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WVU Student Government representative pursues progressive leave of absence policy 

November 14th, 2016

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(SGA Senator Brandon Waters. Photo by Connor Schlegel)

By Connor Schlegel 

Serious personal illness is difficult for anyone attempting to deal with it. But for a college student with daily attendance obligations to fulfill, serious illness can derail their entire college career.

Brandon Waters, a senior accounting student at West Virginia University, learned that first hand during his freshman year.

Waters, who was taking the anti-depressant Cymbalta at the time, starting experiencing adverse symptoms like a highly elevated heart rate and severe cramping in his extremities. Luckily, Waters was currently working in the emergency department at the Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown and was immediately checked out by a medical professional. The doctor informed Waters that she believed he was suffering from serotonin syndrome, which leads to increased excessive nerve cell activity due to high levels of serotonin in the body.

However, due to the rarity of serotonin syndrome occurrences, Waters personal psychologist was doubtful and denied the doctor’s diagnosis. Waters would land in the emergency room two more times due to the adverse side effects from continued consumption of manufactured serotonin in his medication.

That extended hospital time forced Waters to miss numerous lectures and classes during the course of his undergraduate education.
“I said, I really don’t know what to do with school,” Waters explained. “I’m so behind in everything. I missed like two tests in every single class that I have. I don’t know how to get caught back up.”
Waters’ college advisor told him to withdraw from his classes in order to avoid outright failing them. That forced Waters to lose his financial aid for the semester and to also pick up several summer classes in order to stay on a path to graduation.

Now serving as a senator in WVU’s Student Government Association, Waters is using his platform to pursue a progressive medical leave of absence policy. A medical leave of absence policy allows a student to withdraw from all of their classes without losing financial aid or having several dropped classes on their academic record.

Currently, WVU’s policy only allows a student to file for medical leave of absence prior to the start of a semester. The problem is that most students can’t foresee when a medical emergency will occur.

“You can’t really schedule to take a medical leave of absence for the semester that your cancer comes back or the semester that you’re in a car wreck. It’s all things that are out of your control,” Waters said. “So to get penalized by the university for it… I think its absolutely pitiful.”

Waters has been in contact with the office of the President of WVU, who’ve asked him to seek additional information to eventually provide a presentation on progressive medical leave of absence policies.

But as an accounting student, Waters understands that the university may have to protect their financial interests.

“Everything is a business and everything revolves around the bottom line,” he said. “And I don’t know that the university, especially in a time of budget cuts and our own budget crisis, I’m not sure if they’d be to willing to implement a policy that revolves around giving back to students in such a major way.”

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Monongahela Riverfront Revitalization

October 23rd, 2016

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(The amphitheater at Hazel-Ruby Mcquaid Park. Photo by Connor Schlegel)

By Connor Schlegel

Two local government organizations recently came together in the hopes of a collaborative effort to revitalize the Monongahela Riverfront.

On Wednesday, October 12th, the Monongalia County Commission held their weekly meeting to discuss various topics. One item on the agenda was the approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the County Commission and the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.

These two organizations will collaborate with West Virginia University in the hopes of increasing activity along the waterfront, which in turn, will help increase commerce.

County Commission President Eldon Callen says that this is a “key step” in the city’s plan to rejuvenate the waterfront and Commissioner Callen is hopeful for continued revitalization along the river.

“Its an additional opportunity to have another group of people join in that vision of what we should be doing with our most valuable natural resource, the Monongahela River,” Callen said.

Callen hopes that in years to come, the city will be able to plan several commerce-increasing initiatives like a gondola to take visitors from the Star City Waterfront the Monogalia County Ballpark, a walking bridge to take residents from Westover to the rail-trail, and a water taxi that would take travelers up and down the Monongahela.

However, the first initiative planned by BOPARC and the Commission will require working with WVU. BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Burch said her office would like to work with WVU’s College of Creative Arts to hold cultural events at Hazel Ruby McQuain Park, located in downtown Morgantown. While there are no plans in place yet, the outdoor amphitheater at Ruby McQuain Park is likely to be used.

“I think that Shakespeare in the park has been thrown around a little bit, that would be pretty exciting. But really we want [the CAC] to come to us and have some input as well.”

Burch says the riverside park has been underutilized recently due to underfunding, but that this collaboration with the County Commission will help to change that.

“It’s programming [based] and hopefully there will be some revenue sharing or cost sharing involved,” Burch said.

BOPARC typically plans their summer event schedule in the November and December months prior to that year. Burch says that the coming months will be important in scheduling those events for the summer of 2017.

“The first thing that we need to do is have our first meeting. So there will be a representative from BOPARC, from WVU, and from the County Commission. We’ll get together, talk about the calendar and what we have in place so far for this coming summer,” Burch said.

For the script to this story, click below for a PDF.

county-commission-story-script-copy

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How WVU is driving students to graduate on time

October 3rd, 2016

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(The campus of West Virginia University. Photo by Connor Schlegel)

By Connor Schlegel

Across the country, students are struggling to complete their undergraduate degree in the traditional four year time frame.

The National Center for Education Statistics measures a six-year graduation time-frame, instead of four. But for students attending college between 2008-2014, the national graduation rate was listed at 60%.

At West Virginia University, the four-year graduation rate is nearly half that percentage. According to CollegeBoard, WVU’s four-year grad rate is 32%.

The University is working to combat this national trend. Sue Day Perroots, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs explained.

“We’d like to encourage students to finish in four years. So we’ve talked about those institutions that are offering a free fifth year.. And actually, I think that may be providing the wrong incentive,” Day-Perroots said. “We want to encourage students to finish in four years and maybe use summer as an option.”

However, transfer students often can’t bring some of their credits earned at previous institutions when they make the move to WVU.

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(Fifth-year Business and Economics student Dan Hurley. Photo by Connor Schlegel)

“When I transferred here, not all my credits transferred. Actually, almost none of them did. So I basically had to start over when I got here,” fifth-year senior Dan Hurley explained.

And while the University doesn’t have a clear solution to transfer students attempting to finish their degree in a four year timeframe, Day-Perroots outlined some initiatives in place to encourage freshman to complete their time as an undergraduate in the traditional timespan.

One of those initiatives was the “15 to Finish” which reminds underclassmen to take more balanced semesters. Day-Perroots said that some students begin their academic careers by taking credit-stacked semesters and then slowly reduce the number of credits they take each semester. The “15 to Finish” plan advises students to take at least 15 credit hours every semester which would lead to the required 120 credit minimum after four years.

There’s also a new monetary incentive for students who are able to complete their degree in four years.

“Additionally we have a program here at WVU for this year’s freshman class and last year’s freshman class. If they finish in four years, they can get a $750 return on their investment.”

That $750 return on their investment comes in the form of a rebate check which that recent graduate can use to pay for part of the cost of student loans.

The WVU graduating class of 2020 is the most prepared to complete their degree after four years. They have the highest combined high school grade point average of any incoming class in WVU history with 3.70.

For a copy of the script to this story, click on the PDF below.

5th-year-senior-script-pdf

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