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Environmental Health becomes university’s first community engaged program

The first of a new academic tie to community engagement is now underway at Western Carolina University.

The initial selection as a Community Engaged Program is WCU’s Environmental Health Program in the College of Health and Human Sciences, a bachelor’s degree path that prepares students to identify and reduce people’s exposure to pollutants and provide protection of human health from biological, chemical and physical hazards.

Administered by WCU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, the designation was created for programs that engage students in academic and co-curricular capacities, following set criteria, that align expertise and research with public service initiatives and investment in the community.

Academic programs receive a $2,500 stipend in their first year, recognition at an annual awards event, and a Community Engaged Program insignia for their efforts. 

“We are excited to earn this distinction as it reflects what our faculty and students have been doing for some time – community engagement in public environmental health,” said Brian Byrd, professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Program. “From the air we breathe to the food we eat, environmental health impacts each of us daily. We look forward to partnering with the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning to provide meaningful opportunities for both WCU students and the broader regional community as we work to address regional environmental health needs.”

The community engagement program brings expectations for student participation and serving community needs while meeting academic goals for learning and experience.

“Community engagement permeates every corner of the Environmental Health Program,” said Jennifer Cooper, associate director for the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. “By incorporating service learning into their curriculum, a community focus into their scholarship and volunteer opportunities into the mission of their student organization, the program has proven that it values connecting with the community and investing in the region. We are honored to be able to recognize Environmental Health as WCU’s first Community Engaged Program.”

For information about community engagement or service learning at WCU, please contact the center at or (828) 227-7184.

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