Expanding on its student-centered mission, West Virginia University’s Board of Governors meeting today (June 2) in Charleston took further steps to enhance the campus living and learning environment by endorsing an innovative residential college experience.

The panel also approved a faculty and staff salary increase plan consisting of a 3 percent pool of funds from state allocations and institutional resources. Employees at the Morgantown campus, Potomac State College and regional campuses in Parkersburg and Montgomery are eligible for the increase. The plan, which will go into effect Oct. 1, is contingent on fee increases from campus enrollments, Provost Gerald Lang said.

A Special Residential Experience

WVU ’s new residential college experience, part of the Student Affairs 2010 Strategic Plan, will be housed in a new residence hall opening this fall on the Evansdale campus, said Dean of Students and Resident Faculty Leader David Stewart, who addressed the panel.

�€?The philosophy underlying the mission of the residential college is that students will be known individually, and the college will nurture intellectual curiosity,�€? Stewart explained.

A diverse student population of both freshmen and upperclassmen will reside in the state-of-the-art, 350-bed hall and receive academic guidance from close faculty contacts and opportunities for social and cultural activities with resident faculty leaders, or RFLs, and classmates.

It will be known as Lincoln Hall after President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Land Grant Act and was U.S. president during the establishment of the state.

This is the first new campus residence hall since the late’60s, Stewart noted, and students will enjoy a 50-seat theater for small classes, musical and theatrical productions and movies; high-speed Internet connections; and a small library, study lounges and computer center. They will also have access to faculty fellows, resident tutors and associate members.

�€?We’ve been thinking about the residential college concept for a few years,�€? Stewart said. �€?Research suggests that students involved in these programs have high retention rates between 85 and 90 percent.�€?

He added, �€?What we want to do programmatically is to develop a sense of belonging with traditions and student input.�€?

The 10 faculty fellows will come from a mix of disciplines and teach freshman seminars on topics of their choice that will substitute for University 101, a required orientation course for first-year students.

For example, Patrick Conner, Eberly Centennial Professor in English and director of the WVU Press, is conducting a seminar on Homer’s �€?Iliad,�€? and Dan Weiner, director of the Office of International Programs and professor of geography, is planning one on global issues.

The goal of the freshman seminar is to foster a close academic and personal connection between students and faculty, an experience that is sometimes lacking in large classes, Stewart said. Seminar classes will be limited to about 20 students and meet once a week.

Associate professor in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, Sven Verlinden, and his wife, Lisa, will serve as RFLs and live in an apartment at the residential college.

Besides faculty, students will interact with professionals inside and outside the University through the associate member program. Topics may range from mental and physical health-related issues to financial management and civic leadership opportunities.

Stewart said the residential college is an extension of WVU ’s unique RFL program, an integral part of the University’s first-year experience. RFLs share meals with students, listen to their concerns, offer academic advice and plan activities such as trips to the city to tour museums and attend plays.

Admission to the residential college was selective. The 350 students (80 percent freshmen and 20 percent upperclassmen) who make up the college were chosen by a committee of residential education staff and RFLs based on their interest in the program and potential to benefit from it.

Ground was broken in August for the $14.5 million, four-story, suite-style hall, which sits between University and Rawley avenues near the Evansdale Residential Complex, or Towers.

Other News

In his report to the board, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said capital construction projects are on target, including the new Eastern Panhandle campus of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, a new alumni center in Morgantown and renovations to several older campus buildings.

Enrollment growth in Morgantown , Keyser and Parkersburg continues, he added, and Tech’s marketing efforts are being bolstered.

Three students have earned prestigious Goldwater Scholarships this year, including one who received both a Goldwater and Truman Scholarship in one year, he said.

He also lauded the board for its leadership and thanked the outgoing chair, Centra Bank President Douglas Leech, for his exceptional commitment to University governance over the past two years.

The board also approved the $681 million 2007 operating budget for the main and regional/division campuses.

Vice President for Administration and Finance Narvel Weese presented the forecast, noting that it reflects the 3 percent increase allotted for this year’s salary improvement plan for employees and includes funding to support the University’s 2010 Strategic Plan.

The board also welcomed Linda Dickirson, a Jackson County educator and long-time community volunteer. Dickirson is the new chair of the WVU Parkersburg Board of Advisers and replaces Parkersburg banker Joe D. Campbell on the WVU governing board.

Terms also expired for board members Rodney K. Thorn, NBA executive, and WVU Student Government Association President D.J. Casto.

Casto will be replaced by new SGA President Jason Gross; Thorn’s replacement will be named by Gov. Joe Manchin prior to the September board meeting.

The board elected the following officers: Charleston attorney Stephen P. Goodwin, chair, replacing Leech; and Baltimore attorney Robert A. Wells, vice chair, replacing Goodwin.

Elizabeth E. Chilton, president and publisher of the Charleston Gazette, was re-elected secretary-treasurer.

In other business, the board approved:

  • a renovation and expansion project at the southeast corner of the Engineering Sciences Building

  • additional capital funds for a student housing project at Potomac State , with the cost to be offset by additional beds and an appropriate room rate

  • a policy establishing guidelines for implementing a $50 increment pay to faculty to comply with state law

  • new academic programs through the Community and Technical College at WVU Tech �€an online certificate of medical transcription; an associate’s degree in building construction; and one-year certificates in mechanical mining specialist, electrical mining specialist and electromechanical specialist.

The next WVU Board of Governors meeting is Sept. 7-8 in Morgantown .