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Western Carolina University has a new chancellor

Western Carolina University's new chancellor, Kelli R. Brown. Photo courtesy of UNC-system media relations.

On July 1, Kelli R. Brown will assume her duties as the 12th chancellor of Western Carolina University. Elected by the UNC Board of Governors, Brown is currently the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Georgia College & State University. 

“On behalf of the Board of Governors, I am thrilled to announce the selection of Dr. Kelli R. Brown to lead WCU into the future,” UNC Board of Governors Chairperson Harry L. Smith, Jr. said in a press release. “Western Carolina has seen tremendous growth, particularly now as an NC Promise institution. Now, under Dr. Brown’s leadership, it is poised to see even greater success.”

Interim UNC-system President Bill Roper selected Brown for approval by the BOG out of two other candidates from the position. The search committee consisted of 21 people who were members of the WCU Board of Trustees, along with various stakeholders from WCU, the community and the region. 

“Western Carolina deserves a chancellor with a keen focus on student and faculty success, and Dr. Brown has demonstrated that focus throughout her esteemed academic career,” Dr. Roper said. “I welcome her to the UNC system and look forward to working with Dr. Brown in her new role.”

Alison Morrison-Shetlar, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, is the interim chancellor of WCU. Brown will succeed WCU’s late Chancellor David O. Belcher, who passed away after a battle with brain cancer for two years in June 2018. 

In March, the BOG came under scrutiny from many prominent graduates and former leaders of UNC who cited the "failed chancellor search at Western Carolina University," referencing the BOG's inability to fill the position permanently following Belcher's resignation in December 2017.

“Being selected as the 12th chancellor of this incredible institution is the opportunity of a lifetime. I am impressed by the university’s passionate focus on student success and its ongoing commitment to access while also delivering the absolute highest quality education,” Brown said. “I am inspired by WCU’s efforts to prepare students for life through experiential education and career preparation – especially students from the western region that this University was founded to serve.”

Brown became the provost and professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Georgia College and State University in June 2013. Brown has led many faculty and student success initiatives, such as increasing the four-year graduation rate by 25 percent. In 2016, she was selected as the interim president of Valdosta State University and returned to GCSU after a permanent president replaced her in 2017.

She holds a doctorate in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, a master of science and education in public health degree and bachelor of science degree from the University of Toledo and an associate in applied sciences degree in dental hygiene from Michael J. Owens Technical College in Toledo, Ohio.

Brown was the president of the Society for Public Health Education from 2012 until 2014, the first female president of Eta Sigma Gamma, health education’s national honorary society and editor of the Journal of School Health.

Patricia B. Kaemmerling, chairperson of the WCU Board of Trustees and co-chairperson of the University’s chancellor search committee, said Brown emerged as a finalist during a national search that included opportunity for public input from all of WCU’s various constituencies and fellow members of the Board of Trustees.

“Dr. Brown distinguished herself as a top candidate in what I would characterize as an extremely deep pool of exceptionally well-qualified potential leaders for our university,” Kaemmerling said. “In addition to her considerable senior leadership experience in academic affairs, Dr. Brown served as interim president of Valdosta State University for much of 2016. I am pleased at the decision by the Board of Governors, and we all look forward to working with our 12th chancellor – and our first permanent female CEO – to build upon the strong foundation in place at WCU.”


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