Rich Kucharski, chief legal counsel for Western Carolina University, became the seventh person in university history to receive one of the institution’s highest honors when the WCU board of trustees presented him with the Trustees’ Award.
Retiring this summer after a quarter-century of service to the university, Kucharski received the award during a surprise presentation as part of the board’s quarterly meeting Friday, June 4. The Trustees’ Award is presented only on rare occasions in recognition of exemplary service to the university, Steve Warren, chairman of the board of trustees, said in announcing the award.
Kucharski has provided legal advice on matters involving or affecting the university since 1985. He also serves as director of technology transfer and started the Office of Technology Transfer in 2004 to provide assistance to faculty and staff who want to see their on-campus creations benefit the public.
The Southwestern Community College Board of Trustees has settled on a replacement for outgoing President Cecil Groves.
Last week, the board approved the selection of Dr. Richard Collings, president of Wayne State College in Nebraska and a former administrator at Western Carolina University, as the college’s fifth president. His hiring is contingent upon approval of the State Board of Community Colleges next month.
The board arrived at its decision after narrowing the field of candidates to four finalists, a list they elected to keep secret while their final decision was pending. The finalists were interviewed in early June.
Collings served as vice chancellor for academic affairs at Western Carolina University from 1996 to 2004. He kept his house here when moving to Nebraska and rented it out with the intention of returning one day.
“We’d always planned to come back to the community to retire. I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to come back and work,” said Collings, who is in his early 60s.
His son lives in Jackson County as well.
Collings has spent the last six years in northeast Nebraska at a four-year college with close ties to a community college system. Wayne State College recently opened a campus that is jointly owned and operated by Northeast Community College.
“When a student comes to that campus, they won’t know the differences between the four-year and two-year school,” Collings said.
Collings has worked closely with community colleges since 1989, and those interactions have accelerated during the last six years with the partnership between Wayne State and Northeast Community College.
His experience aligning the curricula of two systems could prove useful in the relationship between SCC and WCU.
In addition, Collings said his experience working with a rural student body, a neighboring Indian tribe and a strong community college system has prepared him for the job at SCC.
Collings said he has watched developments at SCC closely.
“I’ve seen the great trajectory that SCC has taken with all of the national acclaim and the acclaim from within the community college system,” Collings said. “I knew it was a great institution when I was there.”
Among his other accomplishments at Wayne State, Collings reversed a decade-long enrollment decline, improved graduation and retention rates, and led a successful $20 million capital campaign to commemorate the college’s 100th year in service.
Conrad Burrell, chairman of the SCC Board of Trustees, noted that Collings was chosen from a pool of highly qualified national applicants.
“Although our presidential search produced many outstanding candidates, Dr. Collings was chosen because of his impressive background and credentials. We feel his experience in education and knowledge of our service area will greatly benefit the college and the communities we serve,” Burrell wrote in a prepared statement.
Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo fears the budget passed by the General Assembly this year might cast a shadow over the state’s future for years to come.
Like many university leaders across North Carolina, Bardo opposes the House version of the 2010-11 budget, which requires UNC campuses to cut spending by $232 million this year.
UNC system President Erskine Bowles has estimated 1,700 jobs would be lost across 17 UNC campuses by July should the budget cuts become reality.
About 80 percent of WCU staff is funded through state money. Such a deep cut would jeopardize the ability of universities across the state to accept students — even if they’re perfectly qualified.
House leaders have threatened to fund no more than a 1 percent increase in the number of students who attend UNC colleges in the 2011-12 year, contrary to claims by legislators that enrollment growth is being funded.
“We’re making it incredibly difficult for North Carolinians to go to college,” said Bardo. “We’re restricting access. We’re restricting ability.”
Producing fewer graduates in North Carolina would not bode well for its economic development, Bardo added.
“We cannot cut areas of education and expect this state to have the capacity to compete globally,” said Bardo. “North Carolina tends to lag the rest of the nation in coming out of the recession. This is going to increase the lag, most likely.”
