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Fairmont State University hopes to introduce next president this spring

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The search for the president at Fairmont State University is underway with the hopes of a final selection by spring.

Rusty Hutson (Fairmont State University)

Fairmont State Board of Governors Rusty Hutson said the search firm Buffkin and Baker worked with university officials through the end of the year to develop the preferred profile of the president and will accept application packages through Jan. 31.

“Then the process of running them through all of the facilities on campus and everything else will kick off,” Hutson said. “With the intention of having a new president by the end of the spring term.”

Hutson said Fairmont State University has traditional four-year education opportunities but a new leader will have to be comfortable with technical and vocational offerings as well. The new Law Enforcement Academy, aircraft training facilities at the North Central West Virginia Airport, and a growing nursing program will be only some of the additional duties required.

“We want someone that can manage the provost and the vice president of academic affairs but at the same time have some skill sets that are more than just academia, chief executive type skill sets, communication, and be able to reach out into the community,” Hutson said.

Eighty-nine percent of the nearly 3,600 undergraduate students come to campus from in-state, and a large portion comes from Marion, Harrison, Lewis, and Monongalia counties. Hutson said finding a native West Virginian is not as important as finding the person who increases the energy and interest around the university.

“We need to get young people in our seats and being educated, because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re there for so I think it’s important to have someone who understands the students we recruit,” Hutson said.

The lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic include questions about the value of a traditional four-year education compared to trades. Hutson said all learning institutions are on a learning curve that will determine their success for many years to come.

Dianna Phillips

“You better be able to provide training or some way they can provide for themselves in the long term outside of just a four-year education,” Hutson said.

Dr. Dianna Phillips came on as interim president last summer after the departure of then-president Mirta Martin. Phillips has more than 20 years of higher education experience and came to Fairmont from Hartford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland.

“The interim president right now has done a fabulous job, she has stepped in under a very difficult situation,” Hutson said. “But she’s done a fabulous job of bringing stability to the campus, and she’s done a great job of getting business going.”

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