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Celebrating Our Successes: Chambers College Top Moments of 2020

Celebrating Our Successes: Chambers College Top Moments of 2020

2020 was anything but ordinary.

Three months into the new year, a global pandemic wrought an unprecedented public health crisis and changed the way that we approach business, teaching, learning and connecting.

While the year has brought many challenges, the Chambers College team pressed forward with adaptability and tenacity to support our students and state, acquiring new initiatives for the future and preparing for the changed world that awaits us on the other side of COVID-19.

Here are a few of our proudest moments – and the ways that our College continued to persevere through a pandemic.

Launch of new graduate programs

In January 2020, our College launched a Healthcare MBA program to meet the booming healthcare industry’s current and future need for professionals with strong foundations in effective business practices through the lens of healthcare. Today, this program is more important than ever as our nation is working to help treat a global pandemic.

As early as Fall 2020, we began accepting the first group of students into our new online master’s program in economics – a one-year full-time program. Now, more than ever, providing online opportunities is key for our graduate students.


Progress through a pandemic: Reynolds Hall continued to build for the future with construction milestone, gift announcements

Reynolds Hall reached a major milestone in its construction on Sept. 25, when it was topped off with a beam signed by Chambers College faculty, staff and donors, bringing it closer to its completion date of April 2022.

Visa executive and Finance alumnus William Sheedy and his wife, Patricia, announced a generous gift of $2.5 million for an experiential learning pavilion that will be a signature space in Reynolds Hall where students will learn by doing.  

The experiential learning pavilion emphasizes the value of practical experiences and exposes students to companies outside of a traditional classroom environment, preparing them to meet the demands of a rapidly changing global business marketplace – demands that Sheedy knows firsthand as a Visa senior executive for over 25 years.

The Hayhurst family also announced a generous gift of $1M for the Ideation Hub. The Ronald L. Hayhurst Ideation Hub at Reynolds Hall will feature 1,500 square feet designed to create a highly adaptable environment for team collaboration and group work, innovation and ideation, workshops, presentations and events. The Hayhurst family also made a gift of $1M to support the LaunchLab.


How we R1: Chambers College faculty continued to support research mission through challenges

From Ph.D. students who received prestigious fellowships for their research, to publishing findings on digital supply networks, to the never-ending work of our Bureau of Business and Economic Research to forecast West Virginia’s economic outlook, our Chambers College faculty continued to move research forward during COVID-19 in support of WVU’s R1 designation.

Read more about some of our faculty’s research over the past year below:

A campus visit from Brad Smith led to a transformational $25M gift

Former Intuit CEO and current Executive Chairman Brad Smith visited campus in early March to see firsthand how WVU is innovating for the future. Smith was one of the last guest speakers to inspire our campus before the pandemic, but this Marshall graduate and West Virginia native recently made a generous gift of $25M to WVU to support a remote worker program through the newly-named Smith Outdoor Economic Collaborative that will be transformative in building West Virginia into a start-up state. His gift aligns with the entrepreneurial spirit and mission of the Chambers College, and our faculty and staff are working alongside campus and state partners to bring the program to life. Learn more about the “why” behind Smith’s gift here.

Around the world through a Zoom lens: Study abroad goes virtual

When the pandemic grounded planned study abroad trips to Chile, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Brazil, Estonia, India, Italy and Taiwan, our students proceeded with online learning for the rest of the year.

In April, Assistant Professor of Marketing Laurel Cook provided her Marketing students with the opportunity to learn about the business and culture of Brazil from the comfort of their homes.

In October, our Robbins Center for Global Business and Strategy kicked off a series of live virtual webinars through our partnership with Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). These webinars brought more than 100 students together, with Kristen Li’s HKBU students enrolled in her course in Information Technology Management, with WVU students enrolled in Associate Professor Ajay Aluri’s Tourism Management and Hospitality Social CRM classes.


Faculty and staff extended a helping hand to West Virginia small businesses during COVID-19

Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Community Business Program Lead Anna Carrier and Assistant Professor of Marketing Laurel Cook reached out to small businesses affected by limited offerings and closures in the early days of COVID-19 to offer resources to help them reach their customers.

