Accomplishments | 2010-2016

From financial to academic to technological accomplishments, we are proud of our continuously improving College and strive to create the best experience for our students. Below is a selection of completed endeavors since 2010.



    Established a business model based on the following:

    - Live within our means
    - Tuition-driven for budgeting purposes
    - Residential campus
    - Reduce debt
    - Grow enrollment
    - Invest in people

    Reduced debt by 38% since FY 2010 (by approximately $5.3 million).

    Completed fifth year of operating with a balanced budget.

    Increased CFI (composite financial index) from 2.74 in FY 2010 (below minimum acceptance) to 4.88 in FY 2015 (considered well above minimum advisable of 3.5).

    Improved Net Assets by 74% from $25,332,307 in FY 2010 to $43,965,453 in FY 2015.

    Increased net tuition per student by 24% since FY 2010 ($7,864 in FY 2010 to $9,736 in FY 2015).


    Enrollment and Retention

    Stabilized and grew enrollment at a time when most four-year, private non-profit institutions are experiencing a decline.

    Marked an increase in overall enrollment for three consecutive recruitment cycles (2103, 2014, and 2015) and achieved significant fall enrollment milestones:

    - Increased fall total enrollment by 16% from fall 2010 to fall 2015.
    - Increased fall extended campus and online learning enrollment by 71% from fall 2010 to fall 2015.
    - Increased fall main campus enrollment by 6% in fall 2013, 2% in fall 2014, and 3% in fall 2015.
    - Fall 2015 marked the highest enrollment in Lees-McRae history, with record over 1,000 students (1,033).

    Achieved significant spring enrollment milestones:

    - Increased spring total enrollment by 15% from spring 2011 to spring 2015.
    - Achieved highest spring total enrollment in history in spring 2015.
    - Increased spring extended campus and online learning enrollment by 67% from spring 2011 to spring 2015.
    -Achieved highest extended campus and online learning enrollment in history in spring 2015.
    - Increased spring main campus enrollment by 3% in spring 2014 and 5% in spring 2015.

    Stabilized the retention rate by implementing a data-driven approach to retention, restructuring the Early

    Intervention Program and introducing the Noel-Levitz College Student Inventory and Mid-Year Student Assessment program. The retention rate increased from 56% in fall 2010 to 66% in fall 2014.

    Increased average GPA and average test score of entering freshmen from previous year.

    In fall 2015, 53% of incoming students are planning to pursue a degree in the health or biological sciences.

    Froze tuition for two consecutive years and only increased tuition costs by $1,286 in four years.

    Increased graduation rate from 23% in FY 2010 to 36% in FY 2014.

    Returned to roots as residential campus with more than 91% of Banner Elk students living on campus.

    Beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year, a tuition guarantee was implemented to demonstrate our commitment to affordability and help students and families plan and budget. Incoming fall 2016 students will have the same tuition rate as the year they first enroll.


    Marketing and Communications

    Restructured and redesigned a new CMS website with input from website user surveys to meet the needs of prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends featuring an enhanced events calendar, userdriven navigation and form system.

    Rendered a new responsive design website with prospective student focus, to be launched in August 2016.

    Developed a data-driven model of digital marketing by utilizing Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to create benchmarks for the direction of the content on the website and social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, leading to 91% of web traffic originating from organic search or direct URL.

    Earned national media attention (The New York Times) for the annual Video Essay Scholarship Contest and Test Optional Admissions practices.

    Increased the institution presence in regional and nation news venues including editorial in The New York Times, Charlotte Business Journal, Wall Street Journal, Private University Magazine and CNN Money.

    Developed a new annual publication titled Elevate that will serve as a President’s Report.



    Instituted an academic structure of four schools, to be in place Fall 2016 – Arts, Humanities and Education; Business; May School of Nursing and Health Sciences; Natural and Behavioral Sciences.

    Developed new May School of Nursing and Health Sciences with state-of-the-art technology. The first cohort of pre-licensure BSN students enrolled in Fall 2015.

    Constructed new May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and added the Tickle Classroom for on-site instruction.

    Constructed the Lauritsen Technical Theater and Design Studio to support technical theater education and production work for performing arts and summer theater.

    Renovated Cannon 8 & 9 classrooms including flooring, furniture and technology.

    Created a new virtual health lab and also updated classrooms in Bowman Science Building.

    Established new academic programs including moving RN to BSN exclusively online, Criminal Justice (online),

    Human Services (online), pre-licensure BSN, Emergency Medical Services and Management, cycling (minor), Elementary Education (online), History, Special Education, Business Administration (online), Health and Wellness Science, Pre-Veterinary and Outdoor Wilderness & Recreation Management.

    Restructured and enhanced the Burton Center for Student Success including academic advising, freshman and sophomore seminar classes, tutoring services and the writing center to integrate assistive learning strategies in all academic and student programs.

