By: Ryan Quinn
The West Virginia University Board of Governors voted unanimously Friday to build an estimated $2.3 million engineering building on the former Mountain State University campus in Beckley, in preparation for WVU Institute of Technology engineering students moving there from Montgomery.
The building, estimated at 9,100 square feet and designed by Design Collective Architecture of Baltimore, is scheduled to be finished in May 2017. It will include space for engineering teaching labs, student project rooms, engine testing, materials testing and welding, and more, according to Friday’s meeting agenda.
Money for construction costs will be borrowed from the WVU Research Corp. Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for legal, government and entrepreneurial engagement, said that money will be repaid to the Research Corp. through Beckley campus revenue, such as tuition.
Alsop said engineering students will need a larger space than the former MSU campus had, to accommodate student projects. He said the building’s labs will have machinery and heavy equipment that require reinforced flooring.
“This is the one building that we knew we needed to get done before we moved the engineering students over,” Alsop said.
Next school year, WVU plans to offer classes at both WVU Tech’s longtime location in Montgomery and at its new location in Beckley. Alsop said engineering classes won’t be offered at Beckley until fall 2017, when all courses will have moved and the Montgomery campus will close.
In June, WVU finalized its $8 million purchase of the former MSU campus, which closed in 2012 after the Higher Learning Commission pulled its accreditation. MSU, a private college, sold the campus to help settle a class-action lawsuit in which hundreds of former students sued the university for not providing them with a worthy education.
In September, WVU officials approved moving the WVU Tech campus from Montgomery, where it has been for more than 120 years.
Alsop said that, even though WVU will spend more than $2 million on the new engineering building, that’s still less than the $100 million-plus in deferred maintenance needs at the Montgomery campus. A state Higher Education Policy Commission report estimated that figure.
In other unanimous votes Friday, the board approved a resolution that Alsop said the school needed to enable the WVU Innovation Corp., which was formed about a year ago, to pursue federal Department of Defense research contracts.
The resolution states that WVU and its officers and directors “will not require and will not have access to classified information” in the custody of the Innovation Corp., which Alsop said is a separate legal entity, or any facilities that report to the Innovation Corp. that must have access to that kind of information. The resolution also says the Innovation Corp. has been delegated “full authority to act completely independent” of WVU in all matters involving or relating to the Innovation Corp.’s “responsibility to perform on classified contracts.”
Alsop said WVU has never had an entity like the Innovation Corp. that could perform this type of work, but he said he didn’t know late Friday more details about what kind of defense work the researchers are seeking.
“This is a new area we’re trying to get into,” he said.
The board also unanimously approved turning a track of an existing School of Pharmacy doctoral degree — the pharmaceutical and pharmacological sciences degree, according to WVU spokesman Jake Stump — into its own degree: a doctor of philosophy degree in health services and outcomes research. The university said the track has maintained for years a 100 percent employment rate for its graduates. The board also unanimously OK’d the creation of a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, in the College of Business and Economics, to provide what WVU said are the unique skill sets required by successful entrepreneurs.
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