By Sarah Plummer
UC-Beckley’s Tuesday ribbon cutting represented a new season in Beckley’s university district and the blending of two schools’ traditions, histories and offerings.
University of Charleston President Ed Welch explained that both Mountain State University and University of Charleston have a history of being committed to serving students across southern West Virginia.
“Mountain State University had online education and a drive to serve adult students. What we bring to that partnership is University of Charleston’s national reputation for outcomes-focused learning and the quality of what we do,” explained Welch. “The combination of these histories will benefit this campus and everything that happens here.”
Jerry Forster, area president of UC-Beckley, said, “We know it has been a tough time for the people of Beckley and for the community of MSU. We know it is going to take time to work through a lot of the pain that this community has experienced, but all we can do is move forward. So we go forward with confidence and with excitement.”
While UC-Beckley will begin next week with an estimated 500 students, Forster said the school will focus on expanding enrollment each semester until numbers are more similar to those Beckley is used to having at the campus.
Forster said the local campus will also focus on having programs that are both attractive to students and meet the needs of the community, both for traditional age students and adult education.
The community has given UC a warm welcome but the school will rely on building strong partnerships with civic leaders, business owners, educational leaders and legislators to succeed, he said.
“We need you. We need this community. We need the support of each and every one of you to find out what strategic plans apply to UC-Beckley and we are here to communicate and partner with you,” Forster said.
Welch added that every $1 the University of Charleston invests into UC-Beckley will directly serve the area through scholarships and investments in advertising.
Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh told those in attendance that the City of Beckley had a “tremendous working relationship” with Mountain State University and pledged to foster a partnership with University of Charleston.
“For an area to grow economically, I feel you have to have a bricks and mortar institution,” he said.
Elmer Coppoolse, Mountain State University trustee, added, “It is essential for the economy of Beckley that we have a thriving educational environment with a four-year college. The economy was threatened by the accreditation issues of Mountain State, but it was important to the MSU Board of Trustees that this campus stayed in the hands of West Virginians and that we continue to have this economic presence.”
Welch publicly thanked Coppoolse for his leadership in bringing UC to Beckley.
Delegate Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh, has the distinct position of being a graduate of both Beckley College and Morris Harvey College, now UC.
“I am overjoyed that Beckley will continue to have a higher learning institution to offer much-needed programs to the surrounding area. This has been a blessing for us all,” she said.
She added that attracting and retaining college and university students is one of the top priorities of the West Virginia Legislature.
Approximately 100 representatives from the state, county and city were at the ribbon cutting alongside local business owners and members of University of Charleston and UC-Beckley staff.
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