The provost at Western Carolina University has been named acting chancellor at the campus, effective Jan. 1, after Chancellor David Belcher’s medical leave to fight a brain tumor.
Alison Morrison-Shetlar was named to the new role Tuesday by UNC President Margaret Spellings, one day after Belcher announced his leave of absence, which takes effect Dec. 31.
Morrison-Shetlar is currently provost, vice chancellor of academic affairs and a tenured biology professor at WCU. In a statement, Spellings said Morrison-Shetlar was well-qualified to take on the leadership of the campus during a transitional period.
Belcher, who has been chancellor since 2011, has fought brain cancer since last year. He announced Monday that his current treatment was not working as he had hoped, requiring him to take medical leave. He said he did not expect to resume his duties.
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At Western Carolina, Morrison-Shetlar has overseen academic budgets and personnel. Belcher said in a statement that Morrison-Shetlar “understands our institutional values and mission, and she has the passion necessary to keep this university focused on its primary purpose – our students and their success – during this time of transition.”
Last year, Belcher and Morrison-Shetlar were at odds with faculty critics over the administration’s decision to go forward with the creation of a Center for the Study of Free Enterprise, funded with $1.8 million from the conservative Charles Koch Foundation. Some faculty had raised concerns about academic freedom and independence around WCU’s acceptance of the gifit.
Morrison-Shetlar arrived at the campus in Cullowhee in 2014 from Elon University, where she had served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2010 until her appointment as WCU provost. A native of Scotland, she holds a doctorate in biomedical science from Dundee College of Technology, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry. She received a management and leadership in higher education certificate from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.
Spellings said she would work with the WCU Board of Trustees chair to launch a search for a permanent chancellor.