The West Forum began in 2002 at the University of South Carolina in Columbia by former Governor John C. West. It transferred to Winthrop University in 2008. In his career the former governor, and then professor, worked to highlight the importance of civic education and citizen participation in South Carolina and around the world. Governor West also wanted a means for South Carolina students to learn about civic engagement and political issues in the state. He envisioned the West Forum as a place where students could be informed about issues and trained to fill important positions in the state in the future.
Governor West recognized the importance of globalization and also localization. He took measures to promote responsible political leadership in South Carolina in that regard. Winthrop's initiative to "Live, Learn, Lead" complements Governor West's initiative to prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders for the challenges that they will face. The West Forum seeks to promote leadership and educate students to become engaged and effective citizens of South Carolina.