ELKINS, W.Va. — Don’t underestimate Davis & Elkins College, the college’s President Chris Wood said as its 10-year $100 million-plus capital campaign came to a close at the end of the fiscal year.
“It was a great day for D&E, no question about it,” Wood said Wednesday on WAJR-FM’s “The Gary Bowden Show.” “It’s actually the culmination for us of a 10-year effort that was called ‘Secure the Future,’ I think very aptly named, a campaign that will put D&E in a position where, in an incredibly competitive higher education. It takes that kind of money now to remain competitive.”
Having that capital campaign completed and about $101.4 million raised means that not only has the college paid off its debt but that now funds can be invested back into students.
“For one thing, it enables us to be able to bring in the faculty and the staff that you need to provide high-quality educational experiences,” Wood said. “The other thing it’s enabled us to do is because the institution is in better financial position than it’s been in years past, now we’ve really started to turn our attention to how do we begin to grow the institution and what does that mean as far as the academics are concerned? What are the programs that we can offer that are niche opportunities that are going to serve particularly students in this region and the state?”
And Wood already has a couple possibilities in mind, both in expanding current programs and creating new ones.
“One we’re very excited about, and we all know the significant challenges we have in health care within West Virginia, but Davis & Elkins has had a strong nursing program for many years, but it’s a two-year program, an associate’s degree program, an RN program,” Wood said.
Thus, next academic year, the institution will provide the option of a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which Wood says will be a significant addition to D&E and to West Virginia as a whole.
“We’ll have about 100 students involved in that BSN program, and that will begin to address the nursing shortage within West Virginia,” he said. “I think that’s just one example of how once you get that financial house in order, you can begin to add those programs that make sense.”
Other programs that may see revamping include business, science and “other areas where there are needs.
“Of course we have some fine institutions in the state that are doing a terrific job, but what we would like to do is be able to supplement some of what is out there,” Wood said.
Wood used the example of Davis & Elkins’ outdoor management program, which was previously strictly outdoor recreation.
“It’s been retooled now for the beautiful area in which we exist,” he said. “We’re able to bring students in and instead of teaching them about outdoor recreation, we’re now able to not only do that but teach them to run that company that’s going to provide outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities within the state.”
As more and more programs continue to expand, Wood said that administration is also asking questions such as What can we do in developing programming that’s going to make a difference for the town itself? For economic development within Elkins? For the needs that are arising within the community?
“So we have begun a dialogue with leadership here within Elkins to see how we can begin to work together, to partner together, to make Elkins and Randolph County an even better place to come and to live,” he said.
Looking ahead, Wood sees only further improvements for the college.
“I think Davis & Elkins has been one of those institutions that for 114 years has been a real gem within this state and in the region, and frankly we’re in the best financial shape that we’ve been in probably since the institution’s founding,” he said. “I think the brighter days are ahead for us as an institution.”