The College of Sciences at West Liberty University has seen unprecedented growth and success of its graduates. During the last five years the College has experienced a fifty-four-percent increase in student numbers making it the largest College on WLU’s campus. Greater than 99% of College of Sciences students applying for post-graduate programs (Doctoral, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physician Assistant, Speech Pathology and Audiology, Dentistry) have been accepted into their program of choice. Our success rate is the best in West Virginia. We have graduates attending prestigious institutions including, Brown University, Ohio State University, Washington University School of Medicine, West Virginia University Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine, and University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine. The success of our students is a measure of the academic rigor in the College’s programs and the opportunities for research and service available at West Liberty University.
The College of Sciences has been engaged in planning a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program over the past two years. National projections published by CNN, Forbes, and Money Magazine (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/2010/) rank Physician Assistant second on list of the top 100 jobs in America based on salary potential, job satisfaction, and job growth potential. On Friday September 16, 2011, WLU received provisional accreditation* notice from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARCPA) for our proposed M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies. The positive news is exciting and marks the College’s progress in the preparation and implementation of our first graduate degree program. Before the new degree program can be opened, however, we must receive accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, our overarching accreditation agency. The HLC accreditation visit will occur on December 5 and 6, 2011 with official notification on the status of program approval occurring in February of 2012. Once all approvals are complete, WLU will have the only PA program in a West Virginia state-assisted institution. With the unprecedented growth in the College and the potential for even greater growth with the proposed Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree program, the state of West Virginia approved the construction of a new facility at WLU in 2009. The planning for the new $20 million Health Sciences Building is well underway. It will be located on Faculty Drive (across from the baseball field) and have approximately 60,000 sq. feet. The Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Speech Pathology and Audiology, Medical Laboratory Sciences, the proposed Physician Assistant Studies and Chemistry programs will all be located in the new building. Ground- breaking is expected to be in March of 2012 with occupancy set for August 2013.
An integral part of the educational process in the College of Sciences is academic rigor and opportunity for research and service. The College of Sciences faculty continues to receive grants to enhance education and promote undergraduate research and service. Since 2004 the College has received over $4 million dollars in external grant funding. Some grants provided for the purchase of new equipment, such as digital x-ray equipment for Dental Hygiene, an ultrasound for Biology, and advanced instrumentation for molecular biology. Other grants allow for undergraduate-driven research; over sixty undergraduate students have participated in cutting-edge research as a result. These students receive generous stipends and have traveled the world presenting their research results. One project’s results were published in Atherosclerosis, an international journal. The first author on this publication was an undergraduate student in Biology. Another faculty member, Zachary Loughman, along with his students just published a scientific article describing the discovery of a new species of crayfish . From these projects numerous publications have originated, including an international publication in the journal Atherosclerosis first-authored by a student, and an article describing the discovery of a new species of crayfish in West Virginia.
The College of Sciences at West Liberty University is a progressive entity focused on student achievement and success. Working with our students and dedicated faculty is an ever-changing and satisfying experience. One of our next initiatives is to reach out to all of our alumni and bring them ‘back to the fold.’ Increased interaction of our students and faculty with our alumni will add another integral facet to our program. Networking between our entities can open doors for recent graduates and provide more internship, research, and service opportunities for our current students. As an alumnus, the ability to facilitate current and recent graduates in career and life success can be a rewarding and meaningful experience. I look forward to opening channels of communication between our entities and encouraging the success of potential partnerships.
* Provisional accreditation is an accreditation status. The granting of provisional accreditation indicates that the plans and resource allocation for the proposed program appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards, if fully implemented as planned. Provisional Accreditation does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. Provisional status is limited to no more than three years for any program.