    Implemented inaugural online learning programs whose students now account for 26% of the overall student body after only two years.

    Enhanced structure and programs of extended campus and online learning including adding a Vice President of Extended Campus and Online Learning, implementing the institution’s first online learning programs, and establishing a separate identity for marketing and communications. In Fall 2015, the program transitions to Lees-McRae Online.

    Reinstated three performances for Summer Theatre and increased student participation.

    Expanded Honors Program to more than 80 students and increased scholarship opportunities including the Shelton Scholars program.

    Restructured the catalog and academic web pages to ensure consistency and enhance advising, program information, and academic policies

    Required all programs to make an internship opportunity available to students.

    Improved the advising and registration process, including the launch of online registration for Spring 2017 classes (main campus)

    Streamlined all program curriculum to eliminate unnecessary courses.

    Developed the Challenging Athletes to Succeed program (CATS) to help student-athletes remain successful in their academic life.

    Successfully hired a new Provost to begin July 1, 2015.

    Brought academic operations into compliance with SACSCOC.

    Eliminated low enrolled or poorly performing programs – Health and Physical Education major, Appalachian Studies minor, Sociology minor, Sports and Wellness major, Athletic Training major.

    Nursing Program received initial accreditation in 2015 from the NC Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Emergency Medical Services and Management program received accreditation from the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services and has started the process for national accreditation.

    Teacher Education program reaccredited in 2013 from Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

    Proposals for graduate programs presented to Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee in Fall 2016.

    Increased summer school footprint, both number of classes and number of enrolled students.

    Awarded inaugural Whalen Master Teacher Grant and Whalen Research Grant in 2015–16.


    Student Life

    Restructured the Order of the Tower organization so students are now an integral part of the recruitment process.

    Improved the food service program to meet a variety of student needs, remodeled MacDonald Dining Hall and implemented a student-led dining hall committee to analyze student feedback.

    Re-envisioned Wily’s as a student gathering space including the addition of a Starbuck’s coffee shop.

    Reinstated 24-7 security services for the campus community to enhance campus safety, implemented an emergency alert system using text, voicemail and email, and published a campus-wide emergency preparation plan.

    Renovated restrooms and completed other updates in Virginia Residence Hall, Tate Residence Hall, Avery Residence Hall and Bentley Residence Hall.

    Converted and renamed Faculty Hill to be Bobcat Way and renovated homes to be used for student housing in order to give students more housing options in response to the residential campus policy.

    Converted faculty/staff apartments to student housing in order to give students more options in response to the residential campus policy.

    Added Bobcat Valley Parking to accommodate students living in Tate Residence Hall.

    Renovation of Residence Hall Lobbies.

    Installation of new audio and visual equipment in Evans Auditorium.



    Received a new transportation fleet of mini-buses and a charter bus for use by athletics and the general campus community.

    Honored with the Allan Sharp Award and the NCAA Division II President’s Award for Academic Excellence.

    Regained ownership of the former daycare center on the grounds of the athletic complex which will be transformed into additional locker room space for the athletic teams. Named in honor of Trustee Ken Haigler.

    Resurfaced the Williams Gymnasium floor, running track and outdoor tennis courts to create better playing conditions and aesthetics for the athletic teams.

    Installed a new sound system in Williams Gymnasium and implemented live streaming of athletic events for an improved game day experience.

    Redesigned the athletics website to be a repository of information about the upcoming athletic events, and team statistics and players.

    Developed a new cycling training facility complete with bike storage and a full repair shop, and implemented an academic cycling minor and Advisory Council.

    Repaved Williams Gym parking lot to enhance traffic conditions in the parking lot and significantly enhance the experience for spectators.

    Renovated trophy case.

    Added 24 action photo picture frames.

    Renovated the concession stand.

    Bobcat Club film room (40 media chairs and state of the art AV).

    Repurposed old tennis courts adjacent to the softball field into a Beach Volleyball Court with Pavilion.

    Renovated offices at Williams Gymnasium – new flooring.

    Upgraded showers in locker rooms at Williams Gymnasium – 18 private showers for men’s and women’s areas.

    Upgraded bathrooms in the front lobby of Williams Gymnasium.

    LED lights in Williams Gymnasium, hallways, and offices.

    Acquisition of second charter bus for affordable travel and safety of student-athletes.

    New web-streaming computer and cameras for HD production of home events.

    This Week in Bobcat Athletics Television – 26 episodes in Year One.

    Pack the Den for Dinner – all food served for dinner and basketball games at Williams Gym.

    Golden Ticket Campaign – all Banner Elk Elementary students received special ticket to attend Lees-McRae basketball games.

    Ride 4 Reading Campaign – Lees-McRae Cyclists took books to elementary schools to promote reading and bicycle safety.

