INSTITUTE, W.Va. — The decision to leave West Virginia State University was a difficult and bittersweet one for President Anthony Jenkins.

But he told MetroNews that he is looking forward to his next opportunity. That next one will be as President of Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

On Monday, West Virginia State University (WVSU) announced that Jenkins was leaving following the 2020 spring semester for the new leadership role. He joined WVSU in July 2016 and believes that his team has moved the institution in the right direction.

West Virginia State University

Anthony Jenkins

“We were able to move this university forward, we repositioned State,” Jenkins told MetroNews. “Part of my vision was to make it more competitive, more relevant, more sustainable, and continue to be a leader in higher education.

“I am confident that we have done that.”

Jenkins said the new position at Coppin State University (CSU), a historically black university established in 1900, was not something he was actively looking for but was presented through a nomination on his behalf.

He sees similarities between CSU and WVSU, saying they both have a mission to create upward mobility and advance access and opportunity to higher education. He said both institutions challenge students from a social standpoint and give access to young people who just need that opportunity.

Numbers from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission show that enrollment has increased under Jenkins at WVSU to 4,120 — around 16 percent.

Those numbers include the “dual enrollment” high school program, that Jenkins said he was proud to establish during his tenure. Students in that program, which represent more than half of the total enrollment number, do not physically take classes at WVSU but rather at their schools.

Jenkins said he was also proud of securing more funding in the form of a full state land grant match for the first time in the institution’s 128 year history.

His administration got the approval to add nursing and engineering programs during his time as president and the ability to roll out seven fully online academic degree programs.

Jenkins, who received a five-year contract extension and raise of his annual base salary by $20,000, to $255,000 last summer, also strongly voiced opposition to a campus carry bill which failed in the state legislature.

The Washington D.C. native told MetroNews that he expects to depart with his family from Institute around June 1 but he has plenty of work that remains at WVSU including enrollment management and expanding student affairs.

Even though he believes his team will leave WVSU in a better place than they found it through the numbers, he said the personal connections are what he measures success with.

Those connections have shown in the past 48 hours, according to him, through calls, texts, emails and visits to his office since the news broke that he was leaving.

“Moving the institution forward is something that we do on a collective front. But to be able to touch people’s lives and do it in a way where they are willing to come back and say thank you or express how you have empowered them, that’s where I hang my hat.”