The plan, which was developed last year by a cross-section of faculty and WCU leaders, enumerates objectives the university plans to work toward on its path to 2020. Belcher sanctioned the creation of the plan for WCU shortly after taking office last year. Belcher said much of the work for the year ahead will be guided by the strategic plan.
Belcher also mentioned the state of the university’s finances.
Belcher claimed the university will begin the 2012 fall semester on firmer financial footing than the previous academic year, an improvement made possible in part through the implementation of a more open budget process with widespread participation of faculty, staff and students, he said.
“Western Carolina is in a stronger fiscal position than it was a year ago,” Belcher said. “We experienced no budget cuts or reversions last year. That might sound like a sobering place to start — we don’t lose anything — but last year was the first year in four years that WCU did not experience a budget cut or a reversion.”
According to university communications, this year’s budget includes a 1.2 percent raise for staff and faculty, the first salary increase in four years.
Belcher said the university also will undergo a similarly extensive review of its non-academic organizational structure to ensure efficient and effective use of resources. In addition, the year ahead will include the beginning of a comprehensive master planning process for the campus.
“This process is not just about where to place new buildings, but rather is going to be comprehensive in nature, looking at priorities for renovation; at space utilization; at infrastructure such as roads, curbs, sidewalks, bike lanes, electrical capacity and the steam plant,” Belcher said.
Master planning, while focused on the campus, will include input and involvement from leaders from the community and county, because development on campus almost always will affect the surrounding area, he said.
Provost Angi Brenton, also shared words during the address. She said the coming year will include a comprehensive review of WCU’s academic programs to ensure that the university is investing its resources strategically and in alignment with institutional priorities. “We need to examine if programs that were needed and thriving 40 years ago are still needed and thriving today,” Brenton said.