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Dr. James Moore at West Virginia Wesleyan College's Orange and Black Day Saturday. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

West Virginia Wesleyan’s new interim president predicts bright future as college welcomes prospective students

BUCKHANNON – Just under 100 students committed to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College this fall during Saturday’s Orange and Black Day, the college’s new interim president said this weekend.

Dr. James Moore and the entire campus community welcomed prospective students to WVWC’s campus Saturday, Feb. 26 to encourage them to become members of the Bobcat family.

“Orange and Black Day is a relatively old tradition here at the college,” Moore said Saturday. “I believe we’ve been doing it for maybe as many as 30 years, and it’s really a day for us to celebrate the achievements of prospective students who have applied to the college and have been accepted. We show them a good time, but also, we make sure that they feel welcome. They are high-achieving, academic-focused students and really, really great student-athletes, so it’s a day for us to really roll out the orange carpet and welcome them to campus.”

While Saturday’s Orange and Black Day is a decades-old tradition, the occasion marked the first time Moore has been at the helm of WVWC. As the college’s new leader, he was optimistic about what he saw Saturday. Moore said approximately 75 percent or more of the students who come to Orange and Black Day ultimately choose to attend WVWC.

“I believe just under 100 students have committed to coming today and they’re from all over the country – West Virginia, of course, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Texas and Illinois – so it’s big day for us,” Moore said.

The potential students participate in several panels throughout the day, featuring academics, campus life and the financial aid side.

“They talk to them about how to choose their classes, what their majors look like – the general education, curriculum, advising and those items,” Moore said. “There’s a panel for students to talk about student life, what it’s like to live here, what it’s like to be active on campus, and then we have a panel that deals with financial aid and helping them understand the intricacies of that.”

Moore was excited Orange and Black Day was able to return to an in-person format because the last few events were virtual due to COVID-19.

“Attendance has always been really, really high, even the last few years when it was virtual,” Moore said. “We were very happy with the turnout then, so we’re so pumped that it’s back in person, and it gives us a chance to share what’s happening here at the college.”

College officials will know more about the incoming class size in March. 

“We’re really happy with the way enrollment is tracking right now because of the pandemic and all those different factors,” Moore said. “What we used to be able to predict in December, we can’t predict as soon, so I’m so proud of the enrollment staff because they’ve been very diligent, and they put students at the center of that work. That’s why we continue to have success there.”

Moore said he is hopeful the pandemic will continue in a downward trend, so campus life can return to a normal state.

“I’ve been really proud of how we’ve done and the way that we’ve engaged the entire campus community in determining what our protocols have been and of all the committees that work on that,” Moore said. “None of that is going to go away, just because we might be entering the endemic phase of this … I want to say it feels like we’re getting back to normal, but I don’t want to jinx it. We’re absolutely committed to making sure that we’re able to deliver face-to-face instruction as safely as possible.”

Moore also discussed his short- and long-term plans for the college since it was announced he would take the position of interim president Feb. 17 after the sudden departure of former president Dr. Joel Thierstein.

“I’ve been here for 15 years, so my long-term agenda is to keep the college moving in the right direction because we love this place and we want it to succeed,” Moore said. “Our short-term agenda is to really take a minute, and ask ourselves, ‘what’s in the best interest of our students?’ with every decision that we make. We have so many opportunities to strengthen the college, which is already strong, and if we keep students at the center of that work, it’s going to be fun and will be successful.”

Before serving as interim president, Moore served as Wesleyan’s vice president for academic affairs/dean of the faculty and director of the School of Fine Arts and Humanities, chair of the music department, and as an associate professor of music.

“Immediately, before being asked to serve as interim president, I served as vice president for Academic Affairs, so I asked Dr. Lynn Linder, who’s an associate professor of English, to serve in that role, and she’s phenomenal,” Moore said. “I’m so excited to work with her; the faculty has so much respect for her, and she had her first official day yesterday.”

Moore said a WVWC alum is serving as the jazz ensemble director.

“I haven’t been actively involved with the music department for some time, and when I became the academic dean, I had to pull myself out of some of that,” Moore said. “One of our alums, Isaac Viars, is serving as the Jazz Ensemble director and teaches some of our low brass lessons. He was in my jazz ensembles for four years when he was here as a music major, and he’s doing great things with that group.”

Moore did not have any news to share about the search for the next WVWC president.

“We all have complete trust and confidence in whatever the [college’s] Board of Trustees decides to do,” he said. “We haven’t received word from them yet, but they’re not dragging their feet. They’re very engaged. We have been in regular contact with members of the Board of Trustees often, but particularly in the last week, so they’re very much with us and supporting the college. We don’t know what the plans are, but whatever they decide, it will be the right thing for the college.”

Moore said he was honored to serve as interim president, and he sees a bright future for the college.

“I have been here since 2006,” he said. “I didn’t go to school here, but I wish I had. This is a special place that really gets inside your blood if you’re here. Everybody in higher education has challenges, but this is my home, this is our home, and we believe so strongly in this place. I just love being at Wesleyan.”

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