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NEW VIDEO: Gee outlines core Mountaineer values, defends WVU’s mission to improve lives in special address

Despite threats to funding, attacks on the merit of a college degree and free speech concerns on the nation's campuses, West Virginia University is primed to persevere as the polar star that guides the state and its citizens, WVU President Gordon Gee said Wednesday (March 22). 

Downward economic shifts and a rancid political climate cannot stop the power of higher education, Gee told a crowd of about 300 faculty, staff, students and community members at his spring State of the University address at the Erickson Alumni Center.

Gee pointed at WVU's beginnings and resolve through its 150-year existence as proof that the University will march through an uncertain future.

"Ours is a storied history – rich with groundbreaking discoveries, academic achievements, athletic pride and a love for the gold and blue that beats strong around the world," he said.

"We have always held the mission as a land-grant institution close to our hearts. It is the driving force for everything we do under our three pillars of education, healthcare and prosperity, he said. "And those pillars have never been more important to West Virginia than they are today."

As the state of West Virginia faces a half-billion-dollar budget deficit, Gee encouraged the Mountaineer community to view it as an opportunity rather than a crisis. In the past three years, WVU has dealt with a nearly $30 million reduction in state funding. And it's prepared to deal with more cutbacks, as the governor proposed an additional 4.4 percent reduction in January.
However, legislative leaders have recently suggested deeper cuts to higher education, to which Gee believes it's now time to "lead the charge to change the state strategy from 'cut' to 'invest.'"

To showcase the importance of higher education, Gee emphasized one statistic from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University: Since 2008, 11.8 million jobs have emerged in the country. Of those, 80,000 required only a high school education. That means 99 percent of jobs created since 2008 required college or post-secondary training. 

To further enhance the value of a modern-day WVU education, Gee proposed nixing the "strategic plans" of yesteryear that are often born in a vacuum and shelved in a binder. Instead, universities must be nimble and inclusive – not only within campus boundaries but out in the real world. 
In order to meet these needs, WVU will embody five core Mountaineer values: Service, curiosity, respect, accountability and appreciation. 

Regarding service, Gee highlighted programs provided by the Extension Service, health care in rural areas and assistance after last summer's floods in southern West Virginia.

He noted that WVU Medicine, which is now the state's largest private employer, served 800,000 outpatients and treated more 37,000 in the hospital in 2016. 

"So, as we improve education with service in mind, it also involves opening children's eyes to the joy of discovery," Gee said. "From facilitating robotics projects for schoolchildren to giving virtual music lessons to rural students, our faculty members are nurturing the force that drives all discovery: Curiosity – and that is our second core value."

The third core value, respect, is especially crucial in today's atmosphere of civil unrest, political bickering and intolerance, Gee said. 

"It is our charge to teach students how to debate civilly, protest peacefully and learn from people whose opinions and choices differ from their own."

On accountability, the fourth value, Gee said WVU owes it to the taxpayers to be transparent, bust bureaucracy and seek new revenue sources. In the first phase of a business office consolidation plan, the University merged five formerly independent business offices into one unit, reducing annual costs by $330,000. The University also simplified its purchasing and payment process with Mountaineer Marketplace, saving $100,000 on bank processing fees since July. 

The fifth and final core value, appreciation, will help foster continued success and progress. A new recognition program called GoBeyond will help honor faculty and staff who simply "go beyond."

"Celebrating success is the best way to inspire more success," Gee said. 

At the end of his remarks, Gee returned to where he began – promoting the virtues of higher education and refuting its critics. 

"Now is the time to stand up against those who discredit higher education – those who claim we work and study in an idealistic world. Actually, the world in which we live is one that believes in the free expression and exchange of ideas and knowledge. The world in which we live is one that is developing the leaders of tomorrow. 

"So with our good hearts, let us defend higher education. Let us defend the advancement of the arts, the humanities and the sciences. Let us defend all of which this University stands to improve the lives of our students, our faculty and staff, and 1.8 million West Virginians. 

"And let us do so with the same fervor - the same enthusiasm - in which West Virginia University was founded 150 years ago."

To view the full text of Gee's remarks, go to the president's website. Watch the address in its entirety at



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