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February 1, 2006

Legislators hear MU vision

By Bryan Chambers
The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON -- Charleston bled green Tuesday as dozens of Marshall University faculty, staff and students converged on the state Capitol for the annual "Marshall Day" at the Legislature.

While nearly 30 display booths showcasing various colleges, departments, schools and programs filled the hallway between the House and Senate chambers, the highlight of the day came when Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp presented the school's strategic vision plan to the House Education Committee and later to Gov. Joe Manchin during a brief news conference.

Kopp focused on a few key economic development initiatives of the strategic plan, which was formulated from nearly 900 online submissions since mid-November.

The suggestions have been boiled down to seven themes -- improvement, investment, innovation/inquiry, integration, initiative, involvement and inclusiveness. The themes will help Marshall develop a series of one- to three-year action plans, the first of which should be finished in April, Kopp said.

Among the strategic vision's economic development proposals is the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, which would be linked with the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center.

Kopp said the institute would rely on a one-time endowment to create new research ideas and professorships. Marshall's Center for Business and Economic Research has projected that the institute's work will generate 3,400 high-paying jobs, $138 million in new tax revenue, and $284 million in development activity over a 20-year period, Kopp said.

"It's a self-sustaining model that doesn't require a dollar of base funding from Marshall or the state of West Virginia," he said. "This is how you take research and build economic development initiatives."

In other related Marshall events at the Capitol, Robin Davis, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said justices will return to Marshall's campus this fall to hear cases. The high court made its first trip to Huntington in recent memory this past fall.

While Marshall Day at the Capitol is primarily used as a promotion tool for the school, students should use it as an opportunity to share their concerns with lawmakers, said Michael Misiti, student body president.

"To have the ability to pull a local delegate aside and talk to them about the PROMISE scholarship or a program that is proposed to be cut is something we really haven't utilized in the past," he said. "This day should be seen as an enormous benefit to the entire student body."

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