MORGANTOWN – Among the many topics covered at the third annual West Virginia Lawmakers Forum was how the state’s two largest universities are working together to build a new economy based on innovation.
This was highlighted during a panel comprised of Javier Reyes, Dean of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at the University of West Virginia, and Avinandan Mukherjee, Dean of Lewis College of Business at Marshall University.
“We cannot be prosperous without education, without a great education and without a cultural change focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and the ability to attract the best companies to stay in the state if they already are. here and grow or attract new businesses from around the world, ”said Joyce McConnell, WVU provost, who moderated the panel.
She said those goals are close to being met thanks to contributions from two tech company executives and West Virginia natives. Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit and alumnus of Marshall, and his wife, Alys, donated $ 25 million to his business school in November, one of the largest donations in history of this university. John Chambers, an alumnus of WVU and former CEO of Cisco Systems, also contributed to his alma mater, which prompted WVU to give his business school his name.
“We have the opportunity to think outside the box,” Reyes said. “We now have permission to do it, in a way. There is now a seal of approval on the visions that were developed by Marhsall University and by WVU in conjunction with the West Virginia Forward initiative. We have the plan. We have the will, and I think we now have the means. “
Reyes said that while Appalachian people should be proud of their economic heritage in coal, it’s time to look to the digital economy and what it can bring, especially in bringing more activity to communities across the country. downtown state.
“I think it’s a good time for West Virginia in a lot of ways,” Mukherjee said. “There is so much we can do in the area of state economics. I think we envision a resounding comeback and a major resurgence as a state. “
However, he noted that the Mountain State still has a long way to go. For example, he said, West Virginia is ranked 49th out of 50 states in terms of business friendliness. Access to capital also remains low, and West Virginia ranks last in technology and innovation. Mukherjee said there had nonetheless been tangible progress in recent years with improving the overall economy and increasing the quality of life, and the cost of doing business falling.
“I think these two gifts – Brad Smith for our college and John Chambers for WVU – absolutely symbolize the resilience that our state’s return provides,” he said, adding that many people who have experienced great success after being educated in the state now want to give back. “I think this is just the start of a very long journey.”
Earlier this year, WVU announced the creation of an economic start-up engine to support economic diversification through sector-specific and cohort-based business development programs. The engine, which complements WVU’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, will help startups refine their ideas, access seed capital, develop mentoring relationships, and partner with existing businesses.
Mukherjee said these donations and collaborations will not only lead to new perceptions of the state, but fundamentally change the way business and economics are taught. The future, he said, will be more focused on innovation and multidisciplinary work than before. The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to create an environment where entrepreneurial ideas can be pursued. This way, even those that are not functioning can still be explored without the pain that failure would otherwise cause.
In order for this to be achieved, however, Mukherjee said the concepts of risk taking, business, personal finance, and the global economy were presented too late to students. They should, he said, be introduced in college.