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Mountain State University provost looks to future

August 04, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The leader of Mountain State University's branch campus in Martinsburg hopes to have a plan for growth in place within the next year to accommodate the private college's growing enrollment in the Eastern Panhandle.

"We're currently serving about 600 students annually ... I'd really like to see that get to 1,000 full-time equivalent within the next few years," said Layne Diehl, provost of the Martinsburg campus.

Founded in 1999, the branch campus was the first expansion by MSU since the private, not-for-profit institution was founded in 1933 as Beckley College in Raleigh County, W.Va. The school also has campuses in Orlando, Fla., and near Pittsburgh.

When Diehl arrived as the branch campus' first provost in October 2004, the school had about 350 full-time equivalent students.

The branch campus now occupies about half of the 50,000 square feet available at University Center, which is on a five-acre parcel off Viking Way near Exit 13 of Interstate 81.

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"At some point, I can see us easily using all of that space," Diehl said of the center, which previously was home of the Tanger Center, a retail outlet shopping plaza that the school purchased in 2003.

A number of business tenants still remain in University Center, but Diehl anticipates the school's expansion eventually will go beyond the current building.

"Whether we do that here on this site or if we were to buy some property in the area or acquire it in some other way, that's also a possibility for us," Diehl said. "We have talked to a number of individuals that have presented various opportunities for us and how we might be able to grow.

"Of course, just like any other business, a university is a business, too, so we have to be very cost-conscious, and the property values in the area are such that sometimes it can be a little prohibitive. And the amount of space required for an institution of higher education is so much that it really is something that we have to think about."

Along with enrollment growth, Diehl said the branch campus also is adding personnel.

Last year, Charles H. Polk, president of MSU's main campus in Beckley, decided a dean of academic affairs should be hired as part of an effort to help establish a "comprehensive campus" at Martinsburg and the other two branch campuses, Diehl said. Directors of nursing and justice studies programs also have been tapped for the branch campus programs.

Along with enrollment and administrative growth, Diehl said the school's program offerings continue to increase. For the 2007 academic year, the school will offer a traditional nursing program, in addition to course offerings that already allow health-care professionals to advance their qualifications at MSU.

Diehl said the branch campus' organizational and strategic leadership degrees are among the most attractive offerings, and the school's forensic investigation program "has really taken off."

"I expect 75 students enrolled for the fall of 2007," Diehl said.

All of them are expected to have even more virtual access to the school's faculty and staff, thanks to MySpace and Facebook.

"We're trying to have all of our staff here create their own profiles so that they can provide opportunities for networking with students that are attending class here and being able to answer their questions through that modality," Diehl said.

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