WVU Tech’s Revitalization Committee made its first official moves Tuesday toward reviving an institution fraught with serious budgetary, enrollment and facilities challenges.

They approved several recommendations handed up from academic and facilities subcommittees that met earlier in the month.

These included implementing a new math and science teacher education program and seeking $7.8 million for the renovation of Ratliff Hall and other capital improvements.

Formed in January, the Committee is tasked with putting into effect the recommendations of a Revitalization Report submitted to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) in October 2011 by a team that studied the needs and potential solutions to Tech’s problems.

One of the report’s recommendations was that the school develop a program for students who want to teach science, technology, engineering, and math.

WVU Tech Campus Executive Officer Carolyn Long says it’s a good opportunity not only for Tech, but also for West Virginia schools.

“It is a critical need for the state of West Virginia, especially in rural counties,” said Long.

“We chose to start with math and science because those are subject matters we have on campus already with our nursing and engineering programs.”

WVU Tech will not create a separate teacher education department, but merely build a four-year program to prepare students to teach science and math.

Long says the school is already working with the State Department of Education on developing the curriculum. She aims to accept the first class in the 2013-2014 school year.

Offshoots of the program that may develop in the future include a shorter program for professionals with math and science backgrounds who want to get a teaching certificate, a program for current teachers to advance their education, and a program for math in elementary schools.

“We’re looking at the whole gamut,” says Long. “And a lot these we would anticipate being online.”

On Friday, WVU Tech Campus Executive Officer Carolyn Long will ask the WVHEPC for approximately $750,000 for a new Student Success Center, one of Long’s top priorities since she took her office in January.

If approved, the request will be funded by a $1.5 million allocation in the governor’s budget for both WVU Tech and West Virginia State University.

Located on the top floor of the school’s library, the center would include a cafe/lounge area, computer lab, study space, and offices for academic counselors and a psychologist. The idea is to increase accessibility to academic advising and create a comfortable study space in order to retain more students.

In the future, the academic subcommittee will address an “economically unsustainable” student to teacher ratio of 11:1, says subcommittee chair Robert Griffith. They will also examine the school’s programs and majors to “make an honest evaluation of their sustainability.”

They are also exploring the implementation of an adventure sports minor.

The 2011 Revitalization Report also states that WVU Tech needs $70 million in capital improvements.

“Is there anyone who thinks we’re going to get $70 million out of the state of West Virginia this year or next year? No. (...) At the end of the day, we talked about all these different projects and agreed on one. Ratliff needs to be totally renovated,” Facilities Subcommittee Chair Ed Robinson told those who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“I was scraping stuff off the floors of Ratliff Hall in 1966,” says Robinson, a Tech graduate.

School administration will ask the Legislature for $7.8 million for not only a top to bottom renovation of Ratliff Hall, but also basic improvements like sprinkler systems, HVAC systems, and roof replacements in Orndorff Hall, the Engineering Classroom Building, and the Baisi Center.

Tech will also ask the WVHEPC for about $283,000 for beautification projects, including a new perimeter fence for tennis courts and resurfacing of parking lots.

The school already has funds to tear down the Coed Residence Hall, which a recent structural engineering study found structurally deficient. The dorm will come down in July, says Long.

They will also commission a study of the Hi-Rise Dorm to see whether it makes sense to renovate or tear down the structure. A recommendation should come in late summer or early fall, says Robinson.

Ron Alexander, who taught history at Tech for 35 years, attended the meeting and says he feels “optimistic” about the progress.

“It seems to me the committee is being realistic,” he says. “They know they’re not going to get the $70 million, so they are going after some things they have to have.”

“This is the most excitement I’ve seen at Tech in a long time, and I’ve been working at Tech for a while,” Robinson told attendees.

The next meeting of the committee will be on July 17 at 1:30 p.m. in the Tech Center Ballroom. Meeting agendas and other supplementary material related to the revitalization process are available at www.wvhepc.org/wvutech.

An open survey to provide feedback on the Tech revitalization process is also available at the link.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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