of our affinity groups can contact Elizabeth Qualls, coordinator of Affinity Programs, at equalls@email.wcu.edu.

Information on all WCU clubs and societies can be found at: https:www.wcu.edu/engage/alumni/get-involved/clubs-and-societies.aspx

***Just for WCU current faculty and staff members, the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning is sponsoring volunteer opportunities. Please sign up to provide much needed support for our local non-profit organizations by visiting https://go.wcu.edu/ilovewcu. You can also self-report other community service by visiting https://go.wcu.edu/track.***

Faculty And Staff Volunteering Opportunities

***Just for WCU current faculty and staff members, the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning is sponsoring volunteer opportunities. Please sign up to provide much needed support for our local non-profit organizations by visiting https://go.wcu.edu/ilovewcu. You can also self-report other community service by visiting https://go.wcu.edu/track.***

711 days ago by Jonathan Brooks
Denise Drury Homewood, executive director of the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, an I Love WCU Story

Denise Drury Homewood

 “Art takes a venue or vehicle, a place online or a physical space to disseminate it. It also takes the artists and performers to make it,” Drury Homewood said. “Plus, it takes the audience to receive that information. At the heart of that Venn Diagram, you will find art and the Bardo Arts Center. It is our job to put all those pieces together.”

Drury Homewood’s guiding priority is connecting the WCU community with art experiences, whether that’s connecting audiences with art experiences, or student practitioners with professional experiences in the arts.

Drury Homewood said that community is greater than the individual, and that WCU is an energetic community. “Philanthropy in the arts feels like what I miss so much from being in a room with other people practicing yoga, that collective energy of all of our giving. It’s really cool to know that together, big or small, we can have a significant impact on the lives of our entire community.

“I Love WCU month is bold and ambitious. I love the idea of giving back symbolically, even if it’s not a huge payroll deduction. I believe in the possibilities of investing in your values.”

George Brown, the dean of the David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts, reminds his team often that a budget is a moral document.

Drury Homewood gives to WCU and other organizations where her investment will make a difference, to grow and share the values that she believes in. She stated that by giving to WCU, her donation will be matched not only by the financial resources that others have given, but also through the folks carrying out the work.

“I know that by giving to WCU, my dollar grows exponentially,” she said. “Giving has a multiplier effect here.” Drury Homewood has given to various funds across campus, including programs within the Bardo Arts Center. “Sure, faculty and staff like to give to their own programs and though that might seem self-serving, I think we give because we believe in our programs. We want to see them succeed in their outcomes.”

Giving is personal and she acknowledges the challenges of a global pandemic which might complicate the decision to make a financial gift during I Love WCU month. However, Drury Homewood said that giving during I Love WCU month can directly impact your own professional development.

“If you believe in the work you do here, I feel like you should donate to further contribute to the program’s goals and in turn, to your own career and professional goals working here,” she said.

Drury Homewood has been recently thinking about the ways becoming a parent has influenced the way she sees her work at WCU. She said sees her three-year-old daughter in the students.

“I see her potential, and in turn the potential of our students, and opportunities that I can work to provide,” she said. “They make me want to do even better at my job, and this mission is advanced through philanthropy and collective giving.”

In these challenging times, Drury Homewood stays focused on making sure our students and community have access to the arts. COVID-19 hasn’t stopped her work, it’s just changed the way the Bardo Arts Center does business. Drury Homewood said she wants to ensure that everyone has access to venues to experience and present their work.

Personally, and professionally, Drury Homewood is making sure everything counts as she moves into 2021 with intention. “I want to spend quality time with my daughter and my husband. I’m not sweating the small stuff,” she said.

This carries over into her job, where she is choosing to be very intentional about the way they do their work. “How do we make sure our students get the most out of this experience? How do we make sure that they soak up every single drop of goodness, from working in behind the scenes production to being an audience member?” she said.

Drury Homewood and her team are focusing on doing what they do best and making sure our students are not just engaged, but embedded in the arts as much as possible. “Of course, it’s hard to do during COVID, but we’re trying our best,” she said. “Post-COVID, we will continue to ensure our students and community get the most out of every arts experience.”

Drury Homewood is grateful for the support of a great team during these truly unprecedented times, as well as for the community at WCU in so many respects, including the fact that WCU is truly putting the health, safety, and well-being of everyone first. “Additionally, if BAC was a standalone arts institution, it would be impossible to do the work on our own. With the support of the university and everyone’s collegiality and willingness to work across departments, it exponentially maximizes our impact.”

711 days ago by Jonathan Brooks
Fire Marshal Chris Moore '01: An I Love WCU Story

Chris Moore

“We may not be out in the light, but you’ll definitely know when the light bulb’s out.” Western Carolina University’s own fire marshal, safety professional and alumnus Chris Moore, succinctly noted this when discussing the Facilities Management team’s impact. The support and effect go far beyond the lights as the team labors to keep the power running, heat and water flowing, the campus safe for all during the pandemic and ‘normal’ times, as well as maintaining the vibrancy of colors throughout the grounds. Moore, who graduated from WCU in 2001, notes the effort to keep this “micropolitan” functioning takes “all the cogs” and goes from “top to bottom to get all projects done for others.”