Skimping on faculty would lead to drastic cuts in the number of classes offered, making it harder for students to graduate on time.
WCU is nearing maximum seating capacity for many of its courses already. Only one of the university’s four lecture halls can seat more than 150 students.
On the bright side, the Senate version of the state’s $18.9 billion budget calls for cuts of $105 million, far less than what the House has proposed.
“In this economic situation, nothing is perfect,” said Bardo. “But the Senate really did attempt to make sure the universities had the resources they needed.”
Meanwhile, the governor’s proposed budget would cut $155 million from the university system.
The governor’s cuts equate to about 5 percent of the UNC system’s current budget, the Senate’s version includes 3 percent in cuts, whereas the House budget requires almost 7 percent budget reduction.
The House and the Senate have appointed their repsective delegates to a joint budget committee that will hammer out differences between the House and Senate budget starting this week, to arrive at a mutually agreeable budget hopefully by July 1.
WCU greeted last year’s budget season armed with a plan. The college made painful, but strategic, cuts to reduce its budget by 8 percent.
In 2009, WCU’s budget was permanently reduced by about 5 percent, while the governor asked Western to make an additional 5 percent in cuts.
After passing the state 2009-10 budget, lawmakers left WCU facing the task of cutting the equivalent of 94 full-time jobs.
This year, WCU’s plan to cope with cuts under the worst-case scenario calls for freezing 45 full-time equivalent positions that are vacant. Depending on the kind of budget that’s passed, that number of positions left empty may go up.
On the other hand, Bardo estimates the Senate version of the budget might leave room for WCU to fill some of those positions. At a June 4 meeting of the WCU Board of Trustees, Bardo entreated college leaders to begin campaigning for the Senate proposal.
“We have to be seen as players in making things better,” said Bardo. “We have developed a reputation for being apathetic to what they’re doing.”
That could have led to last year’s budget, which was less than fair to the UNC system, according to Bardo. Although appropriations for the systems 17 campuses equate to 13 percent of the stat budget, 29 percent of cuts imposed across state government came from the universities, according to Bardo.
“We do understand that they have a short-term problem, having to deal with the budget,” said Bardo. “At the same time, we want them to take their responsibility.”
Western Carolina University’s quintet in residence should consider letting the Travel Channel tag along before embarking on its next international tour.
After returning from China last month, the Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet can count 49 first-time foods tasted in 14 days of travel.
The long list includes some intriguing items like yam noodles, lotus root, dragon fruit, and glutinous rice. But other novelties would more likely make stomachs lurch: pig penis, sheep stomach, goose liver, shrimp eggs, turtle, and black fungus, to name a few.
Surpassing all that hands-down and nearly reaching legendary status, though, is the drunken shrimp. Eating that correctly involves biting the head off live shrimp drenched in baijiu, a clear Chinese liquor.
Not all five musicians ventured to experiment as a few feisty shrimp leaped from the bowl, one landing as far as the floor.
As for the verdict, a video capturing the gross-out moment (for Westerners) shows trombonist Dan Cherry declaring that it tasted ... pretty much like you’d expect raw shrimp to taste.
Trumpeter Brad Ulrich, who co-founded the quintet with fellow trumpet player David Ginn in 1993, was brave enough to try the dish first. Ulrich also picked up the skill of opening up a bottle of beer with chopsticks during the trip.
Even with all the bizarre foods, the quintet has come back from their tour raving about Chinese food — the authentic kind. Most meals took place around a large round table with a Lazy Susan in the middle piled with 14 or 15 different dishes. Everything was fresh, healthy and delicious.
“If you order fish [here], it’s been dead for a long time,” said Ulrich. “There, they take it out of an aquarium.”
Every place they visited offered something new, with each province specializing in a different dish.
“I can’t eat Chinese here anymore,” said Ulrich. “It’s not the same.”
Despite a grueling schedule with eight concerts on eight consecutive nights, the quintet obviously didn’t forget to set aside time for fun on the trip.
