Charleston, W.Va. -- West Virginia State University is offering courses aimed at helping graduates land high-paying jobs in the state's growing natural gas industry.
A Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in energy management plus two post-graduate energy management certificates are now offered by WVSU.
"It's the only program in the state of its kind," said David Bejou, dean of the university's College of Business and Social Sciences.
The most active shale gas field in West Virginia -- the Marcellus Shale -- is a three-hour drive north of WVSU's Institute campus, so Bejou was asked what promoted the university to offer these specialized studies.
"It's primarily under the leadership of our new president, Brian O. Hemphill," Bejou said. "He had talked with industry leaders and this was something he felt was needed. He's a visionary leader, looking into the future."
Kimberly Osborne, vice president for university relations and operations, said Hempill convened a discussion with area energy leaders in January 2013 and asked, "What do you need going forward?"
"They said, 'We need people who can understand and be able to easily communicate with folks in the field as well as those in the office,'<!p><#148> Osborne said. "That's where this idea of an energy management concentration began.
"Although there are drilling locations across West Virginia, the offices are located in a lot of the metropolitan areas of the state -- Charleston, for instance. Our focus is meeting that business demand and providing our industry leaders with individuals who can take their company to the next level as the Marcellus Shale begins to take off further."
The Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association both represent many natural gas producers in the Marcellus shale.
Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, said information about WVSU's new offerings was sent to all of the trade group's members. "We are very excited that West Virginia State has come forward with these programs," he said.
"We have an asset now that's going to be developed for the next 30 years. So their program coupled with other programs - the petroleum technology program that's being conducted at West Virginia Northern Community College and Pierpont Community and Technical College -- are all very exciting for industry because they are going to supply us with some much-needed expertise in the energy field."