From Moore’s experiences working with the U.S. Forest Service, WCU, and being a father (this last job being his favorite of them all), his words continually echo respect, appreciation, and faith in the good of others. “The work is bigger than me,” he said. Supplying a safe and functioning environment for all those on campus affords others peace of mind to focus on education and work as a priority. The addition of providing current Catamounts the opportunity to know they have Catamount alumni looking out for them on campus stokes that purple and gold pride.

The duties noted earlier are only a portion of the work and support that this primarily behind the scenes team provides for their WCU families. Through the generous leadership of four individuals, Moore among them, and the backing of fellow team members across campus, the WCU Facilities Management Scholarship was created in 2019 and is on a trajectory for endowed status, and awarded each year in perpetuity. After the first full year of staff and faculty support, this scholarship, which provides funding for dependents, has exceeded initial expectations entirely due to a team effort.

Moore notes the importance of what every dollar means when tasked with sharing how he’d use hypothetical funds if given to donate. When asked about how he would use $50, Moore mindfully shared that every cent would go to areas like the Facilities Management Scholarship, some to his faith, some to senior care, and an overall focus on needs to help fellow people. He would discuss with his family in the philanthropic conversation as “it would be paid forward to a need the family feels is best for the community, whether WCU or the greater community,” he said. Teaching his children how to give, pay it forward, and learn the lesson of “money well spent to help people” speaks to the pure heart and intentions Moore hosts.

“I felt I needed to light a fire into you” is the statement an educator once told Moore for that little extra push of potential he saw in him. This statement adds some irony to Moore’s work in fire safety. As for the bit of inspiration, Moore shared that having a giver’s heart at the end of the day is principal when asked why one should give. “If we don’t have a giver's heart, how are we ever moving forward? You may not know what you get back in return but know you can help in a way that may benefit others," Moore said. “Can you look within your family or extended family to how college led to their success?” He suggested that all take a moment and “look at what culminates to making Western a great place. Stop and have a suppertime conversation” to think about ways to give through real-life experiences and sense that connection.

At this point of the conversation, Moore received a call over the radio to help others on campus and continue that critical behind the scenes work.. Before going, he paused to say thank you for the time, conversation, and to reach out if there was anything else that he can help with as needed. Even when going to help one situation, Moore took a second to aid in another. Such effort is the heart and generosity that Moore layers into everything he touches and hopes for others to do as well. Moore shared, “No matter how much motor one would have under the hood, if you don’t have the spark… you would be out of luck.” 

712 days ago by Jonathan Brooks
Alumni keep pieces of WCU close to their hearts and in their backyard

Moller family

Ask former Catamounts Daniel and Jordan Moeller why they love Western Carolina University and it all comes down to the most important building blocks of life.

“I met my wife there, and I also got my education there, and I got a good job out of it,” said Daniel Moeller.

The Moellers, who are part of a featured group of WCU alumni during the “I Love WCU” month of February, live in Spartanburg, South Carolina. They met shortly before Jordan was to graduate in May 2012, with degrees in psychology and sociology. Jordan was from Mooresville and Daniel from Concord, just 30 minutes apart. Daniel graduated a year later with a bachelor’s degree in engineering

Neither can recall the exact moment their paths crossed, but both remember gatherings at the old Bone Shack bar in Sylva with mutual friends and a beefed-up Daniel flexing a little muscle to win a date with the pretty brunette, a memory Jordan loves to retell, but her husband would just soon forget. The couple married June 14, 2014, and have a 3-year-old son, Wyatt, and a 6-month-old daughter, Sherrill Grace. But their dog, Jax, came first.

“Obviously, we love Western and we visit pretty frequently when we can, pre-Covid 19 at least. We would be thrilled if our kids decided to go to Western,” said Jordan, an alumni engagement officer for Wofford College. “One of the reasons I give back, even if it’s just a little bit, is I understand how important it is and also because I want Western to be the best it can be for my kids, if they decide to go there.”

Jordan said while she has given to a variety of needs at WCU, her donation a year ago to athletics for a new turf field was especially rewarding. “I was in Pride of the Mountains marching band for a year. I marched on that field and I knew it needed some TLC,” she said, while another smaller piece Daniel plans to frame and hang next to his and Jordan’s WCU diplomas.  “I’ve got a kid at work who was on the WCU football team and I’m going to give him a small piece. He said he spent a lot of time on that field,” said Daniel, an engineering supervisor for Siemens.

Speaking of football. Daniel likes to share the story of his wife’s need one year to see a Catamount football game, despite bad weather and a fickle toddler. “So, kids slowed us down a lot, right?” Daniel said. “Jordan, after our son got old enough, was bound and determined to go to a football game up there. We went, and it got rained out. They said there was a six-hour delay. We’re soaking wet, hanging out with our 2-year-old at the time, for six hours, trying to kill time. “We finally get to the game, sopping wet, kid’s afraid of Paws. He won’t touch him, but he keeps staring at him and talking about him. Paws gets close to him, he starts screaming. He’s not listening to anything.”

