The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning a $1.7 million improvement project on Monteith Gap Road in Cullowhee following passage of an endorsement resolution from the Jackson County Commissioners. 

By Todd Vinyard • Special to The Smoky Mountain News

Western Carolina University head basketball coach Larry Hunter’s team had beaten Samford 88-71 on Feb. 3 for a significant Southern Conference victory, and he had become one of only 40 other NCAA men’s basketball coaches with 700 career wins. Despite the milestone, Hunter followed his postgame routine of 46 years in coaching — finish the work of game day and prepare for the next game.

An enthusiastic friend of students. A die-hard fan of all things Catamount. An efficient administrator, effective political advocate, willing traveler and collaborative partner in meeting the needs of students, faculty, staff and the region as a whole.

That feeling in the pit of my stomach is familiar. I imagine it’s something like what people with ulcers feel — nervous, tightening, churning, almost painful. It’s telling me that there is very likely going to be fallout from a story we are about to publish. I won’t sleep well that night after we send the paper to press. After all these years and so many editions, it still comes with certain stories.

Is what we are about to publish going to hurt a friend? Are we being fair?  Have we told both sides if that’s what the issue demands? Did a community leader I admire do something bad that we are about to report? Are we obligated to publish a story that is going to cost us advertising dollars, taking money away that we could use to invest and make the company stronger? Are we sure this is a public figure we are writing about, because if it’s not we could face libel charges?

The 21-member committee charged with finding the next chancellor of Western Carolina University kicked off the search process with an all-day meeting Friday, Jan. 19, to discuss the task ahead and their role in completing it.

Western Carolina University faculty members Kelly Kelley and David Westling have learned a lot about assisting individuals with intellectual disabilities as they transition into the world of work and independent living over the past decade through the University Participant Program that they co-direct on campus.

Western Carolina University announced the appointment of a 21-member search committee that will recommend a successor to Chancellor David O. Belcher.

By David Belcher • Guest columnist

I had the privilege of presiding over Western Carolina University’s Dec. 16 commencement ceremonies and witnessing the great emotion and sense of accomplishment among the graduates. A point of pride at this December’s commencement was that nearly half of the fall graduating class hails from the 18 westernmost counties of our state, a reflection of WCU’s impact on Western North Carolina.

There is no bigger highlight in the university calendar than commencement day. Commencement signifies WCU’s ultimate purpose and the fulfillment of our fundamental responsibility: the education of our citizens across a broad spectrum of disciplines for thoughtful, productive leadership in our society.

When rain finally quelled the wildfires running rampant through the Southeastern U.S. last year, the public was breathing a collective sigh of relief while the scientific community spotted an opportunity. Fall 2016 was a wildfire event unlike anything seen in recent history — in the eastern part of the country, at least — and the blazes left behind a natural laboratory to study what happens on a burned landscape once the flames fade.

“It’s a unique opportunity, because the forested areas — especially the high northern hardwoods areas — burn very infrequently,” said Sarah Workman, associate director of the Highlands Biological Station.

After years of steady upward progress, the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate at Western Carolina University dipped slightly for students who enrolled as first-time, full-time freshmen in fall 2016.

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