WVWC announced Moore's official transition into the role of president Monday, March 13. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Interim no ‘Moore’: WVWC’s new president reflects on the past year’s progress, outlines vision for the future

BUCKHANNON – Dr. James Moore has officially become the president of West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Moore was tapped as interim president of the college Feb. 17, 2022, after the abrupt departure of the previous president, Dr. Joel Thierstein. Then, a year later, at their February 2023 meeting, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to strike the ‘interim’ qualifier and appoint Moore for a five-year term effective immediately.

The college announced Moore’s new, official title Monday, March 13 in a press release.

“I was humbled. I was excited and honored. It’s been such a busy year that I felt like it was a vote of confidence in the work that everybody here at the college has been doing,” Moore told My Buckhannon in an interview Monday. “It was exciting and humbling, but at the same time, it felt like we should keep working at this – let’s keep going.”

Moore said he and his staff never felt as if they were just holding a job or title until someone else came to take over.

“It has evolved during the last year, and the board has been very supportive of me, the college and my administration,” Moore said. “During the last year, none of us have felt like placeholders. We have been intentional about forming a strategic vision for the college, and that vision is to be of service to our region. Some of our recent announcements are very intentional: the partnerships we are seeking around healthcare, teacher education, and addressing the teacher shortage – these are examples of areas in which this college can be part of the solution, and that’s what our direction needs to be.”

Moore and professors at WVWC are also evaluating their current graduate programs and asking themselves if those programs meet the needs of the job market.

“Our MBA director right now is looking to do some revisions to that program, to maybe align it more intentionally with healthcare needs and with business needs. Not that it wasn’t relevant before, but coming out of COVID, we asked ourselves what we could learn and how could our graduate programs directly meet regional needs?” Moore said. “We’re looking at existing programs and new programs that are in the works. Right now, we’re focusing almost all our new program energies on the new master’s program in counseling.”

WVWC announced a collaboration with Aetna Better Health and Community Care of West Virginia last month to establish a new Clinical Mental Health Counseling master’s degree program and incentivize students to enroll with the guarantee of employment upon program completion.

Moore said the pre-COVID reality is vastly different from the one everyone is living in today.

“COVID has really shattered everybody in higher education; we’re all relearning everything on the fly, which is exciting,” he said. “We are seeing early signs of growth in this enrollment cycle, which I give a lot of credit to everybody here on this campus for, and we’re seeing a real renewed interest in prospective students in West Virginia Wesleyan College.”

“In many ways, it feels like we’re coming out of COVID,” Moore added. “We’re back, and we hope we have a couple of years of growth ahead of us. I know that the question on everybody’s mind is enrollment at the college, and it’s always going to be a challenge, but we really see the areas of growth potential, not only for undergrad but primarily in graduate programs.”

The college is also nearing completion on their full renovation of McCuskey Residence Hall, and WVWC officials hope to soon start drafting and implementing a master plan for college facilities.

“We’re excited to have that come back online in the fall, and we are working right now to get an updated facilities master plan completed,” Moore said. “We put out a [Request for Proposals] and we got bids in from some different firms. Facilities are and will continue to be a high priority for this college moving forward.”

The college is also looking forward to the plethora of events taking place in Buckhannon this summer.

“We always look forward to the Strawberry Festival — we can’t wait for people to be in town for that — and of course, we’re going to be really heavily involved in WAMSB; it’s going to be a great event,” Moore said of the 2023 World Association of Marching Showbands Championship. “We can’t wait to welcome all those musicians and spectators to the event, so it’ll be a busy summer here for us at the college. Anytime there are people in town, we want them to be involved over here.”

The college is finalizing the details for the president’s installment ceremony, but Moore said it will most likely take place this fall. Prior to assuming the role of interim president in 2022, Moore served WVWC in a multitude of roles, including Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty, Director of the School of Fine Arts and Humanities, Chair of the Music Department, and as an Associate Professor of Music.

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