CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Officials at West Virginia University Institute of Technology are optimistic campus renovations will help attract more students to the Montgomery school.
The school is almost ready to open its Student Success Center and plans to ask the state Legislature for nearly $8 million for more renovations.
Tech Campus Executive Officer Carolyn Long hopes the projects will make students feel more comfortable.
"We want to attract, we want to keep them. But we also want to give them a really good place to hang out and study," Long said while standing in the new center.
In May, Tech received $750,000 from the state Higher Education Policy Commission for campus projects. About $400,000 was for renovating and staffing a portion of the library for the success center, with the goal of providing a central space for academic counseling, mental health services and increased student interactions.
Students study together in other areas of campus, but Long said the school needed a better facility for them to congregate. It's also the first time the school has provided advisors specifically tasked with academic counseling and mental health.
"Before, we had wonderful faculty that worked with our freshmen and did a good job. But that was kind of scattered: here's this freshman working with this one and this one," Long explained. "Now, we kind of have a landmark where they can come and feel comfortable."
Kelly Hudgins was hired as the center's director. She has a master's degree in English from Rice University in Houston and worked recently in academic service roles at Southern Oregon University and Austin University, according to an email from Tech spokeswoman Adrienne King.
Tech also will employ two academic advisers and one mental health counselor. It is in the process of filling those positions now, King said. Salaries for the new hires will total a little more than $220,000 a year. The money is coming from the commission funding, Long said.
West Virginia University, Tech's parent institution, will pay the salaries in subsequent years, Long said.
The academic advisers will take active roles during a student's freshman year, Long said. They will guide students toward majors that fit their career goals and then transition students into faculty advising relationships once their academic tracks are set.
The addition of mental health services does not mean Tech has any more such issues than any other school, Long said. The school has an obligation to serve students and staff who may be suffering from mental health issues, and Long said she anticipates both will use the facility.
The academic and mental health advisers will have their own offices in the success center, as will the center's director, King said.
Located on the third floor of the library, the space had been used for storage in recent years. Now there's new carpet, furniture and computers in a variety of settings. The main room will offer sections with vending machines, a large television, tables and chairs where students can socialize and study, King said.