The law creating land-grant universities is broad and vague, but that is its strength, and West Virginia University is a prime example of why as it fulfills its mission to teach, research and serve, an expert on the Morrill Act of 1862 told the University’s Board of Governors Friday.
The Morrill Act was both “broad and paradoxical,” said Nate Sorber, assistant professor of higher education administration at WVU’s College of Education and Human Services and co-editor of the recently published book, The Land-Grant Colleges and the Reshaping of American Higher Education.
The act offered no sample curriculum or clear mission, he said. It suggested everything agriculture, mechanical arts, liberal and scientific studies even military tactics. But, this vagueness was its strength, he said, as it could be shaped to serve different state contexts.
“WVU seeks to maintain the highest quality of academics and research, while at the same time retain a public mission by translating research into innovation and economic growth and engaging in the practical problems of the populace,” he said.
Sorber said his students often ask him why WVU refers to itself as a “land-grant, research, flagship” institution. His answer: “The modern land-grant university has to be all those things.”
Even in the midst of budget cuts and recessions, WVU must strategically focus its resources toward those areas that enhance academic and scholarly excellence, while maintaining successful engagement programs that serve West Virginians and, in turn, preserve the very nature of public higher education, he added.
WVU celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1862 all last year with a host of events, including an inaugural lecture by C. Peter Magrath, WVU’s interim president from 2008-2009, who has served several other land grant institutions as president as well as led the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities for many years.
Other significant events included participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., which highlighted WVU’s ongoing contribution to the cultural life of West Virginia, groundbreakings for new academic and research facilities, symposiums, state fair events and cooperative extension activities at Jackson’s Mill.
BOG Chairman James Dailey thanked Dr. Sorber for an excellent presentation adding, “It’s ironic that your presentation described exactly what we as a Board and a University, with our 2020 plan are trying to do to promote education for all.”
WVU Foundation President and CEO Wayne King told Board members that donors contributed $99.6 million in cash and in-kind gifts for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, well exceeding the Foundation’s $80 million goal. The donations from 20,920 donors span all areas of the University, from academics and research to health sciences and athletics, and include some 1,600 faculty and staff who have given approximately $2 million.
King also said that the endowment investment pool had a good year, returning a positive 10.8 percent. He noted that as of June 30, the Foundation had received $668.7 million, or 89 percent, of the $750 million goal for A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University.
In her annual report to the Board, Campus Provost of the WVU Institute of Technology Carolyn Long said there has been enrollment growth of about 100 students on the Montgomery campus, residence halls are at 92 percent capacity, and the campus has had a significant increase in the use of dining hall services.
The campus also set a record at convocation with nearly 600 people in attendance, and the new Student Success Center continues to be active with more than 1,400 student visits so far this semester.
A number of on-campus workshops and student development opportunities are offered at the Center, Long said, along with peer tutoring and study sessions.
“We are continuing our efforts to recruit, retain and rebuild WVU Tech,” Long said. “I’m extremely pleased to report our progress and want to commend the entire campus for their dedication and hard work.”
President Jim Clements applauded Tech for its progress, particularly enrollment gains, when national trends are going in the other direction.
As a separate item, the Board approved a new committee structure and made appointments for the coming year. Committees include: Strategic Plans and Initiatives, chaired by Andrew Payne; Accreditation and Academic Affairs, chaired by Charles Vest; Finance, chaired by William Nutting; Facilities and Revitalization, chaired by Diane Lewis; Divisional Campuses, chaired by Ed Robinson; Health Sciences, chaired by Ellen Cappellanti; Audit, chaired by Tom Flaharty; and Executive, chaired by Dailey.
The Board also approved:
- The creation of a dual degree the master of public health and master of business administration to allow simultaneous completion of both degrees, which already are offered by WVU
- Phase 3 of an energy performance contract with Siemens Building Technologies to reduce energy and water consumption on campus, and the adoption of a financing and reimbursement resolution authorizing the University to issue bonds to finance the $6.6 million implementation
- Increasing WVU’s investment authority with the WVU Foundation to $70 million, or 65 percent of unrestricted net assets
- Undergraduate, graduate and professional fee waivers for WVU and its divisional campuses
- Terminating the master of arts in liberal studies degree.
- Appointments to county Extension committees
In a constituency meeting with classified staff on Thursday, the Board heard from BOG Classified Staff representative Dixie Martinelli on the important contribution staff make throughout the University in academics, facilities, services and administration at WVU and in the regional campuses. Among their many accomplishments, staff serve 2.8 million meals annually in the dining halls, maintain 52,000 square feet per maintenance employee, carefully manage the hundreds of thousands of financial transactions and serve in the state’s 55 counties through Extension programs, she said.
Martinelli discussed the challenges faced by classified staff, including a higher area cost of living than that of many peer institutions, and how the state’s salary schedule has not reached the level of market wages.
The Board applauded Martinelli and other classified staff in attendance. President Clements said he was proud of classified staff and that the University is continuing to advocate with the state legislature that WVU “is the best investment you will ever make.”
This was James Dailey’s first in-person meeting as chair; he led a special meeting by phone in August. Also attending their first in-person meeting as Board members were attorney Rob Alsop of Charleston, replacing the late Tom Clark, whose term had expired; faculty representative Lisa DiBartolomeo; and student representative Ryan Campione. Reappointed to new terms were: Diane Lewis and Bill Wilmoth, and re-elected Martinelli to a new term was staff representative.
The next BOG meeting is Nov. 8 in Morgantown.
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