I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Chambers College in my new role of Associate Dean for Outreach, Innovation and Engagement. This opportunity allows me to leverage my passions into one role that will create synergistic relationships across the Chambers College enterprise, while also enabling opportunities for growth among our programmatic and outreach efforts through strategic resource development. I am a mission-driven and student-centered academic who believes wholeheartedly in the value of enabling our faculty, staff and students to study, live, and innovate through activities that serve our state and community.
Six years ago, I began the process of building an outreach center, the Center for Financial Literacy and Education, which promotes financial literacy and education in the state of West Virginia through experiential learning opportunities, faculty engagement in research initiatives and collaborations, and the promotion of better financial decision making. From a basic concept of delivering skills to those that need them the most, I was able to build the framework for a large program that is now working with national and international industrial partners to improve the lives of the less fortunate and train our finance students to succeed in the competitive, global marketplace, all while tying the Finance Department at the Chambers College to our land-grant mission. Through the process of building an outreach center, I was able to see first-hand the incredible impact that our centers have on our state and internal and external constituents.
The work of our Chambers Innovation and Outreach Centers creates a tangible connection to our land-grant mission. It also leverages our faculty experts in meaningful ways, while providing opportunities for our students to work and learn in an ecosystem of creativity, innovative thinking, and entrepreneurial activity that has the potential to not only change their lives, but also the state and the world around them.
The work of our most visible outreach center, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, is continuously serving to provide economic analysis and comprehensive, focused forecasts that are laying the foundation for the future of our state.
From the work of our Data Driven WV team, who didn’t hesitate to jump in and help our state through COVID-19 by building forecasting models for PPE and an advanced inventory management system for vaccine distribution, to the work of our Encova Center and the Hayhurst LaunchLab to build entrepreneurial mindsets in our students and support our state businesses, to the work of the HITLab to bring the hospitality industry into the future, our centers are serving our state – and our world – in ways that are measurable and transformational.
Our state is moving into the future with new ways of approaching business. The combined forces of the Ascend WV program and the growth of the start-up movement in West Virginia are giving us the opportunity to lead with technology and innovation to launch new dimensions of economic prosperity and growth, while providing our students opportunities to work in start-ups – or to build their own.
There is a lot of room for innovation to take place. If we harness the opportunity and talent in the Chambers College, we can, and will, emerge as leaders in this space. We have just started the process of building a new center that is focused on digital innovation in finance that will not only transform the way that banks in rural America service their customers, but will also provide a framework for launching opportunities for our students and faculty to integrate disruptive technologies into these institutions, with pathways for a start-up mindset to begin to flourish across our campus community. We will leverage the incredible opportunities being created by Vantage Ventures to move innovative solutions through the campus entrepreneurial ecosystem and to create partnerships with entrepreneurs coming into the FinTech Sandbox in West Virginia.
The study of business and innovation is one that is grounded in developing practical solutions that will lead industry best-practices. Training our students must be focused on the cross-section of industry needs and integration of ideas into the classroom setting through consulting opportunities and project-based learning that will enable our faculty to innovate curriculums and allow our students to not only compete, but also lead, in the global workplace. As we shepherd this mindset moving forward, I am working with the outreach and innovation teams to reimagine future areas of growth, while being mindful of our resource constraints, our commitment to the state of West Virginia, and our ultimate obligation to train our students to create the future of business.
It is our collective spirit of service, deep pockets of talent, and unified sense of purpose that serve as our differentiators – and they will move us into the future as we continue to build collaborative, creative and dynamic teams that will enable our students, faculty, and the great state of West Virginia to propel our mission forward.