    Special Olympics – Bocce Night – Yellow Mountain Prom


    Completed capital improvements in declining campus infrastructure totaling $3,500,000..

    Restored the Daniel Boone Cottage, Robb Center, Hemlock Hall and historic Cheese House, implemented the Daniel Boone Cottage and Hemlock Hall as VIP guest housing, and earned the Carraway Award for Historic Preservation for the Daniel Boone Cottage restoration.

    Completed Phase 3 of the Energy Efficiency Transition to eliminate the institution’s dependence on the steam plant.

    Prioritized deferred maintenance to improve the overall campus appearance including renovating walkways and building entrances, roofs and other projects.

    Renovated Miller Commons to become a fine dining facility to be used for Presidential events and as a experiential learning lab for students to engage in fine dining etiquette.

    Renovated Historic Commons with new entrances, walkways, lighting, bathrooms, and signage.



    Invested in failing technology infrastructure to enhance the accessibility and reliability of technology for students, faculty, staff and campus guests including replacing network switches and cabling, and replacing the Wi-Fi system for a more accessible internet connection.

    Restructured the Technology Services department personnel and processes to include more positions and employ a 24-7 online Help Desk system.

    Developed a schedule for providing consistent and deliberate technology training and support to the campus community including training in Sakai and WebAdvisor.

    Updated Cannon Classroom 9 to include annotation technology and streaming capabilities.

    Updated Bowman Lab 206 to include virtual learning tools.

    Identified critical phone issues and worked to develop a plan to improve telecommunications to provide better customer service.

    Converted the campus community to Microsoft 365 for an enhanced user experience, increased storage limits and remote access.

    Installed a campus web cam on the Campus Bookstore on College Drive to provide the campus community and local media outlets an opportunity to view the campus at any time.



    Created and implemented class agent program that reaches 70% of our alumni base.

    Created “Friends of Wildlife” program for May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

    Elevated the role of the Director of Alumni and Community Relations to full time.

    Restructured gift acknowledgement process from 5 days to 24 hours.

    Exceeded goal for Fund for Lees-McRae.

    Strengthened the relationship with Cannon Trust and Foundation for renewed financial support.

    Increased and maintained alumni participation to 10% (9.5% is national average).

    Secured $2 million gift to renovate Carson Library into Dotti Shelton Learning Commons.

    Increased membership in prestigious President’s Circle from 188 to 266 (42% Increase).

    Created and presented plan for Comprehensive Campaign to Board of Trustees – Approved $30 million goal.

    Identified and Recruited Campaign Leadership.

    Hired experienced Grants Manager with relevant experience in education and health sciences.

    Secured $100,000 from Broyhill Family Foundation for renovation of Broyhill Theatre.

    Streamlined costs of special events, increasing ROI for Homecoming, Escape and Reunions.

    Increased gift expectancies to $13.8 million from 59 constituents.

    Progressed concept of “Artist Village” by securing kiln and tools to be used by students and faculty.

    Launched historic fourth-year student campaign to educate young alumni about philanthropy.

    Dedicated both Haigler Athletic Center and the Tickle Classroom at May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

    Personally visited 12 of 88 (14%) scholarship donors to provide stewardship report and update.

    Staff members visited personally 400+ prospects and donors.

    Achieved 91% return on phone-a-thon pledges, the second-highest ever!

    Employee giving increased from 50%–64%.


    Strengthened Board of Trustees to be more diverse and thoughtfully engaged in the College’s welfare, including 29 total members of which eight are women and seven are alums.

    Reaffirmed regional accreditation with SACSCOC (next decennial review in 2025).

    Created a position for a Conferencing and Events Manager to serve the institution and greater community through year-round revenue-generating opportunities such as camps, visiting speakers, VIP guest housing and other events such as weddings and corporate retreats.

    Successfully devised and concluded a three-year Strategic Plan, effective January 2013, with more than 95% of goals and targets met on or ahead of schedule.

    Developed and adopted a Strategic Plan (May 2016) with input from faculty, staff, trustees and senior leadership, that sets the course for a transition to University, the addition of graduate programs, and a comprehensive fundraising campaign.

    Enhanced student, employee and faculty handbooks to employ consistent language and updated aesthetics, and developed new employee resources on the College website including fillable PDF forms, electronic request forms and branded templates.

    Improved the institution’s focus on career preparation that included establishing the new Robb Center for Career Exploration, hiring a Director of Career Exploration, and achieving an 88% placement rate in program-related career or graduate school within six months of graduation.

    Developed a pet-friendly campus policy that has resulted in extensive positive publicity including TV coverage on Fox 46 in five major news markets.

    Replaced roofs on Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina Buildings and Bowman Science Building.

    Renovated the lobby and women’s restroom in Hayes Auditorium.