Poverty, food security, teacher shortages and public health disparities are among the many issues facing West Virginia’s future.
Research that meets the needs of West Virginians is at the core of West Virginia University’s land-grant mission. Graduate education is the catalyst that has the potential to solve these problems, says Gregory Dunaway, dean of WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
“Graduate education is integral to the research enterprise. Now more than ever, we need people to engage in scholarship and research to help solve problems,” Dunaway said. “Applying our knowledge through research to solve serious problems is what a land-grant institution is all about.”
Graduate education is where research and innovation meet. The Eberly College seeks to equip students with tools to understand and disseminate knowledge while training them in research that improves the human condition.
“We need to attract students who are interested in conducting research to create the next round of major innovations and discoveries,” Dunaway said. “Our state and our country need people to be educated to make informed decisions about everything in our lives.”
The Eberly College offers 28 graduate degrees and certificates, including new doctoral degrees in sociology as well as forensic and investigative science. Graduate students have more opportunities than ever to personalize their education and participate in interdisciplinary research.
To help pursue these goals, friends from the Eberly College’s Visiting Committee came together to donate $60,000 to the Eberly College Dean’s Fund to support graduate education.
“As the academy evolves and new domains of inquiry emerge, they tend to blend across additional disciplines. One of the things that’s exciting to me as I get settled in and start to really identify our strengths is that those strengths transcend traditional disciplines,” said Dunaway, who took the helm as the College’s 20th dean in April 2016. “I look forward to promoting new programming that is truly interdisciplinary and gives students experiences that the typical graduate student coming out of a traditional academic discipline may not have. I would like to see faculty across departments working together to augment research and the graduate experience.”
As Dunaway reflects on his first year as dean, he said he recognizes the centrality of Eberly’s graduate programs to the University’s overarching research agenda and mission as well as how the gift can support interdisciplinary research.
“The research programs found in Eberly really include the core disciplines and the basic sciences that are fundamental to scholarship in other areas as well,” Dunaway said. “If you think about medical research, it would be difficult to have strong medical programs without strong research efforts in biology and chemistry. If you think about strong research efforts in engineering, it would be difficult to carry those out without strong research efforts in chemistry, mathematics and physics.”
Dunaway also hopes to use the gift to support the recruitment and retention of graduate students through opportunities like scholarships, fellowships, conference attendance and professional development.
“I hope to provide and enhance those resources so that the departments can engage in different activities to extend their recruitment efforts,” Dunaway said. “All of these things would help augment our profile in terms of graduate education and improve the quality of our students. The better our students are, the better our programs are, and the more likely we can recruit and attract quality faculty members to work with them.”
At a time where resources are becoming more limited, particularly for higher education, difficult decisions must be made as to how to allocate what is available. The College strives to balance those resources while conducting quality research as a part of a Carnegie Research 1 Doctoral University.
“In a climate of scarce resources, we are increasingly in need of support for our research programs and graduate programs,” Dunaway said. “Therefore, a gift like this is incredibly meaningful to what we are trying to do—to try to serve the land-grant mission through our research and service and also promote our research in a way that it keeps us competitive with the very best research institutions.”
This donation was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. Conducted by the WVU Foundation, the fundraising effort will run through December 2017.