marshall university expansion plans

Marshall University President Brad D. Smith announced his strategic mission to W.Va. House and Senate members at a luncheon at the Marshall Memorial Student Center on Monday, May 8th, 2023. Senate President Craig Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw were joined by members of the W.Va. legislative education committee in Huntington, where former Intuit/ QuickBooks CEO Brad D. Smith outlined his vision for Marshall University.

After receiving the Key to the County from the Cabell County Commission Smith was introduced by Marshall SGA president Isabella Griffin, who said, “Brad from Kenova is a true champion for students.” President Smith pointed out that Marshall has been around for 186 years, has 120,000 alumni and had just recently earned the Carnegie Mellon “R-2” designation, which places Marshall in the top 7% of research institutions, nationally. He said that “life is a team sport” and that “Marshall reflects ‘the power of We,” and that “people have their eyes on us, and they are studying us.”

(Recorded & transcribed by D.S. Clark)

“… some who walked across the commencement platform were the first in their family to graduate college, but then when you look at our alumni they include admirals and generals, elected officials, Emmy, Tony and Pulitzer Prize award winners. We have doctors, we have nurses, we have lawyers, we have scientists, we have educators, we have pro athletes, pro coaches, Heisman Trophy finalists and Hall of Fame inductees. Said another way, if you want to come here and be anything you want to be, Marshall welcomes you and introduces you to that version of you that you want to be.”

“Innovative ideas? Between research, scholarship and creativity we build capability in our communities and that drives economic impact. For every dollar the State invests in Marshall we produce a 14X return. We have a very strong foundation and a storied history upon which to build, but we are navigating incredibly challenging times in higher education and right now we’re not just navigating this in higher Ed — we’re navigating them all across society. We now live in a global society that is powered by big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and generative A-I known as ChatGPT. If you haven’t tried, go online, type in and you’ll find out what the next chapter of search is going to be, and a whole bunch of other things that are going to change with it, and we have to continue to adapt and re-imagine ourselves.”

“There’s a couple of trends you’ve heard about. Higher Ed right now is facing four major shifts, the first is around student trends and preferences — the enrollment dip, the opposite of the baby boom. When we came home after WWII we grew big families, the generation just before us here actually had fewer kids, so starting in 2025 there will be 15% fewer high school graduates coming out U.S. high schools. West Virginia will be declining at 21% because we are a slightly older state, and not only is that a challenge but those who are coming out, 15% fewer and in our case 21% fewer in our state, fewer of them want to go to college. In 2007 West Virginia had 56% of our students graduating high school wanting to go to college, this year it’s 46%. And when you ask the students and the families ‘why?’ they boil it down to three things: ‘Its not affordable,’ ‘I have a job or a kid at home and the classes aren’t flexible enough for me to do both,’ and ‘I’m not even sure I need it for my career.'”

“That leads to a return on investment question which is the second major trend; the average weighted tuition cost has gone up 10% a year for the last 10 years, and student loan debt has gone up 45% over the last ten years. Now Marshall is incredibly affordable, we cost about $8,000 a year to get an education here, compared to about $12,000 for our in-state peers and $16,000 for the sixty-six schools in the southeastern part of the United States. And when you actually see when our students graduate and get a starting job they get the same starting salaries as the others — so we have a good R.O.I. (Return on Investment), but here’s the challenge: 27% of Marshall students come from families whose income is below the poverty line. Only 10% of our students have families that make more than $110,000 a year. So we actually are helping those who come out of more humble beginnings reach their aspiration, but to do that they’re taking out student loans as well — even though we are affordable — so we’ve got to crack the code on that.” 

“The third major trend, very quickly, (and) all of higher Ed is trying to react to this, there are three major trends that a book written last year, called ‘The Great Upheaval’ by Arthur Levine, he came and spoke to all the presidents in the United States that run all the colleges and universities. He said that digital transformation, the shift of the knowledge economy and the emerge of these new alternatives, primarily YouTube but also Khan Academy and Coursera and Bradley and these other online alternatives are causing people to say that, ‘maybe I don’t need to go to college; maybe I can find another way?’ And you know what? That may be valid, but they have to continue to learn, because we live in a world now where the ‘knowledge doubling curve’ is real. In 1900 it took one hundred years for all human knowledge to double, in the 2020’s it’s going to take twelve hours.”

“So we have to have people committed to learning and continuing to grow. So what do you do with that? Well, eighteen months ago we stepped back at the university and we said we’re going to go to seek to understand and learn from everyone else. We talked to eighteen sitting and former presidents of universities that are leading, the fastest growing universities who have the best graduation rates, and we studied them and we went to a half a dozen campuses and observed how they were leading. We then did 38 listening sessions on our own campus with over a thousand participants. We then hired McKinsey Consulting and Boston Consulting Group and we formed a vision and a strategy team and over the summer and fall we did sixty different working sessions and we developed a plan called ‘Marshall for All, Marshall Forever.'”

“It’s a strategic road map to future prosperity for our students, for our employees, for our State and for our institution. What I want to share with you very quickly is that ‘Marshall for All’ says we are an inclusive University, and it’s not just a four-year degree. If you want to be an advanced welder, if you want to be an electrician, a plumber, you can go to the Robert C. Byrd Institute which we now call the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center, and you can be part of Marshall University, study under an apprenticeship and you can get an incredibly good paying job. We are an inclusive university — if you want to be a pilot, aviation maintenance technician? You go to the Bill Noe flight school, you’re a part of Marshall University — and you can be a pilot.”

