By Sarah Plummer
New Year’s morning brought with it the beginning of a new era in higher education in Beckley.
Just after midnight on Tuesday, University of Charleston President Dr. Ed Welch and area president of UC-Beckley Jerry Forster hung the school’s maroon banners in front of Carter Hall.
As residents drove by Tuesday, much of the newly disbanded Mountain State University branding was gone in what will be the first healing step for students and the community as the University of Charleston opens its Beckley campus.
“It is an exciting time for the University of Charleston,” said Welch. “It is a time of expansion and growth and the official beginning of UC-Beckley.
“It is a sad time of transition for many people who have been long associated with Mountain State and we have understanding and sympathy for that transition. At the same time, we are excited about what the future means for this university and the services we will be able to provide the students and community,” he continued.
Forster said he sees UC-Beckley as a way to continue some of the positive aspects of Mountain State University while holding to the mission and expectations of University of Charleston.
“Mountain State had a mission of serving adult students as well as traditional age students and having a campus for Beckley is vital. It has been here since 1933 and we want to continue to be an educational presence for the community,” he said.
“There are programs that MSU had done well, like its culinary arts, and there were programs with problems, but we are here to build on the strengths. There were good people here, good faculty and staff. We need to let them continue to do their work in the classroom,” Forster said.
The area president added that he feels deeply for those who worked with MSU for many years but is also pleased UC-Beckley has been able to hire many faculty and staff to continue their work at the Beckley campus.
Welch said UC-Beckley has a long-term lease with Mountain State Corporation to utilize all of their Beckley buildings and the Martinsburg Mall.
Already some students are being housed in Hogan Hall and some faculty who are from the outside the area will be housed in University Hall.
Maintenance crews from University Charleston worked throughout the day Tuesday to remove the granite MSU markers and make repairs needed in preparation for students’ arrival.
“Now we have to keep our focus only on our work and mission to educate our students for a life of productive work, enlightened living and community involvement,” Forster added.
Online classes at University of Charleston begin in less than a week and seated classes begin on Jan. 14 in Beckley, Charleston and Martinsburg.
About 500 in-seat students are expected to attend the Beckley campus this upcoming semester.
While this only affords the school a small transition window, Welch does not anticipate any difficulty in the change-over.
“It takes passion, vision and industriousness in order to create a new university. We have those traits. We are going to be successful and are anxious to get on with it,” he shared.
For more information on UC-Beckley course offerings, visit he new campus website, http:// www.ucwv.edu/Beckley/.
UC-Beckley will hold an open house Jan. 8 from 4 to 6 p.m. for prospective students and members of the community to meet with faculty and learn more about the new campus.
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