CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Brian Hemphill stepped into a precarious position when he took the reins of West Virginia State University one year ago.
The school's finances were uncertain. Cuts to state funding loomed on the horizon. Enrollment was down. Buildings on campus were suffering from the effects of deferred maintenance and desperately needed attention.
Hemphill's predecessor was also a looming and controversial figure.
Hazo Carter served as president at State for a quarter century before retiring in 2012, a year after the school's faculty declared by a vote in had no confidence in his leadership. Faculty members said at the time the college was stuck in a rut.
But Hemphill defined that period as one of "excitement, of anticipation on campus."
"You have to provide focus," he said. "One of the things we did early on was lay out a clear vision as we moved forward as a school."
Hemphill, who took the position a year ago last week, has spent the past year combating the inertia identified by faculty in 2011.
For better or worse, the university is making changes:
"Those are things that we could accomplish, so we worked on them," Hemphill said. "For me it was looking at the most critical need and looking at what realistically we could do. We had to start with things that I knew we could address."
Last month the state transferred property that used to belong to the West Virginia Rehabilitation Center to the school - that property is in disrepair but lies adjacent to the school's campus.