Long shares new visions for WVU Tech

(Brad Davis/The Register-Herald) WVU Tech President Carolyn Long delivers the State of Tech address to attendees Friday afternoon inside the Administration and Extension building on Neville Street.

When Carolyn Long became a part of West Virginia University Institute of Technology in 2012, she developed a set of three "R's" — recruit, retain, and rebuild. Fast forward nine years, she says she believes the University has honed in on those skills and continues to work every day to stay above the curve. 

Long provided the City of Beckley on Friday with the annual State of Tech address, in which she provided an update on how she believes the WVU Tech Golden Bears are addressing community and industry needs, especially when it comes to offering new programs to help boost the workforce. 

Hospitality is a significant program WVU Tech is working to make happen, Long said, by adding a culinary school at the Beckley school. "The details of the program will be released soon," Long said. "It will be a partnership with Potomac State and New River CTC as we go down the road." 

Tech officials will be visiting with the West Virginia Community and Technical College System in October to discuss ways they can move the program forward. 

Another program in the works is WVUteach, Long said, which will be a program allowing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors to earn degrees within their content areas along with teaching certification.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, nearly 25 percent of mathematics teachers in West Virginia are not certified. Long called this statistic "devastating," and said she hopes WVUteach will assist in getting teachers certified in their content areas. 

"We hope to have this at WVU Tech by next year," she said. 

Long also praised the Adventure Recreation Management program at WVU Tech, and it's partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. She said the school is one of the few to have a memorandum of understanding with the organization.  

WVU Tech is also working to address college access, Long said, because students are beginning to see the value in early enrollment. WVU Tech's early enrollment program has about 500 students to give high schoolers a head start on earning credits towards a college degree.

Each course within the program is $25 per credit hour, which Long called a bargain. 

"This program helps young people learn they can be a college student," she said. 

WVU Tech has also expanded its scholarship model so family members are able to see what scholarships are available. Over 90 percent of WVU Tech's students receive some sort of financial aid, she said, so the model helps those better understand how they can receive that. 

Several students beginning college are considered to be within the generation dubbed "Generation Z," Long said. Those students, she said, come to school with needs past generations never had to deal with. To better serve those students, Long said the University is increasing medical and behavioral science resources, career assessment and planning supports for students before they become freshmen. Also, a women's mentor program is being offered along with additional safety resources to help students and the community feel safe.  

In addition to supporting the interests of students in Generation Z, Long said the school is looking to add an e-sports team, a form of competition using video games, within the next year. 

Long said Tech is not focusing on only providing new resources for its students, but its faculty as well. She said the school is partnering with the Morgantown campus to bring a teaching learning center to Beckley to provide faculty and staff with more resources, which will begin this semester. 

Long said students continue to serve their community.

"This amazing place is home," Long added. "And our students know this, and they have shown this by giving 6,000 hours of community service." 

The 6,000 hours of community service were contributed by students since the University opened its doors in Beckley, which Long said has contributed an estimated $128,000 in economic value to the city. 

"This is who we are," she said. "We care about our students. We care about one another. We care about our community."

Although final figures won't be available until October, but Long said she believes enrollment numbers for WVU Tech are on the rise. 

"I believe we will be the only college in West Virginia that has seen an increase in enrollment every year for the last seven years," she said.

In an interview with the paper in mid-August, Long said Tech's enrollment was about the same as last year, between 1,600 and 1,700 students.

While Long's original theme for WVU Tech was recruit, retain, and rebuild, she believes it's time to switch out "rebuild" for something new. She feels they've achieved their goal for rebuilding WVU Tech, but now it's time for "re-envision." 

"The higher ed landscape is changing faster than higher ed moves. We must be nimble, and we need to continue to be laser-focused," she said. "Now, we must focus on the future, and not just the immediate future, but we must have a vision to focus on, we must have goals on what we want to be known for. We must think a little bit differently at times and think outside the box.

"Some hard decisions within the next 10 years will have to be made — we will make some great decisions, and we will make some bad ones, but we will be fine. We must find ways to better serve this generation of students, and make sure that our curriculum is not only relevant today, but also relevant 10 years from now."

— Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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