FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Week one of Fairmont State President Dr. Mirta Martin’s statewide tour is under wraps.

The “President Martin West Virginia Appreciation Tour” made stops in Wierton, Wheeling, Moundsville, Bridgeport, Elkins, Fairmont and Martinsburg this week, meeting with local business owners, legislators, alumni and community members.

“This is a gratitude tour. This is not so much about Fairmont State,” Martin said. “It’s really a thank you to the legislators, the community members, the business leaders who inspire the next generation of leaders to go onto college, to seek an education. This is about expressing our gratitude to all of these people for their support of higher ed.”

In addition to offer her thanks, Martin also took the chance to discuss the economic, cultural, and institutional impact Fairmont State has had on West Virginia.

“It’s critical for us to spread the word,” she said. “You know what I have found is that we don’t tell our story often enough. Higher ed doesn’t, certainly Fairmont State doesn’t tell its story often enough.”

Martin said she’ll often hear from community members and even Fairmont State’s own alumni that they weren’t aware of the opportunities available by being a part of the Falcon Family.

“For some of our students, going to college is not a destination. That needs to be changed,” she said. “Often times they get stuck into ‘I can’t afford it.’ I would say, ‘You can’t afford not to go.’ Jobs that pay good wages, that provide meaningful employment will go away.”

Starting her career in the banking industry, Martin enjoys using numbers and statistics whenever possible.

In just six years, she said, 69 percent of the jobs in America are going to require a college degree.

“The fact that only 33 percent of our population nationwide has a four-year degree, only 11 percent in West Virginia has a four-year degree, it shocks people,” she said. “It’s not intended to be a shock, it’s intended to open a door, to begin an conversation, to provide an opportunity. This next generation of leaders have an incredible opportunity to change the landscape of West Virginia and our United States, and we need to be able to inspire them.”

Many of those present for the Harrison County Economic Development meeting that Martin attended in Bridgeport Thursday are part of the region’s aerospace and technology sectors — two areas that Fairmont State has come to thrive in.

The university works with those industry members to build successful programs to train a talent pipeline, Martin said.

“By working together with West Virginia communities to build strong bridges, we strengthen the Fairmont State pipeline,” she said. “Student jobs, co-op programs, and internships all allow these partnerships to become strong which in turn benefits our students and our communities.”

Strengthening the state through growth and innovation will in turn help to keep one of the most valuable resources — its young people — living and working in West Virginia.

“New ideas, or innovations, are the hallmark of the knowledge-based economy. As we move forward, knowledge and its access via higher education is our most important resource,” Martin said. “That’s why Fairmont State is focusing on partnering with businesses and industry across the state to make West Virginia a destination of choice for entrepreneurs, for businesses, and for the talented, highly-skilled workforce industries require.”

Additional tour stops in Charleston will be announced soon.