Report: West Virginia University Wields Most Influence in State

MORGANTOWN — Through collaboration and research, West Virginia University is building upon its reputation as the state’s most influential entity.

Joyce McConnell, WVU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the university received the “most influential” designation on the Forbes Map. She said the business publication chose WVU as the single entity that could bring everyone together, create partnerships and move the state forward.

Adding to the significance of the university’s selection, corporations were deemed the most influential entities in the other 49 states, she said.

McConnell and Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for health sciences, discussed the implementation of WVU’s strategies during the WVU Academic Media Day on Monday.

Rochelle “Rocky” Goodwin, senior associate vice president for academic and public strategy at WVU, moderated the session.

The strategies tie in with WVU’s mission as a land grant institution to improve the state, the nation and the world, McConnell said. As part of this mission, WVU is a partner in the West Virginia Forward initiative to attain goals for prosperity, health and education in the state.

The initiative seeks to help people “see a future that maybe they couldn’t have seen otherwise,” Marsh said. Leaders want to change the belief system of people from negativity to a positive attitude.

As a leader in the health sciences, Marsh advocates a deeply human approach to health, “where your biological age is less than your chronological birth age.”

He said the United States has twice as many health care resources, but next-to-last outcomes, of any country in the developed world. To overcome that inverse ratio, the nation must build more community and more hope, he added.

Citing a study of two groups of mothers, Marsh said women who had sick children experienced stress of higher intensity and longer duration than mothers of healthy youngsters. As a consequence, the more-stressed mothers aged biologically 17.4 years faster than the other mothers, he said.

In response, McConnell suggested that passion, purpose and partnership be used “to build a healthier, more prosperous, educated West Virginia.”

Examining areas of prosperity, officials noticed that surrounding states were adept at preparing sites before businesses showed interest, while West Virginia did not have a state-level systematic approach to site readiness, she said. In another endeavor, the WVU Energy Institute is studying downstream production from shale gas and is seeking to make value-added resources.

In all fields, WVU researchers try to improve and enhance the human condition.

“The best research is research that solves important problems,” Marsh said.

For example, he said evidence-based programs, such as music therapy and meditation, are offered to improve and enhance the experience of people who are tryng to overcome addiction to opioids.

The ecosystem thrives by collaboration, not competition, Marsh said, adding that “networks are really, really powerful.” Network collaboration allows people to look at different perspectives, he said.

In a similar vein, McConnell said the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative is identifying networks to deliver science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at the highest level throughout the state.