WLU holds first-ever Faculty-Staff Institute to inaugurate the new 2021-2022 academic year

Joe Mills and Dr. Evans at Faculty-Staff Institute on Aug. 17, 2021

WLU held the first-ever Faculty-Staff Institute on Aug. 17, 2021, in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC), to begin the 2021-2022 academic year. The gathering started around 8:30 a.m. with speeches from Shirley Carter, director of Catholic campus ministry, Ryan McCullough, faculty senate representative and Tasha Taylor, staff council representative. According to WLU’s Director of Media Relations, Maureen Zambito, each speaker greeted and provided updates regarding their respective groups. Additionally, Mackenzi Jones, student government association (SGA) president and biology major, represented the student body for the upcoming academic year.

Diana Harto, chief human resources officer, then introduced 18 new employees to the Hilltop:
Julian Miller, Assistant Football Coach
Raymond Prayear, John Beck, Patrick Yost, Corey Latimer, Amanda Nelson, Chasity McConaughey, Custodial Staff
Jason Falvo, Assistant Track Coach
Vincent Mumford, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies
Ann Saurbier, College of Business dean
Cecilia Konchar Farr, Dean College of Liberal and Creative Arts
Bonnie Suderman, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost
Lori Hudson, Vice President of Fiscal Affairs
Abigail Beatty, Athletic Trainer
Jay Gault, Landscaper
Terri Giller, Instructor of Creative Arts Therapy
Jeffrey Seaman, Instructor of Computer Information Systems
Lisa Jordan, Program Director/Assistant Professor Medical Laboratory Sciences
Megan Ciacci Petrella, Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene
Rohit Pradhan, Associate Professor of Healthcare Management
Chelsea Robertson, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Leslie Quinn, Associate Professor of Biology
Kyle Lutz, Administrative Assistant WLU Foundation

After these introductions, President W. Franklin Evans delivered the State of the University address. He discussed the new changes coming to the Hilltop, saying, “To improve is to change; to reach perfection is to change often,” according to WLU’s Aug. 17 press release. Evans took the time to thank everyone who helped the university community through the COVID-19 pandemic in the last academic year, including the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), facility maintenance workers, WLU’s food service, health care workers, distance learning staff, information technology and athletic trainers.

Despite the hardships brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, Evans mentioned a few successes of the last year and encouraged employees to think positively. Additionally, Evans spoke on the transparency of his administration and touched base on his strategic goals and presidential priorities.

According to WLU’s Media Relations press release, some of Evan’s strategic goals include the following: academic success, university branding, operational excellence, student experience and community engagement. Evan’s presidential priorities involved increasing enrollment, maintaining financial stability, fostering student success, strengthening community outreach and enhancing alumni engagement.

Evans also informed the attendees of the initiative about updates to campus. These updates included new Board of Governor members, facility upgrades involving a $4 million HVAC upgrade to Main Hall, technology enhancements, WLU’s first endowed professorship, secured grant dollars and increased graduate degree programs and enrollment. Lastly, he discussed a new focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives (DEI).

Each of the President Cabinet members updated faculty on their specific areas:
Bonnie Suderman, Academic Affairs
Lynn Ullom, Athletics
Shemrico Stanley, Office of the President/DEI
Jason Koegler, External Affairs
Lori Hudson, Fiscal Affairs
Stephanie Hooper, Legal Affairs (virtual)
Joe Rodella, Information Technology/Operations
Scott Cook, Student Affairs/Enrollment Management
Angela Zambito-Hill, WLU Foundation

Faculty promotions were announced by Suderman and included the following individuals:
Associate professor promotion includes Dr. Emmanuél Paragas, Nursing.
Assistant professor promotions include Dr. Mitch Greco (Music), Ryan Keeling (Music), Dr. Danielle Mehlman-Brightwell (Communications), Sherry Rocchio (Business), Melesa Swartz (Education).
Full professor status promotions include Dr. Zach Loughman (Biology), Dr. Martyna Matusiak (Art), Anna Stephan-Robinson (Music), Dr. Bill Childers (Physician Assistant Studies) and Dr. Rebecca Meachem (Psychology).

Likewise, faculty tenure was awarded to the following faculty members:
Stephanie Bradley, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Bill Childers, Professor of Physician Assistant Studies
Rebecca Meachem, Associate professor of Psychology
Stephanie Meredith, Associate professor of Dental Hygiene
Felipe Rojas, Associate Professor of Foreign Languages

After promotions and tenures were announced, Harto returned to the podium to present the Years of Service awards distributed to employees reaching milestone years of 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years on the Hilltop.

Registrar Stephanie North and Admissions Counselor Joe Wakin received a special commemorative medal signifying their 25 years of work for West Liberty as a higher education institution.

Before closing the gathering, President Evans joined Harto in announcing the Employee Engagement Committee Staff Recognition Award designed to celebrate and reflect on the achievements accomplished during the previous academic year.

Two more awards were announced, including the True Topper and Customer Service awards, with a cash prize of $225 provided by the WLU Foundation. According to the press release provided by WLU media relations, the Top Team receives a traveling trophy to display for the entire year. In addition, each nominee receives a “Certificate of Nomination” signed by Evans.
Honorees of the awards mentioned above include:
The True Topper award, Student Health Director Christy Bennington, RN BSN
The Customer Service Award, Cindi Galloway, College of Education and Human Performance, Administrative Assistant
Top Team Award, Physical Plant, accepting the trophy was Director of Physical Plant Joe Mill

The 2021 Faculty and Staff Institute meeting is available to view in its entirety on Topper Station. For more information regarding this cultivated article, please visit WLU’s official news source website.

Other campus updates not mentioned in the Faculty-Senate initiative meeting include rough enrollment numbers provided by Cook. “As of Wednesday, Sept. 1, we had 2,132 students registered for the fall. Last year, we had 2,276. This was the last date to add [Sept. 1]. We now have to have faculty verify enrollment; students who are not attending will be removed. We also still need to register all of our early entrance high school students later this month. We really won’t have a solid number[s] until we complete these items,” said Cook. While it appears that enrollment has gone down this academic year [2021-2022] compared to last academic year [2020-2021], these numbers are rough estimates and not final. Please stay posted for an updated article regarding enrollment sometime in October 2021.