When the search began in November for a candidate to replace Chancellor John W. Bardo after his 16 years of service to Western Carolina University, the UNC system president, Tom Ross, had one simple request for the search committee—find a “superhero.”
Dr. David Belcher may not be able to see through walls or have superhuman strengths that leave him invincible, but he does have some superpowers to bring to WCU.
MedWest Health System is sponsoring a series of events to introduce the new chancellor, Dr. David Belcher, and his wife, Susan to Western North Carolina. Tuesday night kicked off the tour which also travelled to Macon County as well as Haywood, Swain, Cherokee, Clay, Meckleburg, and Graham counties, as well as the Greater Asheville area, Greater Hickory area, Greater Hendersonville area, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
The chancellor and his wife will also be visiting upstate South Carolina, the metro Atlanta area and Washington, D.C. The tour is intended allow Belcher to solicit ideas and input from alumni, benefactors, legislators and community leaders to help design an approach for the development of Western.
During Tuesday’s reception with the new leader of WCU, Belcher confessed that the decision to come to Western was an easy one. He said he was eager to continue improving the already sterling reputation of WCU. “WCU not only has a growing student population, but the quality of students is also improving,” said Belcher, “the programs are terrific and and I am excited to now be a part of it all.”
WCU family exude an impressive amount of dedication and love for the University; from the department heads to the grounds workers, everyone aspires to keep WCU at its best.
The chancellor only joined WCU’s staff on July 1, but has already began demonstrating outstanding leadership and introducing strategic goals to bring much needed improvements to WCU. “I didn’t just come here to praise the past, I came to raise the bar,” said Belcher.
Belcher has been very vocal in his plans to give WCU the boost it needs, discussing topics ranging from WCU’s financial struggles to athletics, Belcher informed alumni and WCU faculty and staff that he hopes to improve all aspects of the University.
One of Belcher’s strongest strategies entering WCU is recognizing the importance of building a relationship with surrounding communities. “WCU is a part of Jackson County, and Jackson County is a part of WCU,” said Belcher, “In the next year we will be implementing a strategic planning process that will help us understand where we are going. I assure you it’s not just an internal process, we will be going into the community and asking what they, what you, think we need and want to see happen at WCU.”
Another aspect of WCU that Belcher hopes to “raise the bar” in is the student life. “It’s not just about how many students you get in the door, it’s about how many you graduate.” Adamant in his belief that a strong student life is pertinent to the overall success of the college, Belcher hopes the term “suitcase campus” will no longer be associated with WCU. According to Belcher, college is more than academics; it is a combination of the intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development of the student.
Another area of focus Belcher hopes to see improve is WCU athletics. Belcher said, “Athletics are an integral part, a central component to a university.” According to the Belcher, building the athletic program at Western will result in an increase in applications in the admissions office, as well as promote student life outside of the classroom.
All great superheroes need a sidekick, and not only did WCU find their superhero in Belcher, but they also gained an equally passionate sidekick in his wife, Susan. Her selfproclaimed position at Western is that of a “friend-raiser.” Although Belcher referred to his wife as being his “best asset” Susan has no intentions of joining the faculty of WCU in any other capacity besides being a supporter of WCU.
Belcher comes to WCU from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he had served as Provost and chief academic officer since 2003. Still experiencing a sense of shell shock from the change in scenery, Belcher and his wife joke about how hard it is to believe that they can call Cullowhee home, and that they aren’t just on vacation visiting the beautiful mountains. Describing the transition to the mountains thus far as “landing in heaven,” the chancellor and his wife are settling in to their new home in Cullowhee. Noting the strong sense of togetherness that is so evident in Jackson County, the Belchers are proud to be a part of WCU and the surrounding communities.
“We have found a community that we are excited to call home,” said Susan.