Cook has offered community businesses digital marketing support through a grant with Google Ads for several years, using it as an experiential learning opportunity for her students to build Google Ad campaigns in her Marketing 389 course. She reached out to businesses in the early days of COVID to offer resources, and 89 businesses responded. Cook sprang into action, activating her students and campus partners to connect every business to someone who could effectively help them market their services through a pandemic.

Carrier put out a call to businesses in need of resources and offered free services such as assistance with loan applications, marketing, finances, business planning and more. Nearly 60 businesses responded, and Carrier worked with experts across WVU and the state to ensure they got the help that they needed to keep their doors open through trying times. Carrier is continuing to offer support for West Virginia businesses through virtual Grow with Google webinars, which will continue into 2021.

Learn more about how the Chambers College stepped up to help the state during COVID-19 as part of our land-grant mission here.

Business experts partner with West Virginia National Guard

When COVID-19 started depleting stockpiles of medical gear in hotspots like New York and New Jersey, the West Virginia National Guard took notice – and reached out to experts at Chambers College to help prevent that from happening in the Mountain State. The Data Driven WV team, in conjunction with the National Guard, developed a data-driven model that forecasts personal protective equipment use and surge conditions at hospitals and living facilities in West Virginia.

It did not take long for the powerhouse team of Brad Price, Dariane Drake and Katherine Kopp to be recognized with the Civilian Service Achievement award from the West Virginia National Guard for all their hard work in using data models to project how much personal protective equipment (PPE) to send to hospitals throughout West Virginia. Their data projection work with the National Guard is ongoing.


Virgin Hyperloop selects West Virginia as site for Certification Center

Virgin Hyperloop – a company transforming the future of travel – announced in October that it will locate a certification facility on nearly 800 acres of land spanning Tucker and Grant counties where it will leverage intellectual capital and resources from WVU, Marshall University and across the state.

Hyperloop moves people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube at speeds exceeding 600 mph enabling travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago in 41 minutes or New York City to Washington, D.C. in just 30 minutes.

Virgin Hyperloop plans to directly hire 150-200 engineers and technicians for the facility with plans to source talent locally. In addition, the construction and manufacturing of the project will create 7,300 jobs throughout the region over the next five years and the longer-term operation phase will create 6,000.

Chambers College researchers and the Vantage Ventures team, led by Executive Director Sarah Biller, brought a wealth of expertise to the project and will continue to work with Virgin Hyperloop and state, campus and private industry partners to shape the project.

Center for Financial Literacy and Education and PRA Group to Provide Financial Literacy Programming for West Virginia Students

The Chambers College CFLE partnered with PRA Group, Inc., a global leader in acquiring and collecting nonperforming loans, to advance financial literacy efforts as part of WVU’s land-grant mission.

PRA Group’s generous $210,000 contribution will fund two seminars on financial literacy in civics, business, and math led by Finance Chair and CFLE Executive Director Naomi Boyd and WVU Extension Service to maximize impact across the state. The first seminar took place in October and the second is scheduled for early 2021.

Iconic Air duo makes Forbes Under 30 list

The entrepreneurial engine of the Chambers ecosystem and co-founders of Iconic Air – Kyle Gillis and James Carnes – made Forbes magazine’s #ForbesUnder30 2021 Energy Sector list. Gillis and Carnes used the Chambers ecosystem via the LaunchLab, the Encova Center through their work with the West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition and Vantage Ventures to propel their concept from idea to market, starting when they were WVU students.

They both graduated from WVU in December 2019 with industrial engineering degrees from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Their successes are inspiring new energy in up-and-coming young entrepreneurs at West Virginia University, who have an ecosystem at their fingertips to turn ideas into the next wave of innovations.

A hopeful 2021 awaits

We hope you enjoyed looking back on some of our College’s positive moments from 2020.

Wishing our Chambers College family – and all of our friends, supporters, alumni and partners across the world – a happy, healthy and hopeful 2021!

Stay up-to-date on Chambers College news by following us on social at @wvuchambers.

Chambers College