John Waltz, vice president for enrollment and marketing at West Virginia Wesleyan College, attended the May 18 Upshur County Commission meeting to provide an update on the college and its upcoming programs and plans for next semester. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Post-commencement, WVWC is readying itself for an action-packed summer, college officials say

BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan College is now preparing for a busy summer after commencement.

John Waltz, vice president for enrollment and marketing at West Virginia Wesleyan College, attended the May 18 Upshur County Commission meeting to provide an update on the college and its upcoming programs and plans for next semester.

“We just recently conducted graduation; we really had a wonderful commencement weekend, and we were lucky to have some tremendous weather, and all of our students and families were able to spend time in Buckhannon,” Waltz said. “Something was not lost on us during that period, which was these students started at an odd time and had a period that was online and a period they could have left school, and some didn’t.”

“The theme of the commencement address from our outgoing Board Chair Caroline Rapking was about resilience, and that Upshur County and Buckhannon played a role in that because students are from lots of states, lots of countries and for them to stay here, they really had to love the place,” he continued.

While Wesleyan’s campus won’t have its usual student population, they are welcoming a plethora of groups to campus over the summer.

“Several summer programs are going to be going on, of course, but we welcome the annual West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church to campus, so they will be coming in a few weeks to campus, and that certainly brings a lot of people here, and the summer gifted program that has been a part of Wesleyan’s history will also be happening for students of a variety of different grades,” Waltz said. “Wesleyan is playing a key role in [the 2023 World Association of Marching Show Bands], and more meetings are going on today because there’s bands and groups that are staying on campus, and we’re really honored and happy to be a part of that.”

The campus will also be home to several summer programs, including sports camps, a game design camp, a computer science program, a graphic design program and an eSports program.

“I want to lift up a couple of recent accomplishments in athletics – our softball team just competed in the Atlantic Regional Tournament, and we are very proud of their accomplishments, numerous accolades, including Freshman of the Year in the conference, Pitcher of the Year in the conference and Steve Warner won his 21st Coach of the Year in the conference if you can believe that,” Waltz said. “Our competitive dance team, which was just in its second year, returned from finishing second in the country in Orlando, Florida at the national competition.”

“We thank everyone that took part in welcoming the students back to campus,” he added. “That really meant a lot to them.”

While students are not living on campus, it will undergo a series of construction updates.

“One project we are excited about is our steeple restoration, so the chapel steeple at Wesleyan’s campus has been a bit a little worse for wear, and you have to find some very specialized people to come in and do that kind of work, so Denny McMaster, our CFO, has been working with some companies that have been doing that work and it will be completed soon, probably within the next month,” Waltz said.

McCuskey Hall, which has been undergoing a complete renovation, will reopen this fall,” he continued. “We just finished with placing freshmen into that hall, so it has air conditioning, it has all new amenities that are all redone, and it’s part of Dr. Moore’s aggressive plan for us to continue to tackle residence halls to improve the resident experience for our students because we are so residential, and so many of our students live on campus.”

The college is also working on developing a facilities master plan.

“The Facilities Master Plan is a comprehensive plan for us to really discuss things like facility use, new facilities, things we want to prioritize,” Waltz said. “The Board of Trustees and Dr. Moore are really aggressively pushing that forward. We expect those results to be finished in the fall, so we can start prioritizing our next facility changes at West Virginia Wesleyan.”

Waltz said they can see what the enrollment numbers will look like for this approaching school year.

“We’ve doubled our visitors from over the last two years to this year, and we’ve seen a much higher volume of students coming to follow up,” he said. “Our West Virginia students are at a four-year high, and our West Virginia Promise Scholars that are enrolled in this new student class are at a four-year high.”

“We currently have 27 new students who have enrolled from Upshur County, which is a really positive number for us,” Waltz added. “The students currently enrolled in the new student class are from 26 different states, so not only are the West Virginia numbers really, really good, we’re seeing some really positive results from other states. Twenty-five incoming students are from foreign countries – that is a five-year high for us as well – and 26 students that are part of the incoming class are community service scholars.”

Waltz also highlighted several new programs that are in the works at the college, including a clinical mental health master’s program.

“This program is funded in partnership with Aetna Better Health and Community Care of West Virginia and is moving forward rapidly,” Waltz said. “We’ve hired our director, and she starts in July; we’ve also been working on faculty for those positions. That program is currently at our accreditor, going through the hoops that colleges have to jump through to offer a new program, so as soon as that is complete, we will begin marketing the program, which you will see very publicly in a lot of areas because we are trying to fill the need for mental health professionals in the state and in the region.”

West Virginia Wesleyan is developing its health partnerships, including with Mon Health, and they are currently talking to WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital about a potential collaboration.

“Today, we had a second meeting with St. Joseph’s Hospital, trying to find some ways we can work with them, with their employees and ways to offer different things that might benefit their work as well,” Waltz said. “Dr. Moore has approached community partnerships looking for ways we can serve the state’s needs, so you’ll hear more and more about that, particularly in the health realms over the next year.”

Wesleyan’s five-year master’s in athletic training was launched several years ago and has been attracting large numbers of exercise science students.

“We are also very excited about the Grow Your Own program. We’re working with Upshur County Schools, and students that begin the program in high school take some college classes, some high school classes, and they start to take classes with us, and then the students go right to work in Upshur County with a guaranteed job,” Waltz said. “It’s a great program trying to fill our teacher needs and we have 30 incoming education majors, which is by far the most we’ve had in many, many years.”

West Virginia Wesleyan will welcome upcoming freshmen to campus Aug. 19-20, kicking off the fall semester.

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