What counts as economic progress in our region? That question is near and dear to so many, especially as we all continue adapting to pandemic disruptions. So, this year CSFE is launching a year-long research project combining different perspectives from various colleges and disciplines on campus. We aim to support a range of faculty and students whose work helps answer a common question: “What counts as human progress, and what steps can be taken to achieve greater progress in WNC and beyond?”

From my discipline’s perspective, economics offers what many consider a deceptively simple answer: economic growth. By raising living standards over time, economic growth enables people to live longer, healthier, happier lives. Economic growth has been a core subject of economics at least since Adam Smith’s 1776 book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. As Nobel Laureate economist Robert Lucas once quipped, “once you start thinking about economic growth, it’s hard to think about anything else.”

Yet the economic approach provides just one perspective, and other disciplines also provide insight by prioritizing differently. In social work, for example, we learned from 20-21 Faculty Affiliate Emma Miller and Graduate Affiliate Chelsea Sokolow that the pandemic was a mass-trauma event, yet people have the capacity through shared dialoguing to recreate personal and societal narratives, leading to post-traumatic growth. Similarly, in emergency response services, we learned from 20-21 Faculty Affiliate Jackson Deziel‘s work that the pandemic was a mass-casualty event, prompting innovative new training and field practices in the EMS professions, and calling on policymakers to update the regulatory environment in this critical area of health care.

The lesson is, human progress can be driven as much by public policy and genuine discourse as it can by economic growth. Still other perspectives on human progress prioritize a healthy climate, responsible commons, security, social justice, liberty, and more.

A year ago, we launched our CSFE Covid-19 Research Initiative. This year, with our Human Progress Research Initiative, we plan to offer the WCU community and the region practical insight and tangible next steps to further human progress around us. To that end, we are recruiting Faculty Affiliates with the invitation below. And we’ll continue to post updates throughout the year, so please follow and always feel free to be in touch with us along the way. Great things are coming!

Call for Faculty and Student Affiliates

Updated: September 1, 2021


Invitation: WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise invites Faculty Affiliates and Student Affiliates for 2021-22. This program is a hub of researchers from different disciplines and a platform that connects their work with academic, policy, and community audiences in the WNC region and beyond.


Background: To learn more about CSFE Faculty and Student Affiliates, see this news release and this roster of 2020-21 CSFE Affiliates, and also sample their accomplishments on the Center’s blog and our 2021 COVID-19 impact and recovery townhall site. Further background is in this post about how the Center defines free enterprise principles.


Areas of Support: CSFE’s formal mission is “to conduct scholarly inquiry, policy analysis, educational activities, and community outreach on the role of free enterprise in a flourishing society.” To that end, our support areas include research, education, and policy analysis that informs community development, economic progress, and human well-being. For 2021-22, specific areas of interest include regional economic progress, housing, infrastructure, broadband, transportation, jobs, manufacturing, health care, substance use, mental health, and long-term Covid studies. An area of focus for 2021-22 is cross-disciplinary perspectives on what counts as human progress in WNC and beyond.


Types of Support: CSFE Faculty and Student Affiliates receive a base-level financial support for the academic year and additional support for contributions including publications (e.g. CSFE Issue Briefs, blog entries, op-eds, more), presentations, and other contributions made during the year. Support may also be available for hiring student or non-student research assistance and to defray research costs that are not otherwise supported. CSFE support is designed to supplement WCU’s other institutional opportunities.


Generating Impact: The Center provides promotional support, marketing, storytelling, visualizations, and other distributions that distill and disseminate the faculty member’s work to public audiences. The Center organizes panel discussions and hands-on events that connect Affiliates with other academics in the southeast working on similar topics. Affiliates’ work is distributed through blog entries, social media, news interviews, editorials, and more. Faculty are encouraged to submit their work to Hunter Library’s Institutional Repository.


Timeline: The program duration is fall ’21 and spring ’22 semesters. Faculty Affiliates will be invited to share their work as opportunities arise throughout the year, as well as at CSFE events in the spring.


To Apply: Faculty and Students from any discipline are encouraged to apply. Interested faculty are invited to email us at csfe@wcu.edu to receive a brief application form. The application will ask for 250-500 words describing the Affiliate’s work plans and goals for the coming academic year, emphasizing its relations to the above Support Areas. We will also request a current CV and DCRD. Work that includes WCU students is especially encouraged! WCU students who work with CSFE Faculty Affiliates are automatically invited to CSFE’s Student Affiliates program.


Application Deadline: 5:00 p.m. on Friday September 21, 2021.