WVU studies how it can help reinvent W.Va.

GEE VIEW — West Virginia University President Gordon Gee speaks to journalists attending WVU’s Academic Media Day in Morgantown Monday.  -- Joselyn King

GEE VIEW — West Virginia University President Gordon Gee speaks to journalists attending WVU’s Academic Media Day in Morgantown Monday. -- Joselyn King

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University wants to play a vital role in helping the state reinvent itself and find a new direction, according to WVU President E. Gordon Gee.

The school has commissioned the McKinsey Global Institute to conduct a study seeking answers on how WVU can best help the state, and these findings will be presented to state lawmakers, he said. He wasn’t certain as to the timeline for completion of the report.

Gee spoke of the study while providing the keynote address to journalists attending WVU’s Academic Media Day on Monday at the Mountainlair in Morgantown.

“We are going to have an announcement on that shortly,” Gee said of the McKinsey study. “We’re working on this. We didn’t want this project to get caught up in the legislative moment because we wanted to make sure it could be more thoughtfully approached. But we are in the midst of a major study we expect will come forward with a significant set of proposals about how we can redirect the state.”

Research at WVU centers on creating new opportunities for West Virginia, and new ways in which the state can accomplish things, he said.

WVU is the largest employer in the state, according to Gee. Data provided by WVU show the institution employs 5,776 on a full-time basis, and another 2,486 part-time employees.

Because of this, WVU’s economic impact on the state is substantial, he said.

“This university is very unique in that we have no major competition in the state,” Gee said. “I don’t mean that to sound negative about Marshall, but we are simply a … larger and more complex institution.”

Although the school is considered a “land grant” university with strong roots in agriculture, West Virginia is not a farming state, he said.

Instead, the school has had to adapt and become the center of study in areas such as engineering, mining and disciplines associated with the energy industry.

West Virginia now needs to reinvent itself, as it too often has found its economy dependent on the “boom and bust” cycle of the energy industries, according to Gee.

“We can no longer afford to do that,” he said. “But I do believe the boom-bust cycle in all energy states is over. With all of the kinds of energy issues that we do have, I do not think that coal is over, and I don’t think oil and gas are. I just think they won’t be that dimensional add-on that they used to be.”

WVU’s medical facility also has “grown and morphed over the last years,” Gee said. U.S. News and World Report this year ranked WVU Hospitals sixth in the nation behind the Mayo Clinic.

“If we want to, we can be as good or better than anyone — but we have to have the will,” he said.

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