WVPA Sharing

Business Summit: Higher education landscape in West Virginia said rapidly changing

By Matt Young, West Virginia Press Association News Sharing

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – The Leadership of West Virginia’s higher education system gathered at the recent “Business Meeting & Summit” to talk about innovation and change on their campuses.

The West Virginia Chamber held its 86th annual “Business Meeting & Summit” at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs from Wednesday to Friday. In addition to executives, politicians and other notable guests, those in attendance had the opportunity to hear from the leadership of West Virginia’s higher education system. 

The panel – which consisted of West Virginia State University President Dr. Ericke Cage, W.Va. School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) President Dr. James W. Nemitz, University of Charleston President Dr. Martin S. Roth, and Glenville State University President Dr. Mark A. Manchin – was moderated by Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Chancellor of the W.Va. Higher Education Policy Commission. 

“All of you are doing incredible things on your campus that I know you are proud of, and I am certainly very proud of and thankful for,” Tucker told the panel at the start of the session. “I’d like you all to tell us what sort of innovation is happening on your campus.”

“Certainly we know that the higher education landscape is rapidly changing,” Cage began. “And COVID-19 accelerated that change. So all of us in higher education are forced to make a ‘reset’ of sorts.”

“West Virginia State University is West Virginia,” Cage continued. “Eighty percent of our student body comes from this state. The vast majority of our faculty and staff live in our communities and come from West Virginia.”

Cage explained that more than 2,000 West Virginia high schoolers participate in the University’s dual-enrollment programs.

“And a large majority of our graduates stay right here in West Virginia,” Cage noted. “As one of the two land grant universities in the state – of course WVU being the flagship institution – we have a mission which is well connected to teaching, to research, and to community service.”

Cage then took a moment to list several corporations which have partnered with West Virginia State University, including Apple, Google, IBM, Diversified Energy, AEP, West Virginia American Water, the EPA, and the USDA.

“We are leaning into these partnerships because we want our students to have access to the skills and opportunities that will allow them to secure the high-demand jobs of the new economy,” Cage said. “That is our mission.” 

Nemitz was next to speak, saying, “Innovation and change is just part of what medical education is all about. At WVSOM – what we’ve seen as the ‘cutting edge’ – is the incorporation of simulation into the medical education paradigm.”

Nemitz explained that WVSOM’s Simulation Center is one of the best diagnostic-training facilities in the nation because it offers students the opportunity to learn in a “hands on” capacity.

“So in addition to getting the book learning – which a lot of it is incorporated online anymore –  you’re actually doing hands-on simulations before you go out and see patients,” Nemitz said. “We have two simulators that go through all of the stages of birth. A student can actually experience that before they’re in the OB suite.”

“The other piece is incorporating the new technologies that are occurring and that are needed to deliver healthcare in West Virginia,” Nemitz added. 

At the conclusion of Nemitz’ presentation, Dr. Roth of the University of Charleston began his remarks, telling those in attendance, “If we’re going to be successful as an institution of higher education, it’s going to be because we understand – and we meet – the talent acquisition and development needs of you and your organizations.” 

Similar to that of West Virginia State University, Roth told the audience that the University of Charleston has a mission. 

“While we’re going to educate each and every student for a life of productive work, enlightened living and community involvement – that really is only going to be successful if we’re able to work with your organizations,” Roth added. “And in so doing, give you an opportunity to see how valuable our students can be to the future of your organizations.”

“I hope you all are hearing a theme here,” Tucker interjected at the conclusion of Roth’s remarks. “Higher education has gotten a bad wrap in the public dialogue lately – about producing a bunch of underwater basket weavers. And I think you’re hearing from these presidents that the opposite is true.”

Glenville State University’s President Manchin was the session’s final speaker.

“We often say – when we’re speaking to our students and anyone else who is willing to listen – that there’s no other profession, perhaps short of the medical profession, that has such an incredible impact on people’s lives as education,” Manchin said. “Now there is no guarantee – if we do it right, there’s a good chance that young man or young woman will go on in this world to be successful.”

“But I can tell you this,” Manchin continued. “There is a guarantee that if we do it wrong – particularly in today’s society – (we will) send a young man or young woman into this world without the necessary skills to be successful.”

Manchin explained that approximately two-thirds of all Glenville State University students are “first generation college-going.” 

“If we do not serve that niche, there’s a good chance that these students will not have the opportunity to be successful,” Manchin noted.

“Education is education,” Manchin added. “And what a great opportunity we have.” 

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