Gee says WVU on the rise, decries bureaucracy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. West Virginia University president Gordon Gee says WVU is an institution on the rise and now is the time for the strategic plan to go into “strategic action.”

“It is time we reposition West Virginia University as a thought leader,” Gee said Monday during his state of the university address.

Gee announced the creation of a Center for Big Ideas, which will be led by former Gov. Gaston Caperton. The center will bring together faculty, staff and students to tackle issues, such as energy, rural health, STEM education and arts and culture, that relate to West Virginia and the country.

“I cannot think of anyone who has a better grasp of our state and the ways in which higher education empowers lives,” Gee said about Caperton, who also was president of the College Board, which administered the nationally recognized SAT and AP tests.

Gee outlined several areas and initiatives that will help advance the university. He has been an  advocate of eliminating bureaucracy at the university and streamlining administration.

“I say it is time to toss out the rulebook. Higher education is buried beneath a bastion of bureaucracy and it is time to dig ourselves out.”

Last spring, Gee formed a bureaucracy SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) team to further streamline, simplify and standardize the University’s business practices.

“We must make this institution move like a ballerina, not an elephant dressed in a tutu,” he said. “And we must do so by working together, as one West Virginia University.”

Gee also insisted that the students must come first. He announced the launch of Project 168. Its name is derived from the 168 hours in a week.

“Our students are in class a max of 18 hours,” he said. “We will launch Project 168 to develop ways to bring academics and professional success into the other 150 hours.”

Students will start their journeys in freshmen learning communities – communities that build learning around disciplines and specific interests, as well as communities focused on solving global issues through multi-disciplinary approaches.

Gee also wants to see enrollment increase at WVU by 7,000, bringing the system-wide total to 40,000.

“And we will not choose between growing in size and growing in quality,” he said. “We will do both. We will increase the quality of the freshman class credentials while growing the class from 5,000 to 5,500 new students.”

Gee is confident that WVU is an institution that can become a leader in research.

“I believe in West Virginia and West Virginia University rising. And I believe in each of you.”

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