PARKERSBURG - During 2011, West Virginia University at Parkersburg is celebrating its 50th anniversary under the theme "The College the Community Built" with a variety of activities, exhibits and programs.
"The reason is because we're the only public institution in West Virginia that was founded by the citizens. They passed a bond levy which made this campus possible. The Wood County Court gave the property so that we could build out here," said Connie Dziagwa, executive director for institutional advancement at the college.
"By commemorating 50 years of helping students pursue and achieve their dreams, we honor those citizens who had the foresight in the 1960s to recognize the importance of public high education to the economic vitality of this region," said current college president Marie Foster Gnage, the sixth person to hold that title in WVU-P's 50 years.
West Virginia University at Parkersburg students at their graduation.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our mission of meeting the higher education and training needs of area communities with quality, accessible and affordable education. We strive to continue the legacy of those faculty, staff and administrators who preceded us in fulfilling the noble mission of the college," Gnage said.
A variety of events are scheduled for 2011. Exhibits will also be on display at the college during the year and there will be special events for students, alumni and current and past employees and staff members. A special "legacy weekend" is planned in August to honor those who have donated to the college, including those who have established endowments and scholarships at the college. The schedule of anniversary activities is expected to conclude next fall with a special gala.
Looking back at the past 50 years at WVU-P and the changes the college has gone through and the improvements it has made in its programs and offerings, Gnage said the college "keeps on going and keeps getting better and better."
"'Better and better' means that we're serving the region even better, with more programs, more opportunities for career ladders," she said.
"We're about serving students, we're about making sure we're serving our citizens so that they have accessible, affordable education," Gnage said.
This year will see the continued expansion of the college with the start of two new building projects on the WVU-P campus. Following ground-breaking ceremonies later this year, construction will begin on a new child development center facility and an applied technology building, Gnage said.
The child development center will host the college's day care program along with serving as a lab school for the early childhood education program. The new technology building will house the welding, multi-craft technician and some workforce development programs at WVU-P.
The projects are being funded by a community and technical college bond passed two years ago on the state level which is providing $6 million for WVU-P for the new construction.
Dziagwa said WVU-P has continued to grow in terms of enrollment, with an eight percent increase in enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year. That follows a 15 percent increase the previous year, one of the larger fall classes in the college's history. This year saw WVU-P move from being the fifth largest college in West Virginia to the fourth largest, along with being the largest community college in the state.
Technology has continued to play an expanding role at WVU-P. Over the past several years, the college has been offering more online classes and programs, both as a way for students to save on costs and also because more students are interested in obtaining their education online.
WVU-P's online offerings include four degrees that can be earned through online classes, including the Associate of Applied Science in Business Technology, the Associate of Applied Science in Multi-Craft Technology, the Associate of Science in Business Administration and the Associate of Arts.
Looking ahead, "we're continuing to work on expanding both the associate degree programs and the bachelor degree programs," Gnage said.