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WVU to launch projects aimed at building resilient communities

Project ideas

West Virginia University will launch several projects and programs designed to address challenges facing rural Appalachia – everything from small-scale farming to supporting the state’s aging population.


The novel solutions were presented during WVU’s first Academic Innovation Summit, part of the University’s overarching academic transformation initiative.


“This event underscores our role as a high-level research institution, and it speaks to the very heart of our land-grant mission,” President Gordon Gee said. “I was so pleased to see the innovative spirit of our campus and surrounding community come together to help envision a brighter future for our University and for West Virginia.”

The two-day event, organized by the Office of the Provost in partnership with WVU Health Sciences and the WVU Research Office, brought together nearly 60 University faculty and staff and community members in a hackathon-style event focused on the theme of “Creating Sustainable Rural Communities.”

Ten teams were given specific challenges addressing one of the following topics: energy and sustainability; the economy; education; aging; and addiction and recovery. Participants were nominated by academic leaders and their peers for their expertise in these focus areas and reputation as innovative, collaborative colleagues. Each team had to pitch their project idea to a panel of University and outside experts.


The review panel selected the top proposals that they believed showed the most promise and potential impact and allocated nearly $400,000 to the three projects. Funding for the event and the awards was provided through a variety of sources, including WVU Health Sciences, the West Virginia Department of Education, the Provost’s Foundation funds, and private donors, including Nathalie and Wes Bush, who sponsored the event itself.


“From the outset, we wanted this Summit to provide a platform for collaboration across disciplines, team building and innovative thinking,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. “As part of our transformation efforts, we want to support novel ideas that can generate new in-demand curricula, cutting-edge research and impactful outreach. The reviewers believe these projects will contribute to one or more of those areas.” 

Smart Ag WV 

The “Smart Ag WV” project came from a team from the Davis, Chambers and Statler Colleges and the Energy Institute tasked with finding a solution to advance the West Virginia economy. Their project will use data and automation to improve the efficiency and capacity of small-scale farming in West Virginia and the related artisan food production industry. The project will be awarded up to $131,000. 


Community Engagement Collaborative  

The “Community Engagement Collaborative” program was developed by a group of faculty and staff from the Eberly and Reed colleges, School of Pharmacy, University Relations and Enrollment Management, and Extension Service in response to the higher education challenge. That challenge focused on how WVU can differentiate itself as a modern land-grant institution within a highly competitive higher education landscape. The program provides mini-grants to support students who will develop and deploy community engagement projects that will provide them with real-world experience and positively impact local communities. The program will be awarded up to $150,000.


Visiting Neighbor Program 

The “Visiting Neighbor Program” was presented by a group of healthcare professionals and faculty from Eberly College, WVU Extension Service, and the schools of Nursing and Medicine. They were charged with providing a medical solution to advance healthy aging but instead developed a non-medical solution that the reviewers strongly supported for its simplicity and potential impact. The “Visiting Neighbor Program” will train senior citizens in sample communities to “visit” elderly neighbors to provide companionship, educate seniors on healthy lifestyle choices, and connect them to helpful resources in the community and online. The program will be awarded up to $116,000.


To receive funding, each group will be required to submit a full proposal, including a comprehensive budget and confirmed list of team members. They will receive their funding in two installments – beginning in January – and they will need to demonstrate several milestones to receive the second installment.


“The review panel was so impressed with the quality of all of the proposals that members decided to allocate an additional $70,000 to provide planning grants of up to $10,000 to each of the seven remaining teams,” Reed said.


To generate even more ideas, the Provost’s Office will announce an innovation mini-grants program, open to the entire University community, in early 2022.


Complete details about each of the teams, their challenges and proposed projects and programs are available on the Office of the Provost website at



CONTACT: Kimberly Becker 
Director of Communications 
Office of the Provost 

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