“We’re like family. It’s rare to have brass faculty that gets along as well as we do,” said Ulrich. “On these tours, it’s nonstop laughter, crying until our ribs hurt.”
The quintet is made up of those who have taught or are teaching at Western, including Travis Bennett on horn and Michael Schallock on tuba.
SMBQ is also a registered nonprofit that has helped raise money for the new library in Jackson County, for the local art council and for the Jackson County band program. It helped raise $14,500 for National Alzheimer’s Day in 2007.
On the China trip, the quintet was accompanied by Will Peebles, director of WCU’s School of Music, and China liaison Tang Cai.
Schallock said there was never a dull moment. “We just went with our eyes wide open from place to place and from person to person ... what we learned was enlightening and exciting.”
SMBQ’s international tours serve many purposes, but their chief function is to promote Western Carolina University to students and professors who may want to spend a semester or two in Cullowhee.
The idea for a tour came about after Ulrich was invited to perform in an international trumpet festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, about five years ago. Ulrich persuaded his bandmates to join him in performances abroad. It became a tradition, and the next international tour took them to the U.K.
As the quintet experiences the excitement (and exhaustion) of touring internationally, they promote cultural exchange.
SMBQ builds relationships with administrators, faculty and students at sister schools abroad. Those relationships help bring about an increase in the number of students who come to WCU or those who study abroad at sister schools in China.
Though many associate China with business and assume students who study abroad there are interested mostly in economics, Ulrich says art and culture are just as relevant.
“Music, art and dance — it’s all an extremely important part of the way they function and think,” said Ulrich. “You can’t neglect culture when you’re talking about economic development.”
Most of the concerts during the 14-day tour took place in packed halls at Western’s sister schools in China. Despite offering 300 to 500 seats, throngs of people still had to be turned away. SMBQ certainly didn’t spare any efforts to impress the crowd they had.
“We did not leave any performance without being soaked with sweat,” said Schallock. “We gave everything that we had.”
The five would often be swarmed by requests from concertgoers for photographs and autographs after the shows were through. Treated like rock stars, WCU’s resident brass quintet was surprised and amused to find their faces on cardboard cutouts or gigantic posters at the concert halls.
The quintet typically emphasizes pieces from Southern Appalachia and original compositions from WCU faculty, but they added a few Chinese songs to its repertoire, much to the audience’s approval.
“We couldn’t get through a piece, and they would be applauding wildly,” said Ulrich.
Ulrich says the Chinese viewed the visiting quintet’s performance of traditional folk songs as a sign of respect.
“We learned a lot about their culture doing it,” said Ulrich.
The quintet took the time to arrange the popular folk songs played on traditional Chinese instruments into pieces suitable for brass.
The musicians researched on YouTube and listened to CDs, but it wasn’t until they reached China that they got an authentic feel for the songs.
“We heard people singing and humming some of these tunes on the street,” said Schallock. “Folk players who would play traditional flutes in the park, we’d hear them playing these tunes.”
After visiting the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Chinese cities sometimes four times bigger than New York, SMBQ are once again back home in Western North Carolina.
Less than a week later, they were performing a Sunday concert in Clyde. Their eyes are already set on the next stop abroad: Germany.
Visit www.smbq.org for more information, photos and the infamous drunken shrimp video.
A parking study of downtown Sylva conducted by a Western Carolina University graduate student has gotten local merchants talking and left the town board facing a puzzle.
For years downtown merchants have complained that the lack of available parking for customers hurts their businesses. But the study concludes that the town’s some 600 existing places are enough.
Thaddeus Huff –– a graduate student in public administration in his last semester at WCU –– authored the study as his final research topic for his professor, Dr. Chris Cooper. Huff circulated 50 surveys to business owners in the Downtown Sylva Association asking five basic questions about their views on parking downtown. The responses showed that 65 percent of the business owners felt there wasn’t enough parking for customers, and 69 percent felt there wasn’t enough parking for employees in downtown.
