Melissa Canady Wargo

CULLOWHEE – Melissa Canady Wargo, assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness at Western Carolina University, will be the institution’s next chief of staff.

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher announced the appointment Monday, April 29. Wargo will succeed Dianne G. Lynch, who is stepping down this summer after serving for 10 years as the senior executive staff member in the Office of the Chancellor.

“Melissa Wargo brings an exceptionally strong skill set to the position of chief of staff. In addition to a keen analytical mind, she has an excellent reputation on and off the campus for her ability to bring together a diverse collection of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community representatives to find common ground and a sense of shared direction in developing our university’s strategic plan,” Belcher said.

“She sees the big picture and understands how things work in the University of North Carolina system, as well as at the regional and community levels. She will be able to hit the ground running and have an immediate impact as the university meets the challenges and opportunities ahead,” he said.

The appointment of Wargo, which is effective June 1, concludes a national search that began in January and was conducted by a seven-member campus committee. Chaired by Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, the committee presented three unranked finalists to Belcher for his consideration.

“The search committee members did exactly what I asked them to do by bringing forward three extremely well-qualified candidates for my consideration for this important position in the university administration,” Belcher said. “They did their job well by making my job difficult.”

In her role as assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness, Wargo guided the university through a nearly yearlong strategic planning process. She led a 36-member committee in drafting a strategic plan titled “2020 Vision: Focusing Our Future,” which was approved last June by the WCU board of trustees.

Wargo currently serves as co-chair of the university’s master planning committee, which is charged with creating a comprehensive plan that will guide the development and improvements of the campus over the next several decades. The 17-month master planning process is directly related to the university strategic plan and entails a detailed examination of the university’s infrastructure, including transportation; technology and utilities; possible location of new buildings; utilization of existing space; and parking and greenways.

Wargo will assume the role of chief of staff as the university is in the first phase of a process of institutional restructuring. In addition to serving as the principal aide to the chancellor on important university operational matters and leading the university’s government relations activities, Wargo will oversee WCU’s communications and public relations functions and a new marketing unit that is being formed from several existing offices.

Reporting directly to the chancellor, the chief of staff is a member of the university’s senior leadership team, sits on the executive council and provides coordination for the achievement of strategic directions, goals and initiatives for the Chancellor’s Division.

Wargo said she feels “tremendously honored” to be selected as WCU’s next chief of staff. “This is an exciting time at Western and it will be my privilege to serve the university in this new role,” she said. “I am particularly looking forward to working with Chancellor Belcher and other campus leaders as we implement the ‘2020 Vision’ strategic plan. Fortunately, my job will be made easier because of the excellent foundation built by my predecessor, Dianne Lynch, and the dedicated staff in communications and public relations, marketing, and government relations.”

Wargo arrived at WCU in January 2006 as director of assessment before becoming an assistant vice chancellor in January 2009. She previously served as director of assessment at Texas Christian University, coordinator of reports and institutional research associate at the University of Texas at Arlington and coordinator for institutional research and assessment at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.

She earned her doctorate in history, and her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in anthropology, all at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Lynch, the current chief of staff, announced in December her plans to retire after a 37-year career with the state of North Carolina, including various leadership roles for nearly 20 years with the Jackson County School System.

-Press release from Western Carolina University, shared May 2.

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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