Check out our new annual report, just released today!

In the summer of 2020, as we sat down amidst those uncertain times to hash out plans for the 2020-21 academic year, I wrote the following vision statement for the Center:

We produce high-impact research in three main areas: COVID-19 impact, evidence-based policy analysis, and free enterprise solutions for bottom-up recovery. We have a positive impact on the students, faculty, and community of Western Carolina University. We improve the climate of ideas and public policy in North Carolina.

Now a year later, as we publicly present our 24-page Annual Report for 2020-21, I am glad to say that we made progress in all respects of of this vision statement, and more. I invite you to take a few moments and enjoy seeing for yourself within the pages of our report. I paste below the opening letter / director’s welcome as a sneak preview. Here you can download full report as PDF.


1. Director’s Welcome:

Happy 5th Birthday! With this annual report, we celebrate not just the Center’s past year but also our first five years in operation.


Since launching in Spring of 2017, CSFE has supported 68 faculty projects and 114 student projects. We have published 14 original studies in our flagship series, CSFE Issue Briefs—Hard Research, Easy Reading, plus a related 7 op-eds in North Carolina papers. In addition, our first five years have provided 37 real and virtual events with a total of 3,657 attendees. We have hosted memorable conversations with Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke, Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, and author of We Need to Talk Celeste Headlee, among many more. We host annual research workshops and year-end community programs for our region, including our 2019 Opioid & Addiction Awareness Campaign and Town Hall, when we welcomed Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), North Carolina Senator Jim Davis (R), and a large group of academics and community members, and our four-part 2021 COVID-19 virtual series that drew national audiences.


Through these programs and more, CSFE has developed a network that gathers over one hundred faculty and students from WCU and beyond, integrating them with community members and policymakers from the southeast region. By combining perspectives from economics, accounting, engineering, psychology, nursing, social work, and more, CSFE is a hub and platform for cross-disciplinary research that matters.


As Director, I am very thankful to work alongside the people whose talents and hard work make CSFE possible. Starting with the steady hand of WCU’s administrative leadership, CSFE has depended crucially on the support of Chancellor Kelli R. Brown, Provost Richard Starnes, and Dean AJ Grube and her staff, especially Teresa Starrs and Nancy Liddle. Likewise, the Center’s Advisory Board has been a trusted body, and its members have opened so many doors over the years. The entire team at University Communications and Marketing, especially Bill Studenc, Geoff Cantrell and Sam Wallace, have been immensely supportive and enjoyable collaborators.


As the Center’s backbone, our Faculty and Student Affiliates, including Associate Director Sean Mulholland, have powered the Center. The pages of this report are filled with their accomplishments. I am so fortunate to partner with these excellent people, and to help them generate cross-disciplinary research that matters.


Last but certainly not least, I am honored and grateful to work alongside the Center’s staff, Allie Todd who artfully coordinates our digital presence, and Jane Wiggins, whose skillful imprint on the Center as Events & Operations Manager is truly hard to overstate. I am honored and grateful to call them colleagues.


Looking ahead, CSFE and its people are on a sustainable path. So, I thank you for taking a look at this annual report, and I invite you to follow us at and our social media. The best is yet to come!