In March, Huff followed up the survey with a study of the supply and demand of parking in each of the downtown’s eight blocks, counting the number of spaces and the occupancy rate in each block four different times of day on four separate days.
The findings were surprising. Only three blocks downtown in the areas of Mill and Main streets closest to their intersection routinely had more than 70 percent of their parking spaces utilized at a given time of day.
Huff’s summary of the survey reframed the discussion about parking in downtown Sylva as having more to do with how far people are willing to walk from available spaces to their destinations.
“Given that the supply, in this case, is not the problem, the issue seems to be the proximity to certain locations for drivers,” Huff concludes in the study. “The answer is not more parking spaces. Even with no access to private lots, an argument could be made there is plenty of parking to meet the demand given the time periods the counts were conducted in.”
But tell that to the merchants who get phone calls from customers in their cars asking if they can get curbside service because they’ve already circled past the store three times.
Sarella Jackson, an employee of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, testified to that as she walked out of Annie’s Bakery on Monday.
“Most of the time, parking is a problem. It’s relatively hard to find parking close to the building at lunch time,” Jackson said.
She said it is not uncommon for her to circle the block two or three times before she finds a spot.
Annie Ritota, who opened Annie’s Bakery eight years ago, winces when she hears customers complaining about parking.
“We do have a problem on this end of town,” Ritota said.
A parking solution discussed in the past is for the town to purchase or lease a vacant private lot on the prime stretch of Main Street, the former Dodge dealer lot owned by Sam Cogdill.
Ritota said she would support the town leasing or buying the lot, although she wasn’t 100 percent sure it would solve the problem. Instead, Ritota suggested limiting how long people could occupy a prime downtown spots.
“Obviously that lot would be very helpful,” Ritota said. “But I’ve always said maybe if we went back to paid parking so people could come and go, people wouldn’t stay all day.”
Huff has also taken planning courses, and he said from a planning perspective, the town would ideally put the empty car lot owned by Cogdill to some use because vacant lots in a downtown send the wrong message.
But both Mayor Maurice Moody and Commissioner Sarah Graham said they would have a hard time spending the town’s money on parking when it was facing a very tight budget this year.
“Right now we’re paying for a pedestrian plan and directional signage, and I’d like to see those play out before we commit to another expense in parking,” Graham said.
Sheryl Rudd, co-owner of Heinzelmannchen said Mill Street’s problem is almost certainly the result of too many merchants and their employees occupying the handful of prime on-street spots readily accessible to customers.
The result is infuriating for Rudd.
“We lose business,” she said.
Rudd attended the town board meeting where Huff presented his findings and said she appreciated the information but would like to have seen the results of a similar study conducted during the high part of the tourist season.
Rudd said she favors the idea of the town leasing the Cogdill lot and either the Downtown Sylva Association or merchants reimbursing the town for a particular number of designated spaces.
Huff, who lives in Asheville, said most of the studies he used as models dealt with bigger towns. But he still thinks Sylva’s free parking could be part of the problem.
“If you give out free pizza, there’s never enough pizza,” Huff said.
Huff recommended a number of measures that could alleviate some of the strain the merchants are feeling around parking. He advocates better signage to steer people to the town’s public lots. He also recommends a firm policy against employees parking in spots for customers, and reviewing the idea of metered parking on Main Street.
The issue of downtown employees taking up prime on-street spots in front of businesses has been a topic of heated discussion the past, and a number of downtown business owners agree that it is a starting point for the discussion.
Recently one downtown merchant anonymously left flyers on car windows that read, “Dear customers. I work downtown. I took your parking space and you, the customer, had to search for parking.”
Steve Dennis, owner of Hollifield Jewelers, also thinks employees parking on Main Street all day are a large part of the issue.
“The enforcement needs to be addressed in terms of people staying a long period of time,” Dennis said. “You don’t need to drive up and walk straight into your job.”
Mayor Moody said he needed to study the results of Huff’s project in more detail before he responded to it directly.