“It was an adventure, is what he’s trying to say,” Jordan said.

The Moellers say WCU is close to their hearts in all they do because it brought them together, thus creating the life they have today. “Ultimately, it leads back to us both being at that school at the same time,” said Daniel. “It’s the reason I have my kids today, and that includes my ‘first child,’ my dog. Having kids has been a heck of an experience, but I wouldn’t trade any of that for the world.”

718 days ago by Jonathan Brooks
Dr. Yanjun Yan: An I Love WCU Story

As an educational institution, Western Carolina University faculty utilize their vast resources of knowledge to nurture the next generation, use their time to advance the curriculum offered to students, and work with an educational community to stem new ideas. Yanjun Yan is one of these individuals, but the lessons do not stop in the classroom.

When not spending time working, the focus falls upon family and sharing valuable time with them. The connection keeps her grounded while she uses her time to see the areas of need for students. Yanjun advocates for better preparation and screening for students as they come into college, ensuring there is support if interests change, and keeping mental health support at the forefront. Yanjun has seen the impact stress plays on students not having time to do their schoolwork, as many students work to pay for school, and how scholarships relieve the financial and mental burdens.

When asked hypothetically about how she would donate $50, Yanjun noted she would “put it towards the students’ scholarship fund right now” because of the continuous and immediate needs they have. There was no hesitation on that thought. When asked how she would donate $5 million, Yanjun hesitated as her eyes lit up at the possibilities.

In her journey through academia from her undergraduate experience in China, graduate work in Japan, Ph.D. in the US, and her Fulbright research on Bulgarian education trends, Yanjun witnesses the impact of education worldwide. Observing this led to her first philanthropic wish list item of “adding more faculty, so WCU can help more students.” As she works to help each student thrive as an individual, she sees how having a good faculty to student ratio helps them develop. Without spending all of this “dream big” gift in one spot, Yanjun expressed how funding scholarships for study abroad was important and takes an individual’s mind and magnifies their knowledge base on a global scale.

As a consummate educator, Yanjun was asked what she would say if asked, “Why should I give?” She immediately identified, “I would show them results, not tell them why.” Experiencing the impact and outcome of how philanthropy provides noticeable results matches her teaching style of experiential, hands-on learning. Yanjun added, “If they don’t know if the contributions would go to the place they intend it to, showing them and educating them” gives the knowledge one needs to bridge that gap.

By putting in what you have to contribute to others, whether it be your time, talent, or treasure. Yanjun reminds us to allow the heart to lead the way. Yanjun stated, “Money is a big thing, but the heart is more important.”

732 days ago by Jonathan Brooks
Alumna Kelly Kent says she really does love WCU

Kelly Kent '84

Kelly Kent, of Mooresville, thanks Western Carolina University for providing her with opportunities she didn’t know existed. 

“My time as a student is filled with great memories,” said Kent, who graduated in 1984 with a degree in early childhood education and reading. “Opportunities opened up for me that I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise. WCU offered me the chance to do things, to join clubs, meet people and make lifelong friends, to participate in various activities, attend concerts and events, and of course, learn through quality academic instruction. It helped me chart my life.” 

During the “I Love WCU” month of February, the university highlights and encourages contributions of community service and university support, and celebrates the accomplishments of alumni, such as Kent. 

As a high school senior, she visited WCU and instantly knew that Cullowhee was the place for her college education. “I fell in love with the campus and the people,” she said. “Being there felt special, there was a community feel to it. There are college towns, but this was college that was a town. And I love the outdoors that surrounds it.” 

Some of her best experiences came about by way of unintended consequences. A tennis player, an early season injury took her off the court. But the late Coach Bob Waters (football and athletic director) suggested she become a spotter for the team. At the same time, she began tutoring several other athletes – including a few she is still in contact with today. She also spent time as an intramural sports referee and joined a sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. During her senior year, Kent was an inaugural member of Mortar Board, an academic honor society, and served as its first president.

Kent is still involved at WCU. She began giving back through donations shortly after graduation and now serves on the board of the Catamount Club, the organization of supporters who work to transform the lives of WCU’s student-athletes as they excel both in the classroom and in competition, with membership donations going directly to fund scholarships. This affiliation has also helped her reconnect with many of her former classmates and other student-athletes.

“WCU definitely taught me to be adventurous, which has continued throughout my career. Much like my time at WCU, I have spent time in a variety of roles, from transportation/logistics to banking to retail and now my latest role in a technology company. Through all of these career moves, I know it was WCU revealing opportunities that helped me have the courage and curiosity to achieve career goals that otherwise may not have been possible,” she said. 

Kent said she and Jeff, her husband of 33 years, have instilled the “same WCU sense of adventure in our daughter Kaitlyn, who currently serves as a C-17 pilot in the U.S. Air Force.”

732 days ago by Jonathan Brooks

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