As West Liberty University celebrates 175 years of history with a month-long celebration in March, President Robin C. Capehart reported in his campus report on Wednesday that the institution is planning for the future.


Speaking in College Hall, Capehart noted that applications for the coming academic year are up 6.2 percent over the current year and that enrollment has risen consistently. Citing a study by the Higher Education Policy Commission, he said the college-going rate among high school students in the Northern Panhandle is among the highest in the state.


From 2009 to 2010, he said, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by WLU rose by 22 percent, which tied with Glenville State College for the highest increase in the state. For that same period, WLU’s enrollment rose by 3.5 percent, according to the HEPC report.


He added that WLU’s retention rate is second only to West Virginia University and praised faculty and staff for their efforts in working with students.


WLU is an affordable option for high school graduates, he said, compared to the other public colleges and universities in the state. “The cost of going to college at West Liberty, including room and board, puts us in the middle compared to other state institutions of higher education,” he said.


Capehart also recognized two students, Melanie Fagan and Luke Tacosik, members of the campus compact advisory board, who represented the university at the state Legislature on Higher Education Day.


He also announced a new initiative, the Executive Fellowship Program. He explained, “Great universities provide their faculty with professional development opportunities that will prepare them for positions of leadership in the future. Great universities engage in an effective and efficient program of succession planning that identifies and develops personnel that possess the potential to fill key leadership positions in the organization.”


The purpose of this program is to provide selected faculty members with an experiential opportunity that will focus on learning and understanding both the academic and administrative operations of the institution.   Participants – “executive fellows” – will work with WLU’s senior leadership in performing policymaking and organizational duties, he said. They will observe and assist those leaders with the goal of obtaining a greater understanding of the operation of the university as a whole.


“This is the best way to prepare for the leadership of the future,” Capehart said.


He also reported that the university is financially sound, continuing to build on the successes of the past five years in a responsible way.