“I think we all need more time to look at it closely,” Moody said.
Huff agreed the same type of parking count he conducted should be repeated during the high tourist season and on a festival week, but he really believes the town has to look at the parking issue holistically and not a simple shortage of open parking spaces.
On a sunny Friday afternoon, I shanked my flick Hyzer into Copperhead Row in the company of the Doctor, Yoda, and the Kid.
For those uninitiated into the manners and lingo of disc golf, allow me to shed some light on the situation. First the translation: Whilst playing disc golf with three friends, I threw a Frisbee very poorly, and it landed in the weeds next to a drainage ditch on the Western Carolina University campus.
Now, the wake-up call. Disc golf is one of the region’s fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation, and you still haven’t played.
Dr. Justin Menickelli, a fitness professor at WCU who created the course on campus, describes the sport succinctly.
“It’s ball golf for Democrats,” Menickelli said. “I like ball golf, but it’s expensive, it takes a long time, and it’s... the same.”
Menickelli, a.k.a. the Doctor, has been the force behind the sport’s growth at WCU, where he estimates students play an average of 200 rounds a week on the 12-hole course. Menickelli and his colleague, Chris Tuten, built the Catamount Links in 2006 as a joint project between the school’s Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and WCU Intramural Sports.
The idea was to create a safe, fun course that didn’t require any maintenance without altering the existing landscape. The result is that disc golf has already become a defining characteristic of the school.
In disc golf, the “holes” are actually chain baskets mounted to poles and trees. One round at Catamount Links takes about an hour and the Tuesday night scramble, which involves playing the course twice, takes a little over two hours.
“What other sport can you take up for an initial investment of $8?” Menickelli asked.
The lure of disc golf –– besides its charm as an environmentally-friendly, wallet pleasing past time –– lies in two of its most basic elements. The first is throwing a disc, which the Greeks made popular and which involves twisting your body to create torque and timing the release with precision to establish a clean flight.
The second is that disc golf, as Menickelli said, is golf. You have to drive the fairway, plan your approaches, and make putts under pressure to win. You can play alone or with friends and it’s equally fun. By the end of a round, you’ve walked two miles.
The perfect sport
Menickelli hails from upstate New York and his physique is appropriate to his profession. He was an avid ultimate Frisbee player as a PhD. student at Louisiana State University, but didn’t discover disc golf until about 10 years ago.
On the morning of his wedding in 2004, Menickelli played disc golf, not ball golf, with the men of the group, and since then he has been galvanized by the game.
“I love playing against par,” Menickelli said.
The moniker he uses to describe the game –– “golf for Democrats” –– points to disc golf’s roots as a public park sport nurtured by hippies who had had enough of the dislocated shoulders from their ultimate Frisbee days.
Menickelli says disc golf’s low impact, low cost and fast pace make it the perfect alternative to “ball” golf, which costs upwards of $50 per round, uses a lot of water and fertilizer, and takes four hours to play.
The sport of disc golf is in the midst of a growth spurt, but it emerged first in the mid-‘80s, when a few hundred courses were created around the country. Its roots can be traced all the way back to 1965, when George Sappenfeld, a camp counselor on summer break from college, realized the kids on his playground could play golf with Frisbee discs. Sappenfeld later became the Parks and Recreation supervisor for Thousand Oaks, Calif., and institutionalized Frisbee golf with underwriting from Wham-O, a Frisbee company.
Today there are over 3,000 disc golf courses in the U.S., more than 100 in North Carolina alone, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Clark Lipkin, a.k.a. Yoda, runs Lipkin Land Surveying in Cullowhee and remembers his first ace (hole-in-one) at a course in Springfield, Va., in 1982.
Lipkin has never stopped playing since the early days. When he discovered the course at WCU, he became a regular at the Tuesday night doubles scramble. The baskets and the courses are much like they were when Lipkin started, but the discs have changed dramatically from the Frisbees thanks to the innovation of companies like Innova (www.innovadiscs.com.) These days, serious players fill their bags with specialized discs that turn right or left, emphasize distance or accuracy.
