PARKERSBURG - Even as West Virginia University at Parkersburg celebrates 50 years as an economic and educational force in the Mid-Ohio Valley, the college has continued to branch out with services and facilities intended to bring more opportunities to more people and areas.
Marie Foster Gnage, president of WVU-P, said the college over the years has sought to take class offerings and opportunities out to the community, either by making the classes taught at WVU-P itself more affordable and accessible, or by supporting other facilities which deliver classes to students.
Many of these outreach programs are made possible in part through the constant support of the WVU-P Foundation.
Established in 1963, the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Foundation has been helping the college to expand its offerings while giving more students the chance to pursue their educations.
Gnage said the foundation supports the college in two major areas, financial scholarships and grants for students and professional development training for faculty.
"Our foundation provides a tremendous service to the college," she said.
The foundation annually awards more than 110 student scholarships and has distributed more than $1 million in scholarships over the years.
The foundation also helps raise private funds to pay for programs at the college, professional training opportunities, purchase equipment and fund development projects.
"If someone is looking to donate to the college, this is a good place to send their dollars," Gnage said.
Created in 1975 to provide classes for Jackson, Mason and Roane counties, the Jackson County Center located in Ripley now serves about 900 students, allowing them to take WVU-P classes without having to leave the area.
"The Jackson County Center I think has such promise," Gnage said. "That community has been wonderfully supportive. They recognize the importance of having such a center."
Gnage said the college's goal is to expand both the facilities and class offerings at the Jackson County Center.
"I would like to see it be a more vibrant part of the community," Gnage said. "I want it to be what the community turns to when they need something."
The center now offers several associate programs as well as programs designed to put students on the path to a baccalaureate in other subject areas including nursing and elementary education.
"I am looking forward to what is going to happen with the center in the coming years," she said. "We may have to do some fundraising and ask the community for help in expanding the center, but I believe the community will support it."
In 1999, through an agreement with WVU-P and the Wood County Board of Education, The Caperton Center for Applied Technology was opened on the campus of the college.
The school provides technology training for both high school and college students who share classrooms and faculty. High school students can take courses for college credits, and adults can pursue technical degrees or job retraining in technology fields. The flexible curriculum is developed in part through the collaborative efforts of the college, the school system, area businesses and local industry.
The Caperton Center also plays host to a variety of events, both for the college and for Wood County Schools, such as academic competitions, meetings and celebrations.
"The Caperton Center is a great example of the kinds of collaborative programs we want to establish," Gnage said. "It is absolutely wonderful and we want to do more of that."
In August 2008 the Erickson Foundation donated the W.T. Grant Building to WVU-P. The 32,000-square foot building on Market Street in downtown Parkersburg had sat empty for years, but officials with the college saw the potential for a downtown education center.
The public too has largely been in favor of the building being used as a technical center for jobs training. The college also received a $1 million grant to install science and technology labs inside of the building.
Work on the building is expected to cost several million dollars, and officials are still acquiring grants and other sources of funding to help with the project. A planned roof replacement and facade work already are under way.
"With the downtown center I think our best bet is to make sure it is as entrepreneurial as possible because we want to sustain it," she said. "It is where people will point to and say 'go there for training.'"
Gnage said once the building is completed, the college will turn its attention toward creating the curriculum.
"We need it to be flexible enough to change with the needs of the downtown businesses," she said.
Though the college has undertaken numerous projects outside of its main campus, work at the existing campus continues to be a top priority.
This year will see the continued expansion of the college with the start of two new building projects on the 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.