The First Ascent program has announced its inaugural cohort of recent graduates from WVU and Marshall University who will remain in West Virginia for at least the next two years helping to build community while following their professional path through remote or hybrid work. (WVU Photo/Jennifer Shephard)

WVU aims to transform West Virginia’s future as First Ascent Program announces inaugural cohort

An exemplary group of motivated and ambitious recent West Virginia University graduates who have demonstrated leadership, commitment to community engagement and a deep love for West Virginia, are poised to join the First Ascent program’s inaugural cohort.

First Ascent, a groundbreaking initiative launched last year through the WVU Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, is designed to support recent graduates from West Virginia University and Marshall University interested in staying in West Virginia. The two-year program harnesses the power of hybrid and remote work emphasizing work-life balance, community building and professional development to create a resilient, connected workforce in the Mountain State.

“Leading this program has been incredibly inspiring,” said Jessica R. Stidham, First Ascent assistant director. “Our graduates are intentionally reimagining their work environment and have opted to stay close to home; it’s a true testament to their innovative thinking and desire to build community alongside their careers. With First Ascent, they’re crafting lifestyles that integrate professional growth and personal fulfillment, and their engagement showcases the opportunities that hybrid and remote work bring to West Virginia.”

The WVU graduates selected to participate in the initial cohort to date include Logan Chapman, Dominic DiChiacchio, Benjiman Harman, Emily Henigin, Benjamin LeBlanc, Landon Lambert, Abigail Jones, Mei Melton, Joseph Molina, Michael Oliverio, Cameron Patterson, Sherrell Taylor, Eliza Siefert, Parker Surface and Ian Thayer.

“Their decision to stay and craft their careers here further strengthens local connections and underscores West Virginia as a vibrant, dynamic place to live, work, play and stay,” Stidham said.

By offering a comprehensive suite of benefits — including professional mentorship, an online remote worker micro-credential, outdoor recreation experiences and gear, and a variety of social and professional activities — the program aims to create pathways for recent graduates to stay in West Virginia.

Applications for all six First Ascent featured locations are currently open, and recent graduates of WVU are encouraged to learn more and apply.

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