The reason for the evolution of the Frisbee is that disc golf enthusiasts want to experience the perfect shot.
“Once you hit an ace, it feels great and you come back for more,” Lipkin said, explaining how he got addicted
In response, his doubles partner Drew Cook, a.k.a. The Kid, responded, “Damn, you’re old.”
At 25, Cook is a Menickelli product. He’d rarely played disc golf before 2006, when as a junior at WCU he got addicted to the Catamount Links. For Menickelli, the growth of the sport at WCU has justified his decision to build an easy course.
“We were shooting for a one-hour, low intensity, aerobic activity that’s fun,” Menickelli said.
If Asheville’s Richmond Hill is the Pebble Beach of disc golf, then the Catamount Links is like the course down the street –– sunny, approachable, and fun. Menickelli is currently engaged in a nationwide study sponsored by the Professional Disc Golf Association and a nonprofit called Education Disc Golf Experience (www.edgediscgolf.org) aimed at quantifying the fitness impact of disc golf on young people.
Iowa has the most per capita disc golf players in the country, and Texas has the most total, but North Carolina is second in both categories, making it one of the sport’s strongholds.
In the mountains, the disc golf is growing so rapidly that Menickell’s description of it may already have run its course.
Ryker Helms, a 22-year-old WCU student from Charlotte, showed up at the Catamount Links Friday wearing long mesh shorts and a black on black Duke Blue Devils hat. Helms said he doesn’t identify with a political party. He first saw the sport during a high school tennis match in Charlotte. People were playing the Hornets Nest course, and Helms didn’t know what they were doing. Now he plays once a week.
“I just want to see how far I can throw stuff,” Helms said.
As Helms stepped up to the first tee, another group of students looking like ex-football players was just finishing up their round.
Menickelli’s sport is still growing and it’s taken on a more competitive edge. The WCU Collegiate Disc Golf Team won the 2009-10 Western North Carolina Intercollegiate Disc Golf Challenge.
Now all disc golf needs is its own Tiger Woods... or Phil Mickelson rather.
• Waynesville Recreation Park. 18-holes located along Richland Creek
Greenway starting from the Waynesville Rec Center on Vance Street.
• Haywood Community College. 18-holes on the HCC campus near Waynesville.
• Catmount Links. 12-hole course on Western Carolina University Campus.
Course starts at Commuter parking lot. www.wcu.edu/7925.asp.
• Richmond Hill in Asheville is an 18-hole, heavily wooded course with
elevation changes that make it one of the most difficult in the region.
• Fontana Village. 18-holes in highly forested setting on Fontana Village in
Graham County. www.fontanadiscgolf.com.
To find other courses in the region go to www.wncdiscgolf.com/courses.
When John Miele, co-owner of the Golden Carp, left a social media class recently taught by Western Carolina University students, his Dillsboro business had a new home. Now, visitors can find information such as the store’s hours and location on its official Web site, as well as subscribe to the Golden Carp’s news and updates by becoming a “fan” of the business’s Facebook page.
“I wanted to know what Facebook was all about and how to properly use the media of the moment,” said Miele.
The social media class at WCU was held as part of the Dillsboro-Western Carolina University partnership effort to support community revitalization. At the class, WCU public relations students Lauren Gray, Garrett Richardson and Ashley Funderburk led business owners step-by-step in how to use Facebook pages.
Participants learned to upload photos and business information, create events, set privacy controls and post status updates. In addition, they discussed tools such as email and Twitter, and the effectiveness of using social media tools for marketing.
Miele said it is important for the Golden Carp to have an online presence. He noted that about 75 percent of customers of the 20-year-old business, which specializes in accessories for the home, fine art and unique gifts, are tourists, and many conduct online research when they plan their trips.
