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Working in service: WVU embedded in fabric of West Virginia communities

WV Press News Sharing

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In West Virginia’s hills and hollows, its larger cities along interstates and smaller communities on country roads, at ground levels and from broader 365-degree views, West Virginia University students, faculty and staff are working each day in service to the Mountain State.

Gordon Gee

“West Virginia University does not exist without West Virginia and vice versa,” President Gordon Gee said. “Service to the state is built into our DNA. It is a charge our students embrace when they become Mountaineers and you can see the results of their work, and the work of our faculty and staff members, statewide.”

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of news releases highlighting ways WVU is serving the Mountain State. Access photos, video and additional resources in a Media Toolkit from WVUToday.)

Health and well-being

Service is the driving force for WVU Health Sciences, where the next generation of the Mountain State’s health professionals are being trained to conduct innovative research and provide patient-centered care with the goal of creating happier, healthier and safer communities.

“We all want to help people and we all want to make the world better,” Dr. Clay Marsh, chancellor and executive dean for Health Sciences, said. “The big focus we have at WVU and on our Health Sciences campuses is solving real problems for the people in our state and beyond. As we balance disease-based care with promoting health and well-being, we are trying to discover solutions for how we can help people stay healthy and high-performing for their whole lives.”

With a central office located in Charleston and an extended reach into 50 counties, the goal of West Virginia Area Health Education Centers is to improve the overall health of communities by developing an interprofessional workforce that is prepared to address the health needs of rural and underserved communities.

MUSHROOM, the Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach of Morgantown, is a service program bringing together medical, nursing, dental, public health, social and other health professional volunteers for “street rounds,” providing care through food, water, clothing and basic medical intervention.

In the College of Applied Human Sciencesthe Center for ActiveWV is focused on creating a healthier West Virginia by improving physical activity levels among state residents of all ages through collaboration, research, policy and practice. See the Center’s WV Physical Activity Plan.

And the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute, through its community engagement and outreach core, develops statewide infrastructure as a platform for engaging communities and patients as comprehensive research partners.

Purpose-driven research and engagement

As West Virginia’s only R1 research institution, the University leads groundbreaking research across all fields that is being used in Mountain State communities while giving students invaluable learning opportunities.

“Our goal, as researchers and scholars, first and foremost, is to produce quality work with real-world implications,” Fred King, WVU vice president for research, said.

WVU Libraries is an essential information hub for and about the people of West Virginia. It is home to the West Virginia and Regional History Center offering an expansive collection of West Virginia and Appalachian culture and history. In addition to preserving local, state, and regional history, the system also serves as the state’s only Patent and Trademark Resource Center, available to help the state protect regional innovation and intellectual property.

WVU Extension has experts in all 55 counties, ready to offer research-based knowledge, tips and education to improve Mountain State communities with a common thread.”

“We envision a West Virginia where all people can reach their fullest potential,” said Jorge Atiles, dean of WVU Extension and Engagement. “We’re on the ground, in communities each day, working collaboratively with key partners to expand outreach and programming opportunities to improve the lives and livelihoods of all West Virginians.” 

That involves community engagement from multiple fronts, including 4-HEnergy Expressagritourismworkforce training, activities at WVU Jackson’s Mill and extensive volunteer opportunities.

“We support meaningful and diverse community engagement opportunities for our students, faculty and staff members through various areas of scholarship and service, including service-learning and volunteerism,” said Kristi Wood-Turner, assistant dean and director of the Center for Community Engagement, part of WVU Extension. “Staying true to our land-grant mission, our goal is to connect WVU to the state of West Virginia in ways that benefit both learning and impact.”

Representing WVU Athletics, student-athletes volunteer thousands of hours each year while visiting patients at WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital and supporting community service projects from the Salvation Army, the Shack Neighborhood House and Monongalia County Schools along with many others.

The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences is expanding the role of its Center for Resilient Communities to support college-wide efforts that foster community-engaged research with undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty. 

Community outreach

To help state educators expand their expertise in delivering engaging science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics learning experiences that foster student interest and excitement, WVU is home to West Virginia’s STEAM Technical Assistance Center, a partnership with the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative, operating out of the Office of the Provost, and the state Department of Education.

Based in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Designthe Fulcrum Project brings together students and a faculty partner with communities to work on ways to improve local economies. Upcoming projects include a therapeutic landscape design in Martinsburg, a miners’ memorial in Matewan and a fairground in Durbin.

“A lot of times, communities have an idea and visualization from students really helps,” said Peter Butler, director of the School of Design and Community Development and Extension specialist for landscape architecture. “We’ve seen most of these projects trending toward improving local quality of life, increasing tourism to their communities and boosting their local economies.” 

The Lane Innovation Hub, located at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, is a resource for state businesses with nearly 9,500 square-feet divided into a student-focused maker space and a fully staffed University-wide manufacturing service center offering a wide variety of rapid prototyping, electronics prototyping, advanced manufacturing and 3D printing services. Recently, the Lane Innovation Hub partnered with WVU Industrial Extension and began working with companies and small businesses throughout the state offering solutions to manufacturing needs.

As part of an experiential learning course on export management from Annie Cui, chair of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics Department of Marketing, students worked with The Fiesta Tableware Company, based in Newell, to introduce the company’s products to the Mexico market.

Students, meanwhile, in the Department of Accounting have partnered with the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office to collaborate with smaller counties and municipalities on finance tracking and other record keeping.

At the Reed College of Media, “Our two television news shows, ‘WVU News’ in the spring and ‘West Virginia Today’ in the fall, are not focused solely on campus issues,” Ashton Marra, teaching assistant professor, said. “Instead, we push our students out into surrounding communities to cover stories that local newsrooms, with limited staffing, may not be able to address.”

Last fall, multiple news stations picked up student broadcasts with field reporting from Fayetteville, Madison, Bridgeport and Wheeling.

The College of Law’s Land Use and Sustainable Law Clinic, created to protect and improve the quality of life in West Virginia through land use planning, conservation and education, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The clinic is one of many designed to serve the public while providing real-world experience to law students. Others include the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, and the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic.

The College of Creative Arts brings art and design, music, theatre and dance directly into the Mountain State’s communities.

The Community Music Program, for example, offers musical training to people of all ages and skill levels in and around Morgantown to nurture artistic growth. The Art Museum of WVU allows access to more than 4,000 paintings, prints, works on paper, sculpture and ceramics with messages from across the globe and over centuries.

“As I travel West Virginia as a symbol of the strength and spirit of WVU, I see firsthand how the University is making an impact in communities in all kinds of ways,” Mary Roush, the 68th Mountaineer mascot and a Mason native, said. “My goal is to graduate from WVU and work in service to West Virginia, whatever form that takes. I love this state and this University, both of which are forever connected.” 

Read more about how WVU serves West Virginia.



Executive Director of Communications
University Relations
304-293-3990; [email protected]  

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