West Virginia University’s Board of Governors on Friday (Feb. 10) gave the nod to University officials to explore the development of a new School for Architecture and Applied Design.
The concept would utilize the expertise found in existing programsinterior design, landscape architecture, graphics arts, civil and mechanical engineering, and biometric applications, to name a fewto meet a niche market not offered by any other public college or university in the state or region.
WVU’s current offeringsblended with faculty who are trained in architecturecould be structured in such a way as to create a new school that educates professional architects and professionals in related fields,Provost Gerald Lang said following the meeting.
The board endorsed the exploration of developing this new academic discipline, which BOG Chairman Doug Leech saidhas been missing in this state.
The 17-member panel also approved the design for a new Biomedical Research Facility that officials say will be critical to fostering research in areas of special concern to West Virginiansheart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and other serious illnesses.
With this endorsement by the board, utility site work on a $41.8 million, four-story biomedical research facility can begin in March, with an expected completion date of spring 2008.
In addition to enhancing medical research and ultimately improving lives, the new center is expected to create hundreds of jobs and attract some of the world’s top researchers to West Virginia .
The project, to be located on the northeast corner of the Health Sciences Center campus, is being funded by a federal grant, secured with the assistance of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, and loans from the state Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and the Economic Development Authority.
An open laboratory design and a glass exterior to let in natural light will enhance interaction among researchers for cross-disciplinary research. An enclosed bridge will connect the new facility to HSC North.
In recognition of the rising academic credentials of WVU ’s entering freshmen, the board approved a name change for the WVU Honors Program. The program for high-achieving students will now be known as the Honors College in appreciation of the type of high-ability students that are attracted to and accepted into this program.
The WVU initiative is known for giving students personalized attention through smaller classes coupled with world-class research opportunities.
The name change is consistent with WVU ’s strategic plan to attract more academically talented students. An increase in applications from high-achieving students supports this move, Lang said.
The board also approved the purchase of additional property in Sunnyside to accommodate a new downtown residence hall. The Wise-Merrifield residential properties on First Street and Grant Avenue , respectively, will allow the University to tie together the new downtown residence hall with the existing Summit Hall, previously purchased by WVU in December 2004.
The purchase price of the properties, $336,150, will be funded from the budget for the downtown housing project and will be offset by the housing allowance paid by each student resident.
The new hall was originally slated for completion in fall 2007, but that date may be extended, according to officials, to provide additional floors and more beds for WVU ’s growing enrollment.
WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said despite an outstanding year at WVU in terms of enrollment growth, increased research funding and private support, facilities improvements and athletic successes, WVU cannot be complacent.
He pledged to meet future challenges such as seeking adequate funding for higher education; staying competitive for research dollars; hiring faculty in growth programs; improving retention; growing WVU ’s regional campuses; and watching for and adjusting to enrollment declines in target markets, among other issues.
Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Dave Miller said the state budget looks stable with a possibility of increased funding for higher education. He also said an initiative to develop research projects in Charleston as part of a potential partnership with Dow is being received positively.
Interim Vice President Narvel Weese gave a financial report, describing WVU ’s second-quarter performance as beingon target,with student applications and grant awards up and state revenue collections exceeding estimates.
The panel also heard a presentation from WVU Parkersburg President Marie Gnage, who reported on the college’s progress in meeting the goals of its five-year (2004-2009) strategic plan. She spoke of the institution’s sustained enrollment growthprojected enrollment is 4,000 by 2007and increasing use of technology with recent online registration and the availability of more online courses.
Gnage also spoke of ongoing campus enhancementsa $2.9 million classroom tower and student lounge renovations.
Future challenges at WVU Parkersburg include expanding campus diversity, improving faculty salaries, continuing renovations and technology enhancements, and developing an Honors Program and more study abroad opportunities.
In other action, the board approved:
changing the names of degrees conferred at the College of Creative Arts from Bachelor of Arts in Visual Performance to individual degree designations: Bachelor of Arts in Music, Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Bachelor of Arts in Art History
upgrading the fire alarm and sprinkler system at Arnold residence hall in summer 2006
a reduction in the size of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute from the approved February 2004 plan to one that brings the project within budget
WVU Tech to proceed with a change in the affiliation of its athletic program from NCAA status to the NAIA Mid South Conference.
The next meeting of the BOG is planned for April 21 in Morgantown .