What happens when a smart, talented young man desires to serve God, but is mostly driven by his fear of death and Hell? How is a conflicted heart torn by love and desire? And what happens when that heart finally discovers grace?
The historical movie “Wesley” — about the co-founder of the Methodist Church — will answer those questions and more.
The film will premiere at Western Carolina University in high definition at the Fine and Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27.
The premiere will honor the faculty and students who worked on the independent movie as actors and crew, with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting a fund established to help students in WCU’s Motion Picture and Television Production Program with the cost of producing their senior thesis films. The screening will be introduced by director John Jackman from Foundery Pictures and followed by a panel discussion.
In the historical drama set in the 18th century, John Wesley, played by Burgess Jenkins, grows from a young Anglican priest struggling spiritually into a leader of the Methodism movement and a champion for causes such as prison reform and anti-slavery. Events from Wesley’s life portrayed in the film include his rescue from a house fire, survival of a near shipwreck, struggle with a star-crossed love affair and calm in the face of violent mobs.
“‘Wesley’ is quite a beautiful film with really powerful performances, and the screening at WCU will offer outstanding picture clarity on a jumbo screen, ” said Arledge Armenaki, WCU associate professor of cinematography and director of photography for the movie.
“It’s such a great story, and we all did our very best to make it into a wonderful film,” said Armenaki.
Sixteen WCU students got hands-on experience as crew for “Wesley” during filming on locations in and around Winston-Salem and Morganton for two months in 2007 and two weeks in 2008, including a sold-out red carpet premiere.
With coaching from Armenaki, students served as a unit production manager, assistant directors, construction coordinators, set dressers, carpenters, boom operators, grips, camera assistants, wardrobe managers, office manager and script supervisor.
Kristen Philyaw, a 2008 WCU graduate with a degree in motion picture and television production, said she valued the high-intensity, hands-on experience she gained helping coordinate props for “Wesley.” “It often felt like we did not have enough hands among us or hours in the day to get the sets dressed, props made or pieces coordinated,” said Philyaw, who works at a financial institution in Charlotte and recently co-founded a small production company with her fiance, Robert Cassidy, a WCU alumnus who also worked on “Wesley.”
As crew members, they helped find, manage and build sets fitting for the 18th century and in line with the storybook feel that Armenaki and Jackman wanted to create. Some even helped build a re-creation of the HMS Simmonds ship inside an old gymnasium at Methodist Children’s Home in Winston-Salem, and a 50-by-20-foot blue screen, which required a lot of sewing and lighting, to hang behind it.
“Getting everything ready for a scene was quite a production in itself – like dressing a museum diorama,” said Armenaki.
The students’ assistance was critically important, said Jackman. “We couldn’t have done the movie without them,” he said. “We were trying to accomplish a very ambitious picture while operating on a very restricted budget, and their help was just invaluable.”
WCU students and faculty also were cast in the movie. In addition to Harris, actors with WCU ties in the film included faculty and students who were extras; Peter Savage, visiting lecturer of theater, who played Mr. Williamson, the man betrothed to the woman Wesley loves; and Terry Nienhuis, retired professor of English, who played gardener James Locke. Part of the challenge was researching the history in order to prepare for their roles. When advised to use a rough country Yorkshire dialect, Nienhuis eventually called a fellow faculty member from England for help. “He said, ‘It’s funny you should ask because I have a friend visiting from that area.’ I brought a tape recorder over, asked his friend to read my lines and then studied the recording,” said Nienhuis.
Tickets cost $10 each or $5 each for senior adults at least 60 years old; WCU faculty and staff, students and children; and groups of 15 or more. To purchase tickets, call the box office at 828.227.2479 or visit www.wcu.edu/fapac online.
Leaders of the town of Dillsboro and members of Western Carolina University’s faculty unveiled the framework for an ongoing partnership that will help Dillsboro build a business identity.
Discussions between former mayor Jean Hartbarger and WCU Chancellor John Bardo last year led to interest in a partnership that would turn Dillsboro into a learning lab for WCU’s College of Business while providing the town with much-needed resources at a difficult moment in its history.
