Joe’s Quarterly Update – March 22

For a non-profit organization, having support within the community is vital to the success of its mission. A community partner that realizes a non-profit’s mission can be a valuable resource for knowledge, expertise, and support – all invaluable traits that a non-profit seeks and utilizes in its operations and long-range planning. Concurrently, a non-profit is responsible for providing a platform for its community partners to learn, provide support, and gain valued experiences. Since our formation in 1976, WestBridge Vocational (WBV) has been fortunate to develop partnerships with many community partners. After many years, one that is still going strong is the relationship with Western Carolina University (WCU). The benefits of having a University partner in our backdoor have been immeasurable. We have been the recipient of shared expertise applicable to all facets of our organization – Human Resources, Accounting/Finance, Manufacturing, IT, Fund Development, and Program Services. In turn, WCU students and faculty have gained valuable learning experiences in internships, projects, and programs in a real-work setting. Here are a few examples of the relationship shared by WBV and WCU.




WCU students have participated in internships in Manufacturing, IT, Fund Development, Accounting and Finance, and Program Services. Students have applied the theories and practices in their career paths and benefitted from working with experienced WBV staff. WBV has received valuable support for needed projects and programs where resources were unavailable.


MBA Level projects


WCU MBA teams have provided analysis and recommendations on high-level projects. One team executed a high-level analysis using a tool called SEAM. It consists of internal and external studies for growth, cost, and market development opportunities. Another team performed an IT plan that addressed cloud and sourcing strategy, internet strategy, systems and software, and security and disaster recovery.


Engineering Capstone


Capstone projects allow students to integrate engineering training with project management skills. Interdisciplinary student teams tackle open-ended, real-world problems for industry partners.


Project SEARCH


WCU served as the host site for Project SEARCH, a WBV program that prepares young people with significant disabilities to succeed in competitive integrated employment.


The Rapid Center


The College of Engineering and Technology at WCU partners with businesses, industry, and entrepreneurs to develop new products and processes through The Rapid Center at Western Carolina University’s research and development center on the Cullowhee campus. The facility offers unmatched resources in the region, including high-tech engineering labs and equipment and accomplished faculty members with decades of combined experience in R&D. These examples highlight the relationship that WBV and WCU have shared over the years. Another benefit of having an excellent university so close is that WCU graduates join the WBV team and contribute to the organization’s mission. We currently have four WCU grads on staff, and I am proud to say that I am a WCU alumnus – Go Cats!


Joe Rigdon, CEO

WestBridge Vocational is a non-profit organization that provides programs and services that bridge the gap between people with disabilities or disadvantages and gainful employment. We support our mission primarily through our work as a leading manufacturer of disposable surgical products for major medical companies.

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