North Carolina Wesleyan College
A wealth of wisdom and courage
Business View Magazine interviews Dr. Evan Duff, President of NC Wesleyan College, as part of our focus on best practices of American colleges and universities.
North Carolina Wesleyan College (NCWC) was established in 1956, because the Methodist Church wanted to establish a private educational institution in North Carolina. Initially, it took a couple of years to get the infrastructure developed through fundraising, but by 1960, the first group of students arrived on campus. Since the first graduating class in 1964, NCWC has been a liberal arts college, but it’s been adding more programs to the curriculum, as well as night classes and accelerated learning formats, and recently, the school has been able to offer full, online degree programs. NCWC has more than 1,700 students, with a faculty of 65 and a staff of 250.
While there are other private liberal arts colleges in North Carolina, the President of NCWC, Dr. Evan Duff, believes that one of the things that sets his school apart from other institutions is the hands-on approach that the faculty provides to its students. “They consistently conduct research with our students, especially in the sciences and the social sciences, and we find that when our students move into graduate programs, they’re more prepared than their peers,” he explains. “Through working with faculty, our students are published in peer-reviewed articles with some presenting at national conferences before they’ve even graduated with a four-year degree, and that’s unheard of at smaller colleges like NCWC. We also have great partnerships with organizations that allow our students to enter internships, often paid, and experience the workplace before they graduate. Last year, we partnered with Sony Music in New York City and sent our music production students to learn about the business of music and music production. It’s partnerships like those that make us unique.”
The college also emphasizes the importance of trying to provide financial support for students that might otherwise struggle to attend a post-secondary institution due to the costs. “We have close to 50 different scholarships that students can apply for, as well as internal grant opportunities,” says Dr. Duff. “We find that the majority of students typically end up paying a little less than half of the yearly tuition, room, and board costs. Between our different scholarships and internal funding opportunities, most students find that we’re very affordable. We can never compete with community colleges or state schools but, compared to some of the larger state research institutions in North Carolina, we are very competitive from that perspective. If you look at all of the private colleges in North Carolina regarding cost and attendance, we come in around the middle, and that’s before any endowed scholarships or grants are applied.”
This past year has been important for North Carolina Wesleyan College on a development level, as well. The school has gone through several major projects to upgrade the campus infrastructure, some of the funding for which has been provided via a generous donation of $3.3 million. “We’re referring to the new structure as our indoor sports and education facility,” says Dr. Duff. “The facility is, essentially, a pressurized bubble that is around 48,000 square feet that will houses indoor tennis courts, squash courts, and a pickleball court, and eventually it will have golf simulators as well. On the academic side, it’s going to be a brand new space for exercise science and health promotion programs, where we’ll have new classrooms, office space, as well as an exercise science lab with brand new equipment. Our exercise science program is probably one of the top three programs on our traditional campus and all of these upgrades will allow us to do more with our students. It’s the biggest development we’ve had in years. The project is nearly completed and, right now, we’re testing the inflation and deflation of the bubble portion to prepare for its final expansion Then we’ll finish building the interior. We anticipate this being completed by early November 2020, so that we can use it full- time in the Spring of 2021.”
The college is also laying the groundwork for the development of a turf field, something it sees as a catalyst for even more development. “The turf field was also financed by a number of donors who provided us with more than $1 million to start the construction,” Dr. Duff reports. “We have the architectural portion done, and we have a timeline. Right now, we’re currently working on the city permits. We anticipate that this will be a multi-year process, as it will be the future campus sports stadium, with a field house, bleachers, and lights. By the time it’s complete, it will probably be around a $7 million project. We’re trying to be very smart with our finances and build it without taking out any loans. We want this project to be completely donor-funded. We see it as a five-phase process: the turf field is phase one, and we’re closing in on, potentially, having the resources to start phase two. We’re actually designing the field house to have classrooms in it as well, so that it’s not just for student athletes – it will be something that all students and faculty will have access to.”
At an academic level, 2020 marks an important expansion in the program offerings for the college, as well. “This year, we’re starting a new Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which is our second health science program,” says Dr. Duff. “The program can be completed in 12 months, 100 percent online, for licensed nurses who want to get their Bachelor’s degree so that they progress into other positions and management roles. We also introduced our second graduate program, which is a Master of Business Administration, that started in January, and we currently have 87 students in the program. It’s also an accelerated, online degree program, primarily for working adults. We also recently approved a Bachelor’s degree in sports administration for students considering careers in facility management, or program management, or coaching. It’s different from the exercise science program, which prepares students more for occupational therapy or becoming Doctor of Physical Therapy. We also approved a healthcare administration program, for people wanting to work non-clinical positions in hospitals or medical facilities, and that program is launching in the fall semester of 2020. Our faculty has been talking about exploring additional graduate programming in a number of fields, too. We’ve done a really good job over the last five years developing several new programs each year, whether minors, concentrations, bachelor and/or graduate programs. We generally have between 4-10 new offerings each year.”
As important as it is for North Carolina Wesleyan College to offer affordable education, and develop its programs each year, the primary goal of the school remains focused on providing an experience that enriches the lives of its students. “We offer a hands-on, unique experience that prepares people for life beyond college, whether that’s entering into the workforce or continuing into grad school,” Dr. Duff maintains. “What I’ve seen is that our students are more prepared because they’re not a number; we know them by name, we know about their family and their personal lives. We try to create a lifelong learning experience, holistically. We want our students to have opportunities to engage themselves mentally as well as promote opportunities for them to have physical activities, too. We believe that faith and spiritual development are important to our students’ journeys in higher education, and we provide that. We require our students to take a religious studies course, not as a means of conforming people, but just to offer them another perspective and see if it’s something that resonates with them, personally. We accept people where they are, and we want to provide opportunities for our students to explore who they are, too.”
AT A GLANCE
North Carolina Wesleyan College
WHAT: A private Methodist liberal arts college
WHERE: Rocky Mount, North Carolina