CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the University of Charleston prepares to take over Mountain State University's in-state campuses Jan. 1, Jerry Forster, the new president of the school's Beckley operations, knows what the biggest challenge will be.
"Job No. 1 is to reconfirm the fact that we will be there and that the quality of our academic courses will be topnotch. That is certainly one of the key challenges, and it won't happen overnight," Forster said.
"I wish we could hire every competent employee that is in Beckley right out of the gate, but we will not be able to do that. We have to first rebuild enrollment and activities. We will have to have some patience, but I am eager."
Forster said while his job as head of UC-Beckley won't be easy -- MSU, after all, became the first institution in West Virginia to have its accreditation revoked -- his ties to the area make him especially qualified for the position.
Forster, a 1983 UC graduate, served as the school's vice president for administration and finance during 1990s. He also held the roles of Kanawha County manager and assistant city manager for the city of Charleston before he took on his most recent job as chief financial officer at Sewanee University in Tennessee.
"Even in the '70s and '80s when UC was facing tough financial times and struggling to make ends meet, the quality of the faculty has been the one thing that's been consistent through the decades. That's what I remember being so fond of here as a student," he said. "The faculty is still exemplary, and we're going to make sure that Beckley students have that privilege in addition to great academic quality."
UC is leading a teach-out program to help MSU students transition and is awaiting a formal arrangement to buy the school's Beckley and Martinsburg properties at the end of December.