West Virginia University laid the foundation to become a modern flagship, land-grant, R1 institution as its Board of Governors approved recommendations for 25 academic units during a meeting Friday (Sept. 15).
“Ultimately, the path the BOG approved today will help to keep WVU accessible and affordable and relevant,” said Chair Taunja Willis Miller.
The Board amended the recommendation for the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics to include an increase in the number of faculty remaining from five to seven and that those positions be used to preserve additional depth and breadth in the program, focusing on the potential to offer minors and support International Studies students.
Similarly, the overall recommendations related to the College of Creative Arts were amended to reinstate a music faculty member and an art and design faculty member.
Building on a 2020 charge from President Gordon Gee, the BOG directed Gee and his administration this March to develop and execute an accelerated academic program review that would enable the University to make recommendations for personnel reductions and address a structural budget deficit brought on by numerous converging post-pandemic factors, thus strategically repositioning the WVU System for the future.
After a rigorous and inclusive multi-phase process which included engagement from faculty, students, staff, alumni and others, recommendations were finalized for 130 programs affecting 143 faculty positions on the Morgantown campus.
“We will do everything we can to support those who will be displaced as a result of this process. These are not just numbers or percentages to us — but individuals who have contributed to our community and who have made their lives here,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. “For faculty and staff who remain here, please know that we are committed to supporting their efforts, by providing them the resources they need to be successful and by engaging as many of them as possible in planning for our future.”
Less than 1% of undergraduate students are in affected majors — 91 students with a single major; 57 students with a dual major — and 238 or approximately 4% of graduate students are enrolled in those programs. Students in affected programs were notified Friday (Sept. 15). The University will work with all students to complete their degree or find another academic path within the University to meet academic goals.
Starting Monday (Sept. 18), units will begin coordinating with the Provost’s Office to implement the recommendations, including teach outs for programs being discontinued and the start of notifications for the Reduction in Force process.
“West Virginia University has been and always will be a university that offers a variety of majors — more than 300 in fact — and experiences designed to prepare our students for the future,” Gee said. “Our focus on our students is unparalleled and, as a result of the Board’s actions today, their futures will be even brighter.”
Prior to the Board’s votes on the recommendations, several deans shared with the Board the opportunities they see to grow enrollment, support students and faculty, and enhance the University’s research and land-grant missions.
“We’re now a college of approximately 3,000 undergraduate students and about 700 graduate students,” said Josh Hall, dean of the Chambers College of Business and Economics, as he addressed the recent growth of his College.
Hall also talked about improving recruitment, retention, and placement of students as a result of increased experiential opportunities with in-state businesses, nonprofits, and government in service to WVU’s land-grant mission.
“My vision for the future is that one day every student in our College has experiential learning opportunities and internships with partners so that they may better themselves and our communities,” Hall said.
Autumn Cyprès, dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences, focused on planned changes to teacher preparation curriculum and efforts to unlock several required courses to allow greater transfers to CAHS from other institutions.
“We are distinguishing our teacher preparation programs nationally, embracing in our School of Education and across the College the Center for Disease Control’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model along with specific preparation courses dedicated to mental health and wellness. The days of preparing teachers without a focus on resiliency, mental health, anxiety, suicide and safe campuses are gone,” Cyprès said. “We must build bridges in our University and in our school communities between health and wellness, and teaching and learning to ensure our learning environments are safe, civil and inspiring spaces. Academic Transformation lets us do just that.”
It was also recently announced the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and WVU Extension will be realigned to create a new unit and the College of Creative Arts and Reed College of Media will merge.
Keith Jackson, dean of the College of Creative Arts, joined Diana Martinelli, dean of the Reed College of Media, to talk about the new possibilities they see for students as the result of the merger of their units.
“I am incredibly proud that we have been focusing on the student experience, working through the appeals process and simultaneously starting this new experiment of putting these units together to create something new and unique,” Jackson said.
“Just within the existing curriculum there are so many opportunities for our students to have enriched experiences,” Martinelli added, citing recent meetings with students involved with a magazine project, as well as Martin Hall Agency projects.
Dr. Clay Marsh, chancellor and executive dean of WVU Health Sciences, highlighted the University’s commitment to real-world research and solving real-world problems in areas such as cancer, heart and neuroscience.”
“We’re also very interested in looking at how we can incorporate micro-credentialing to be able to give people certificates and certifications as well as degrees so they can find jobs that help them serve their purpose,” Marsh said.
Additionally, the School of Medicine will create departments of Hematology and Oncology, and Cancer Prevention and Control after BOG approval during Friday’s meeting.
Vice President for Research Fred King told Board members that when looking at the metrics that have traditionally been used in the Carnegie R1 Classification, including expenditures, the impact of the academic portfolio review recommendations will not be significant.
King also said Carnegie is changing its approach to the Basic R1 Classification to address concerns that the emphasis on research activity is starting to shift focus away from the real mission of higher education, particularly public land-grants, in areas such as access, equity and success for students especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Transforming our institution to focus more on student success and career skills and focusing in areas of research with greater societal impact put us ahead of the curve in the eyes of Carnegie,” King said.
Efforts which began nearly a decade ago continue in non-academic areas to evaluate and streamline operations. Strategic Initiatives and the General Counsel’s office provided the Board with results of a recent assessment of their respective units.
Among the key findings:
- Most Strategic Initiatives units experienced declines in full-time employees and budget when comparing FY 2018 to FY2024.
- The Office of General Counsel added one employee, a Clery Act Coordinator necessary to perform certain federal regulatory functions.
- Both areas have reorganized to better align activities, improve service and reduce costs.
- The University is still working with outdated, disjointed processes in many areas, complicated by a number of legacy systems.
“In the next several months, to improve customer service and provide the best chance to successfully implement the WVU Modernization Project, the University needs to undertake a comprehensive review of administrative functions and processes for better alignment, responsiveness and efficiency,” Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said.
The Board also heard a report that financial indicators for the University are trending up this fall with overall student enrollment and housing occupancy currently up over budget estimates.
“The challenges we have confronted have been tough, but we must come together to envision and plan for a stronger West Virginia University,” Gee said.
The next regular BOG meeting is scheduled for Nov. 17.