As one of the nation’s 76 land-grant institutions, West Virginia University has a specific mission to help improve the lives of the state’s citizens, a goal new President James P. Clements highlighted, and promised to strengthen, in his first State of the University speech Monday, Oct. 12.

“We have a responsibility to make the lives of West Virginians better,” Clements said.

Clements highlighted the impact the University already has on the state, noting, “You’ve heard me say it and I am going to say it again – no university means more to its state than we do to our state.”

While the University already returns $20 for every $1 invested in it, and is intertwined with the lives of almost every West Virginian, Clements said the school will apply for the voluntary Carnegie Classification in Engagement to demonstrate commitment to the principles of public service and organize our efforts around the highest national standards.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching says its Community Engagement classification “describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” It includes three categories:

_Curricular engagement, “where teaching, learning and scholarship engage faculty, students and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration.”

_Outreach and Partnerships, where institutions a) apply and provide their resources for community use, benefiting both community and campus and b) interact with the community and related scholarship “for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration and application of knowledge, information and resources,” including research, capacity building and economic development.

_The third category combines both curricular engagement and outreach and partnerships.

Beyond its graduates, the University reaches out to the residents of the state though its Extension Service. Extension agents are located in communities across the state. They serve as a resource for all individuals, families, businesses and communities. They help people protect their resources, increase their income, improve their health and build their leadership and career skills.

Approximately one in every four young people in the state – more than 80,000 children – are involved in WVU Extension’s 4-H program. At these camps, students learn about rocketry, robotics, bio-fuels, renewable energy, computer science, farming and cooking, among other things.

Extension also serves the state through its Small Farm Center, Do It Yourself, Family Nutrition and Energy Express programs. Each year Energy Express – a six-week summer literacy program that provides free lunch – serves more than 3,000 children in rural and low-income communities.

WVU also reaches out to the state through its health care services. Approximately $70 million in uncompensated health care is provided by WVU and its health care affiliates annually.

In November of 2008, WVU introduced Bonnie’s Bus to travel around the state to reach women who lack easy access to mammograms; in June 2009, $9 million was invested to help expand WVU Health Sciences’ Stroke Center; and in September of 2009, a $17 million grant from the National Institutes of Health provided WVU with the resources to help other colleges around the state increase their research support.

Even so, Clements said, “Like most organizations with such growth, our health sciences structure is in need of review and possibly revision.”

He said Dr. Chris Colenda, recently appointed as chancellor for Health Sciences, will bring “great experience” to the task.

WVU Extended Learning’s courses allow the state’s high school students to get a head start on college before graduating. During the 2007-2008 school year, more than 660 high school students enrolled in the ACCESS (Attaining College Credits and Experiences while in Secondary School) program – a 10 percent increase from the previous year.

More information on Clements’ State of the University address is available here:

More information on WVU’s research efforts is available here: