INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Last October, in his first State of the University address, new West Virginia State University President Brian Hemphill promised a better campus environment and a wider variety of academic programs for students.Now, with a slew of renovations in the works, enrollment up by nearly 50 percent and philanthropic gifts increasing from $620,000 to $2.25 million in one year, Hemphill is focusing on WVSU's faculty and staff, in addition to students.In his second State of the University address, on Friday, Hemphill announced across-the-board salary increases for faculty members and a new program that will provide professors with funding and time to conduct research.Starting in 2014, WVSU will offer the first merit-based faculty salary increase since 2008. All full-time faculty and nonclassified staff members will receive an across-the-board increase of 2 percent.
In addition, 65 percent of full-time faculty will receive an additional 2 percent increase that is merit based.Hemphill also announced the creation of the Promoting Excellence in Education through Research (PEER) program, which will provide $500,000 over the course of the next five years for faculty research agendas.The PEER funding will be supported by Title III funds from the U.S. Department of Education and supplemented by other science, technology, engineering and math-related state funds, as well as private money, Hemphill said.The program will allow WVSU faculty members a one-course release time, in addition to funding."Throughout my presidency, I have heard many stories of how faculty right here on our campus led individuals to find their passion, dream bigger dreams, discover talents they never knew existed and open their mind to knowledge and understanding of the world that changed their lives," Hemphill said. "To the faculty in the room, the time has come for WVSU to make a significant investment in each of you."Hemphill said the investment in faculty members was made possible "through implementing efficiencies."On Friday, he announced a Budget Efficiency Summit, to discuss the financial outlook of fiscal year 2015, with gifts and pledges for fiscal year 2014 already at $1.9 million."We must maximize our resources to provide a world-class education to all students at the lowest possible cost," he said. "Access and opportunity are critical."Hemphill also announced Friday that renovations to Fleming Hall will be finished in February, with the school's basketball teams scheduled to play their first games in the new convocation center March 1. The center will house 1,350 fans for basketball games and 2,200 for larger university events, such as commencements.The new Fleming Hall gymnasium will be named after WVSU graduate and veteran basketball coach Mark Cardwell.Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.