More support structures for researchers, more faculty, a focus on multiculturalism and globalization—plus the establishment of a new student health center and an investment in recreational space—were among plans introduced by West Virginia University President James P. Clements at his first State of the University address.
“This is our University and we can make it what we want it to be and make it something special,” Clements told a packed house at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy Monday. “Remember the words you used to describe this University: life-changing, innovative, visionary, affordable, resilient, capable, committed, empowering. These words should remind all of us that we are united in a spirit of dedication and optimism and stand together on a solid foundation of success.”Since taking office on June 30, Clements has been gathering the hopes and dreams of the WVU family, from conversations with alumni, donors and friends, to a Web survey entitled “Share the Vision,” which generated more than 600 responses to date.
He also looked at key indicators such as enrollment, fiscal health and research and found them to be on solid ground.
“From our academics to our athletics, to our student organizations, to our public service and our faculty and staff achievements, we absolutely have a lot to be proud of here at West Virginia University,” he said.
The University must continue that forward momentum, Clements said, as he identified seven key areas of emphasis: academic and faculty quality, research, undergraduate experience and education, graduate education, collaboration and impact on the state, health care and multiculturalism and globalization.
He addressed the need to decrease the student-faculty ratio, increase academic program innovation, support graduate education growth and facilitate research growth. He announced his commitment to add 100 new faculty lines over the next three years. He noted that new Provost Michele Wheatly and Health Sciences Chancellor Chris Colenda will oversee the effort and strategic recommendations.
Citing WVU’s leadership in forensic identification and biometrics, Clements encouraged those in attendance to think about other programs WVU can lead nationally.
He applauded the fact that sponsored research and programs at WVU have doubled over the past decade, and noted that with significant attention to WVU’s research portfolio, it can double again.
To help accomplish that growth, Clements announced plans for a “grants budget office” to provide assistance to principal investigators developing budgets for large interdisciplinary and complex research proposals.
The WVU Research Office will also begin offering a mentoring program series each semester to focus on proposal development, budget preparation, compliance and technology transfer, he said.
The University will also develop an Electronic Research Administration system to simplify “blue sheets” and allow faculty to submit proposals electronically.
These initiatives will help WVU embrace interdisciplinary work and community partnerships, he said, and also help the University attain the Carnegie Very High Research Activity ranking held by many of its peers.
“In the ‘Share Your Vision’ survey the issues most cited as the world’s greatest challenges were the economy, technology, education, health care, energy and the environment,” Clements said.
In the area of technology, a new chief information officer will be charged with undertaking a comprehensive review of infrastructure systems to determine how WVU will become more current and responsive with technology investments, Clements said.
In the area of leadership, Clements announced that supervisory training will be enhanced. New programs will begin in January to complement the Mountaineer Leadership Academy program offered by the Division of Human Resources.
He also discussed plans to put more support systems in place to help improve student retention through the sophomore, junior and senior years. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs leadership will be key to this “blueprint for retention,” he said.
Emphasizing his commitment to student health and wellness, Clements will announce detailed plans for a new student health facility in the next few months. By the end of the year, he also plans to roll out an action plan for health and wellness efforts for students.
Included in his commitment to improve student wellness, Clements announced the dedication of $1.5 million from capital funds to improve and expand recreational space for intramurals, club sports and recreational programming.
“When we look back years from now, I want WVU to be seen as the best campuses in the country for student health, wellness and happiness. This includes mental health support and counseling, nutrition, wellness programming, recreational activities and student health,” he said.
Clements stressed the need to put more focus on graduate education and to increase the number of doctoral degrees awarded. To do this, he said, more resources will be needed for doctoral stipends.
To demonstrate the University’s commitment to public service in the state, Clements said WVU will apply for the voluntary Carnegie Classification in Engagement. The classification is awarded to institutions that collaborate with their larger communities for the exchange of knowledge and resources.
“We have a responsibility to make the lives of West Virginians better,” he said.
WVU currently affects the state through its graduates, Extended Learning programming, health care and Extension Service, among other things. Extension agents – located in communities throughout the state – help individuals, families, businesses and communities protect their resources, increase their income, improve their health and build their leadership and career skills.
Clements also discussed plans to work with Chancellor Colenda to review the overall structure of the Health Sciences Center and look for areas to improve.
“Dr. Colenda is a visionary leader who will help our health sciences enterprise achieve a new level of competitiveness and success,” Clements said.
Clements said leaders in Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are also working to strengthen the appreciation of diversity at WVU and increase the integration of international experiences at home and abroad.
Along with his goals for the future, he also addressed some of the challenges WVU faces.
Among them, he emphasized funding, competitive staff and faculty salaries and lagging technology systems and infrastructure.
After the first of the year, Clements said he will put together specific planning initiatives that will focus on the big picture collective vision that will create specific action steps to address obstacles and ensure progress.
For other State of the University details, visit http://wvutoday.wvu.edu.
Clements’ complete remarks are available at http://president.wvu.edu/speeches/stateofuniversity09 .
Additional information on WVU’s state impact is available here: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2009/10/12/wvu-dedicated-to-improving-state-through-education-health-care-and-service .
Additional information on WVU’s research efforts is available here: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2009/10/12/research-growth-at-wvu-key-to-making-people-s-lives-better .