Fleming: WJU Developing a ‘Collegiate Downtown’

The Rev. James Fleming told members of the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday it is important to promote a relationship between a university and its city.

Tracing the history of universities, Fleming referenced the concept of university origins and how they have grown with society over time. In European universities of years past, goals expanded from creating better citizens to include developing research. This evolved even further in the U.S. once land grant colleges were established beginning in 1860 and schools’ applied research was geared to help cities thrive.

Fleming still views applied research as important for today’s universities.

“We use applied knowledge to generate new knowledge,” Fleming said of Jesuit schools such as Wheeling Jesuit University.

Fleming added that Saint Ignatius valued educational institutions being “in close conversation” with cities. Elaborating on that idea, Fleming said the service-oriented mission of a Jesuit education guides WJU to focus on “who students become, what faculty do, and how the university can proceed” in its efforts to work with communities.

With its doctor of physical therapy program and free physical therapy clinic at the Stone Center in downtown Wheeling being one way for the university to apply knowledge relevant to the city, WJU pushes away from what Fleming claims can be a “natural resistance for universities to be part of where they are (located).”

“Schools can give back to the cities they’re in,” said Fleming.

Beyond the health benefits of the clinic, which Fleming said is designed but still needs equipment, he further highlighted the project’s economic and social impact as additional benefits to the city. Those who visit downtown, whether for the program’s classes or to utilize the clinic’s services, may rely on surrounding restaurants and businesses for other parts of their day.

Combined with the work West Virginia Northern Community College has completed to develop new facilities in downtown Wheeling, Fleming believes WJU’s efforts, guided by the Regional Economic Development Partnership, can lead to the formation of “a great collegiate downtown.”

The university is also working on Washington Ave. graduate housing plans to accommodate more students.