Family History

From student to parent

Lynne Harlan and her son Watson on campus.Native American studies may not have been a prominent part of the history department at UNC Asheville in the 1980s, but Lynne Harlan recalls that professors such as Bruce Greenawalt and Milton Ready, now retired, encouraged her to explore Cherokee issues relevant to her coursework. 

Today, Harlan ’88 credits her time at the university as integral to her career, which has taken her from the Smithsonian to the Bronx to back home to Cherokee, where she is public relations officer for the new Cherokee Indian Hospital, which opened in October. It’s the latest role Harlan has held with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI), where she has played integral roles in educating the public about Cherokee history and preserving the tribe’s cultural legacy.

Harlan notes that Cherokee and American Indian issues are much more prominent on campus, a development she attributes in part to professors such as Trey Adcock, an assistant professor in the education department and director of American Indian outreach. There’s a Native American Student Association. And, notably, UNC Asheville and the EBCI in May 2015 signed an agreement that will enhance native students’ presence on campus. 

The university reserves up to 10 admission slots for new EBCI members each semester, granting in-state residence status to the students, whose cost of attendance will be covered by the EBCI. The university also will help students form an American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapter and offer new courses in Cherokee language. 

“I think UNC Asheville was making a lot of progress before the memorandum of understanding,” Harlan says. “The memorandum kind of solidified that relationship between the university and [the EBCI].” 

Today, Harlan’s son attends UNC Asheville. A first-year student, Watson says his mom’s history with the school didn’t factor much into his decision to attend. “Not really,” he said. “It was mostly reading about the school and what it’s famous for, and the tuition.” While Watson Harlan hasn’t yet declared a major, he may follow in his mother’s footsteps by choosing history. From there, however, their paths diverge. While he’s interested in Native American studies, he’s also fascinated by the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy period. Eventually, he says, he hopes to earn a doctorate and work in Great Britain on the archeological sites of the period. 

Lynne Harlan has stayed active in the university too, now serving on the Parents’ Council, which aims to involve UNC Asheville parents in events and activities that support the university. 

“The Parents’ Council is an important way for parents to develop relationships with the school and stay informed about campus activities,” she said. “By helping develop the school, parents can shape the university’s impact. We can drive what the community is going to be like in the future,” Harlan said.