Reeling from the loss of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, the force behind Dillsboro’s tourist-driven retail economy, and from the highly publicized and protracted struggle over its dam, the town is looking ahead at an uncertain future.
Last week, WCU public relations professor, Dr. Betty Farmer, and Dillsboro Mayor Mike Fitzgerald announced to members of the public at the Applegate Inn the outline for the partnership. Nearly 20 members of WCU’s teaching faculty were present at the event, and they took turns explaining how they would use their students to accomplish tasks that would benefit the town over the course of the next year.
Building from a consulting project the town undertook on its own, WCU’s business college plans to start by targeting “low-hanging fruit.” By increasing the town’s Web presence, creating a town newsletter, developing a schedule of common business hours, and strengthening the ties between the campus community and the town, the project would move towards creating a distinct marketing strategy for Dillsboro by the end of the year.
“We want you to know that this is the starting place and not the be all and end all,” Farmer said.
Farmer explained that the town has to have a strong voice in the partnership and that none of the solutions identified by classes would be imposed on merchants or the town leadership.
In keeping with that principle, one of the primary functions of the business college will be to conduct surveys of the town’s vendors and customers to develop a statistical framework for marketing decisions.
Brenda Anders, a town merchant who runs Dogwood Crafters, was pleased by what she saw.
“I was impressed by everyone’s excitement and I’m really surprised by WCU’s level of involvement,” Anders said. “It’s been like that at every meeting.”
Students in WCU’s public relations program, Garrett Richardson and Lauren Gray, showed their enthusiasm for the project by explaining how they could help create a vibrant e-newsletter linked to social networking sites.
“In two or three sentences, can you differentiate between Facebook and Twitter?” one resident asked.
The success of the partnership will likely rely more on the strength of the relationship forged between the community and the students and faculty at WCU than on their abililty to harness social media sites.
The bankruptcy of one of Western Carolina University’s largest supporters will hurt the school’s fast growing construction management program.
In 2005 Joe Kimmel, owner of Asheville-based Kimmel & Associates, pledged nearly $7 million over eight years to the construction management program at WCU, which was named the Joe W. Kimmel School of Construction Management Engineering and Technology.
Both Kimmel and his company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late December. Bankruptcy filings often affect philanthropic commitments as creditors seek to recover their investments.
WCU spokesperson Bill Studenc said delays in receiving the promised Kimmel gift would likely affect the number of scholarships the program can offer.
“Delay in fulfilling commitments planned in the Kimmel gift will mean that fewer student scholarships and less program support will be available during the interim,” Studenc said.
WCU Chancellor John Bardo said the school’s primary focus in the matter is the welfare of the Kimmel family, whom he called “close friends of the university.”
“Our current concern is for the Kimmel family and their employees,” Bardo said. “As one does with family, we will take the long view of this trying time. We wish them all the best. We will stand by them in every way we can, and trust that there will be a brighter day in the world economy soon.”
WCU’s construction management school was started in 1999 and offers an undergraduate B.S. degree and an online masters degree. Currently, 300 students are enrolled in the two programs.
Robert McMahan, dean of the Kimmel School, acknowledged that the current economic climate is difficult for the construction industry, but he said the program is still growing.
“The construction management program has been growing steadily over the years, and we anticipate that trend to continue,” McMahan said. “Freshmen entering the program in the fall will not be preparing for employment this year, but for opportunities available in four years. We anticipate that as the economy improves, the construction industry will be one of the areas to benefit most greatly from the turnaround.”
McMahan said graduates of the Kimmel School have done well finding jobs during the recession.
“Obviously, the construction industry has been affected by the economic downturn,” McMahan said. “But what we have seen is that graduates of our construction management program continue to be able to secure the jobs they seek in the industry because of the valuable mix of skills they acquire here at Western Carolina.”
Kimmel & Associates is one of the largest recruiting firms in the country specializing in placing candidates in the construction industry.