CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new athletic complex and residence hall are in the works at West Virginia State University, which could mean more WVSU students and graduates, as well as an overall healthier campus atmosphere, according to West Virginia State University President Brian Hemphill. Hemphill also announced that renovations to Fleming Hall, including a 2,200-seat arena, are expected to be complete by February 2014.
The new sports complex, with construction planned to begin next fall, will house a state-of-the-art weight room, showers, locker rooms and offices to accommodate the 204 student athletes at WVSU. Student athletes at the Institute school have never had a fitness facility of their own, Hemphill said at his first State of the University address.
"All you have to do is take a look at some of our facilities and realize there's a need. When our athletes have to share a workout facility with traditional students, that's tough -- especially when they're trying to compete. That's not the norm for most athletic programs," Hemphill said. "In order to be truly competitive, we have to have better residence halls and facilities for our students. These things are expected when students look at prospective schools.
The athletic center was made possible by a $1 million private donation to the school -- the largest philanthropic gift in the college's history, Hemphill said. Half of the donation will go toward building the complex, while the remaining $500,000 will provide scholarships. The donor wanted to remain anonymous.
"This makes the statement that someone is willing to step up and invest in this university, which is an important statement to be made to students, faculty, staff and all across the valley," Hemphill said.
The new residence hall will house up to 300 students and provide a modern, "living-learning-wellness community" with an honors floor, academic success center, state-of-the-art technology and grab-and-go dining. A residence hall has not been built on State's campus since 1969.
The existing Fleming Hall will also see major renovations, including the arena for athletic events and graduation ceremonies.
The new additions are all a part of the strategic plan, "Vision 2020: State's Roadmap to the Future," and will help the school reach its goal of becoming the most student-centered, research and teaching, land-grant university in the state, Hemphill said.
In addition to recruitment and retention, the plan emphasizes degree completion, marketing and branding, research and academics, all while echoing the school's new mantra "One message, many voices."
Currently, 55 percent of first-time freshmen at WVSU return for their sophomore year. Of those, 24.5 percent earn their bachelor's degree within six years.
"It's no surprise to anyone here that we need to make student recruitment a priority at State. We must reach out into our communities, our neighboring states and internationally to recruit the best and the brightest to WVSU, and to provide opportunities to those for whom a college education is not much more than a dream," Hemphill said.
"State's history is steeped in providing academic opportunities for students who may not fit the mold of the ideal student sought by other universities. We are proud of the fact that we welcome individuals, not just test scores, GPAs or those with strong financial means, to study, evolve and succeed in our living laboratory of human relations."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.