by Pamela Pritt
Beckley-area residents were excited to learn Monday that the Mountaineers are definitely coming to town.
West Virginia University officials signed the final papers that completed the state flagship university’s purchase of the former Mountain State University campus.
Carolyn Long, president of WVU Tech in Montgomery, will be at the helm of the WVU Beckley campus as well. Long said Tuesday that she is excited at the prospect of leading the way for WVU in Beckley, even though her workload will essentially double.
“Certainly I will have to be very efficient with my time and I will have to be efficient not just with my time, but with traveling in the sense of making sure that wherever I am I utilize my time the best I can and the fullest I can,” Long said.
The trip from Montgomery to Beckley takes about 50 minutes. Long knows that could be problematic, but is also aware that many people in the area travel that far to work every day.
“So I just have to be very aware that I make sure I have full days every place and that I’m efficient and effective as humanly possible,” she said.
Long said she is lucky to have a “wonderful administrative staff on both campuses.”
“Is it going to be a lot of work? Sure. But I think it’s well worth it and I look forward to doing it.”
With the ink on those documents barely dry, Long is already thinking ahead to the local campus’ needs and where to begin the transition.
“This is a creation in progress,” she said. Long said WVU will rebrand the campus and she hopes an admissions counselor will be hired and ready to help prospective students by late summer when the degrees available in Beckley will be set.
“We’re going to get our buildings ready; we’re going to configure them like we need to for the classes that we’ll have to offer,” she continued.
Long said it can take two years to get new programs online since they must be approved by the Higher Learning Commission and the Higher Education Policy Commission, as well as go through internal processes.
“We’ll be working on getting faculty ready to teach,” she said. “Certainly, we’ll be out recruiting for students and getting the campus all ready to welcome everybody in the fall of 2016.”
It’s a lot to juggle, with nearly 44 miles between campuses, but Long is ready. She’s a veteran educator with experience in the classroom and in administration. She’s also a retired superintendent of schools and a former member of the WVU Board of Governors.
Since she’s been at WVU Tech, the school has seen a 10 percent increase in enrollment, according to the school’s website.
If she’s looking forward to WVU at Beckley, she’s not looking at WVU Tech in the rearview mirror.
She calls the school a jewel in the state’s education crown, and when she’s asked about the “good” engineering program at WVU Tech, she laughs.
“There’s not a good engineering program, there’s a great engineering program,” she said. “There’s an absolutely wonderful engineering program. It is small, very intimate, but we have nine fully accredited programs on that campus.”
Beckley and Montgomery will likely share more than Long, as technology will allow distance learning between the two schools, and possibly Morgantown.
That saves resources, both financial and human, but Long wants students in both places to have a “real” classroom experience.
“It’s very important that students get to know their professors,” she said. “So I would envision professors who choose to do both campuses will take turns conducting the class on the Beckley campus one day and maybe two days later conducting the class on the Tech campus.
“It’s important we still have that family atmosphere,” she said. “Teleconferencing is fine, but in person is much better. Even though technology can be our friend, it can be our enemy if you overuse it. I want to make sure we use it appropriately.”
Long said WVU Beckley will not only be working with WVU Tech, but also with area universities and colleges to develop programs that will benefit the region’s residents and potential students.
“I look forward to working with Bluefield (State College) and Concord (University) to see if we can cooperate on some programs and some classes that may be helpful to all of us,” Long said. “We want to be a good steward of the education system and we want to be good neighbors in West Virginia.”
Long said masters degree programs will be a good way to partner with other schools.
She said a visitors center will open on the campus later this summer, the first building to open before students arrive next year. Long said she’ll see the interior design of the building later this week.
The WVU Board of Governors meets at the Resort at Glade Springs on Friday.