West Virginia University’s Board of Governors on Friday (Sept. 19) approved a new degree program in energy land management in response to the increasing demand for energy professionals in West Virginia and across the nation.
The Board also gave the go ahead to acquire 5.6 acres of land for parking adjacent to the new WVU Baseball Park near University Town Center at a cost of $4.7 million – $1 million from the minor league team and the remaining funds from the bond issuance for the Athletics Facilities Master Plan.
Provost Joyce McConnell said the new major in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design is “exciting and a great fit for the College because it brings a land and ownership management focus to the already established business and entrepreneurial degree” WVU offers.
“It also brings another nationally recognized academic program to the Davis College,” she added, while responding to career needs in that field.
The additional parking near the ballpark, set for completion in spring 2015, will accommodate approximately 700 cars – more than 1,100 through third party agreements with Town Center businesses. This allows parking for every three seats, officials noted. WVU and a minor league team will begin playing at the park this spring.
In his report to the Board, President Gordon Gee focused on his recent tour of all 55 counties, showing a video of the Marching Band’s trip to McDowell County and introducing two WVU Extension agents he met along the way – Donald Reed, McDowell County, and Zona Hutson, Doddridge County.
Both said lives were changed by those personal visits.
Dr. Gee crisscrossed West Virginia this summer listening to residents, Reed said, reuniting the love that was always there between the citizens of southern West Virginia and their state’s land-grant University.
Hutson agreed, saying she couldn’t remember the last time a WVU president visited Doddridge County. “Everyone was just so excited and truly touched – from the school officials and volunteers to our area youth,” she said, “who now realize how accessible WVU is.”
Connecting the University with West Virginians – whether in the corner coffee shop, the public schools, the fairs and festivals, the small-town Rotary Club meetings or by visiting local businesses – and listening to their wants and needs was the goal of the visits, Gee noted.
Updates and Other Reports
Vice President for Research Fred King updated the Board on the new Office of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, established in the Research Office to encourage the commercialization of faculty and student innovations.
WVU hired Matt Harbaugh to direct those efforts, including developing a one-stop-shop for budding entrepreneurs.
By bringing together resources from across the University, Harbaugh said, WVU now has a high tech space in Hodges Hall, Launch Lab, for faculty and students to develop their ideas.
Resources include an entrepreneurial coach, a marketing group led by students in the Reed College of Media, an intellectual property group led by students in the College of Law and a lab for programming i-Phone and Android phone apps.
Already, several student start-ups have launched including one called RenaSnacks, geared toward producing healthy tasty snacks for those with kidney diseases.
The tech transfer process is also been improved for faculty, including improvements to the grant writing proposal and licensing processes, he said.
Accelerating and incentivizing the patent process is also a focus, Harbaugh said, noting that several start-ups have resulted: Aspinity, ultra low-power sensors; CereDx, new biomarker-based diagnostic system for strokes; and Confirmix, biometric systems for online security and fraud prevention.
The innovation office also recently launched the Center for Smart Defense, focused on matching existing technology capabilities at WVU to needs within the military. This is part of an effort to develop deeper relationships with key industry partners in areas such as pharmaceuticals and advanced materials, Harbaugh noted.
Next steps are to open a Business Engagement Center this spring to serve as a “front door” to other potential partners.
“It is our hope that West Virginia University continues to be THE innovation resource for West Virginia,” Harbaugh said, “working in cooperation with economic development offices, other colleges and universities, regional industry and entrepreneurs across the state. There is just so much more we can do to advance the economic situation of this state,” he added.
Dr. Gee agreed, saying, “The University needs to be more entrepreneurial ? it’s simply the future,”
Becoming a “model institution” for the attraction and inclusion of diverse groups is one of the primary goals of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said Vice President David Fryson, in his report to the Board.
Acknowledging, recognizing and celebrating the total individual, including similarities and differences, is everyone’s responsibility, he said, and his team representing affirmative action/equal opportunity, diversity initiatives, accessibility services and equity assurance is sharing that message through various programs and outreach efforts on campus and around the state and country.
In her first eight months on the job, WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth said she’s been to 11 states outside West Virginia and met with hundreds of alumni, all who have a passion for helping their alma mater and West Virginia and country.
That’s why expanding the capital campaign to $1 billion after exceeding the campaign goal of $750 million 18 months early was no surprise, she said. “Now it’s up to us to help connect our alumni and friends with the right giving opportunity,” she added.
Committee reports focused on SWOT teams, formed by President Gee last spring to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to enrollment management and reducing bureaucracy across campus.
The Board also learned about this week’s issuance of $189.2 million in bonds – $50.2 million in re-pricing of existing variable rate debt and $139 million in new debt – to direct revenues to the athletic facilities master plan and Phase II of the Personal Rapid Transit modernization project. Officials agreed that giving more attention to rating agencies and investors is important moving forward.
The reports also covered a capital projects update from Facilities, along with a Health Sciences report on the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, funded by the National Institutes of Health plus matching dollars, that is strategically focused on clinical trials research in the areas of cancer, stroke/neurosciences and cardiovascular diseases.
Other Action Items
In other business, the Board approved:
- Maintaining the percentage of non-classified personnel at 25 percent of the total number of classified and non-classified employees, with approval of the Higher Education Policy Commission.
- The naming of University Park Drive, a new roadway on WVU property that connects Elmer Prince Drive to University Park, a new public-private housing project in Evansdale.
- Institutional undergraduate fee waivers at WVU’s main and divisional campuses.
- Correcting an undergraduate program review—Slavic and Eastern European Studies
- Committee structure/assignments
The next BOG meeting is set for Oct. 31 in Morgantown.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.