MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In his State of the University Address, West Virginia University President Gordon Gee said creating space and time for students to discover their life paths is important.

That is why West Virginia University will open the nation’s first Purpose Institute on a college campus, Gee announced at his annual State of the University address Monday, Oct. 18, at the College of Law’s Fitzsimmons Event Hall.

Gee delivering his address

“We must pursue education, healthcare and prosperity with a renewed and focused determination to transform West Virginia University into a purpose-driven leader in higher education,” Gee said. “The center will help prospective students and employees, as well as current students, faculty, staff and alumni discover—or rediscover—their purpose and place in the world, and then help them chart the path forward.”

Gee said the move, in partnership with Spence Group, exemplifies WVU’s commitment to proving the value of higher education and to allowing students a way to make their marks in the world. The physical center, planned for the Morgantown campus, will elevate education, wellness and service to both the campus and the community, he continued.

“We do our work not just for ourselves – but for others. That is different than other institutions – and I should know. Having that sense of purpose is special, “Gee said. “Now is our time to fully embrace that feeling and turn it to action.”

With an eye on University transformation from campus operations to academics and the student experience, Gee also announced the revamp of Project 168 that aims to focus students on the hours they spend outside the classroom during the week.

Student Life has created an innovative approach that will launch in January to add purpose to the student experience, Gee said, while bringing WVU’s core values to life.

“What a student learns outside the classroom is as important as what they learn inside the classroom,” he said. “Project 168 is a way to formally recognize and provide record of extracurricular efforts. With the help of a coach, each student can create a self-paced, co-curricular experience that will offer a minimum of 53 opportunities to engage in 10 content areas.”

WVU President Gordon Gee addresses the Faculty Assembly for his annual State of the University Address, Oct. 18, 2021. (WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

WVU Engage will track participation, and when requirements for each competency area have been met, students will receive a co-curricular transcript printed on official WVU transcript paper that can be shared with potential employers and included in graduate and professional school applications. Students who complete the full curriculum will be invited to join a new honors organization, the 168 Society.

At a time when resources are limited, needs are great, expectations are high, and threats are significant, Gee told the audience that universities cannot afford complacency.

“That is why academic transformation, led by Provost Maryanne Reed, recognizes that there is a fundamental change occurring in higher education and that we need to lead with purpose rather than follow,” Gee said.

WVU has lived up to the demands of COVID-19 over the past year, according to Gee, learning how vital higher education is for saving lives and generating opportunities, while also finding how fragile it is in a country of conflict and a challenging financial climate.

Over the course of the last year, Gee said WVU:

Looking ahead, Gee noted the University will soon enter a new partnership agreement with the Alumni Association to enhance the alumni experience and increase opportunities for students and young alumni.