DURING his second State of the University speech at West Virginia State University on Friday, President Brian Hemphill announced across the board raises for faculty and staff, with some additional merit-based raises coming to deserving faculty during the academic year.
He also announced the creation of a new research program, the Promoting Excellence in Education through Research. The PEER program will provide $5,000 research grants to faculty to devote time toward research in their field that ultimately may bring more research funds and more research prestige to the university.
Meanwhile, construction is underway for several improvements on campus.
How can he do this when public colleges and universities across the state are facing another potential cutback of state funds?
Because enrollment is up significantly, contributions have jumped and morale is up at the Kanawha Valley-based university originally founded in 1891 as the West Virginia Colored Institute.
Times have changed, especially lately, as Hemphill, former vice president at Northern Illinois University, has reinvigorated what had become a sleepy and declining commuter school into a vibrant, growing, third research university for the state.
The Chancellor's Diversity Initiative of the W.Va. Higher Education Policy Commission projects that West Virginia will need to produce another 40,000 associate and bachelor's degree holders by 2025 — an increase of about 2,000 per year — to reach the average U.S. educational attainment level. West Virginia State will certainly be part of the state's efforts to produce more graduates.
With committed faculty and a great location close to a large contingent of graduating high school students every year, West Virginia State has always had potential to be a greater academic institution. It's great to see that potential being realized under the leadership of Brian Hemphill.