“Marshall For All, Marshall Forever; we’re starting to roll out not only online classrooms, but we’re also rolling out certificates. For those who were in the Education Committee earlier, I’m aging myself, in 1986 when I graduated from Marshall I was taught how to write computer code in BASIC, FORTRAN and COBOL. The only institutions that use that today are the IRS! Since my time I went out to Silicon Valley they’ve rolled out C, C+, C++, C-Sharp, JAVA and now PYTHON. PYTHON is what artificial intelligence is written in. Instead of having to drop out (of work) and come back full-time to school you can go online now with Marshall and you can get a certificate in six weeks and you’ll be able to get that job or that pay raise you are looking for; that’s the ‘Marshall Forever,’ it’s  not just higher education, it’s continuing education.”

“And last but not least, as you all have heard us talk about, our dream, a debt-free education in the next ten years. It is not a handout it is a helping hand. The simple math is this, we studied Berea College over in Kentucky who has a tuition free program where students come and they have a work/study program, they learn the value of work and they also graduate without debt. We studied Ohio State and their Scarlet Gray Advantage, and we developed one that is right for Marshall and right for our State. The student will complete the FASFA, their family will contribute whatever they can to the estimated family contribution, the student will be asked to take a financial literacy course, then we will connect them to a work/study program or a paid internship and then we are going to go find all the federal, state and private dollars to help them fill in the last dollar. Our goal is, in the next ten years, no student will graduate from Marshall, regardless of where they came from, family income, and we are going to make sure they came out without any debt. That’s our excitement.”

“I’ll wrap up with this. Marshall is very proud to be a part of the coalition of the willing. We work with our peer institutions; MountWest, with WVU, with Bluefield, all of them across the state, and we are choosing to have an in-demand curriculum that will be available on demand, in a classroom or through online and we’re choosing to be distinctive. Where do we choose to be distinctive? We looked at the work that the state completed in 2016 called West Virginia Forward. West Virginia Forward looked at West Virginia with an outside lens and said we’re going to see where there’s a big, huge future opportunity that West Virginia has proven they can do better than most, and you have some advantage that someone else in the rest of the world can’t match and the intersection of those things are where you should focus your energy.”

“Does anybody remember where West Virginia Forward told us we should focus? If not, it is actually sitting all around the walls (gestures to posters), because what they said is West Virginia is perfectly poised with two universities that have the leading cyber security programs in the nation, at Marshall and WVU, you should focus on cyber security. And forensic sciences, because you’re outside the D.C. blast radius and you are producing great talent; and so you are going to see Cyber and Forensic science is where we have doubled down.”

“They said health sciences and health care, but to make sure you’re solving the most important problems. Well we sat down with our friends at WVU, they said we’re going to focus on heart, neuro, cancer and children at WVU. We said, okay then, we are going to focus on addiction, obesity, gerontology or aging, and rural health — and together we’ll have two programs that will solve eight of the world’s biggest problems. So when you get a chance to see the health sciences you’re going to see that’s where we’re focused; addiction, obesity, gerontology and rural health.”

“The third area they said we should focus on, advanced manufacturing. Trying to bring the supply chain back into the country and bring it to places where people know how to do amazing work with their hands, that’s West Virginia. That’s where you are going to see RCBI and the advanced manufacturing center.”

“The fourth was advanced energy, you are an energy state. How do you continue to capitalize on the amazing assets and continue to help the nation transform? And so you’ll see advanced energy is where we are working with WVU and others as well. The last two areas that West Virginia Forward says we should focus on? Aviation and Entrepreneurship. So when you get the chance to walk around what I hope you will see is that all of our work has been defined by what the State needs. We’re not here to pitch you on our favorite project, we’re here to say we have solutions to the things that the State has an opportunity to go lead the rest of the world in and our tours are set up to take you through that. What you’re going to see is an Innovation District being built in downtown Huntington. You are going to see a health sciences corridor when you go down Hal Greer Blvd. that is focused on those areas that I’ve talked about. And our entire campus is committed to advancing the work to help West Virginia once again answer the call.”

“I’ll finish with this, everywhere I go I tell this story. God made West Virginians out of grit and grace. He made us dreamers, he made us doers. He knows that we have always answered the call. We’ve mined the coal, we’ve forged the steel. We’ve built the roads that carry the trucks. We fought the wars. When our president said we need a man on the Moon we produced Homer Hickam and the boys in October Sky that put an astronaut on the Moon; and then when we said we’ve got to figure out how to get them home we produced Catherine Johnson and Hidden Figures to get them home. West Virginia has risen up and answered the call. West Virginia Forward said this is what the world needs right now, and Marshall stepped up, is stepping up to answer that call as well. Thank you for being at Marshall University, thank you for your leadership, thank you for (funding) deferred maintenance. It’s going to be a game changer for all of higher Ed. Thank you for allowing me to come home. Go Herd!”

Image: Proposed Marshall Cyber Security Center, at the northwest corner of Hal Greer Blvd and Fourth Avenue (Fairmount Properties).

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