Page 1


OH MY GOURD! What do you get when you combine a passionate horticulturist and giant pumpkins? A recipe for success.



activities in the College; the list and value of that work was more than $4 million in effort. This includes many well-established efforts such as the Wardensville Bull Test, food safety testing, the work of the Appalachian Hardwood Center, the Soil Testing Laboratory and community planning and design. And it includes a variety of new service initiatives including the potential for a regional GeoPark in southern West Virginia, to new approaches for K-12 education, to strategic planning for the state’s agricultural sector, and more. Your College is front-and-center where it matters most in West Virginia and beyond. Our commitment to quality education is foremost in all we do. You’ll find it in our award-winning teachers, renowned laboratory instruction and the many value-added and scholarship programs for incoming and current students. Whether they want to conduct research, study abroad or intern with their dream employer, those value-added experiences offer students the chance to transform their education and broaden their insights. These teachers and programs, student clubs and innovative curricula are what make this a truly exceptional place! Thanks for your interest in all that we do. Please enjoy this edition of our Davis Magazine, and Let’s Go Mountaineers!

My best,

Dan Robison, Dean

Spring 2018

E. Gordon Gee President, West Virginia University Joyce McConnell Provost Sharon L. Martin Vice President for University Relations and Enrollment Management Daniel J. Robison Dean and Publisher Michael Esposito Executive Creative Director Angela Caudill Director, UR-Design Graham Curry Art Director, UR-Design




Oh My Gourd!

Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees

A Well-Designed Conversation

Growing giant pumpkins isn't just a hobby for horticulture student Dustin Trychta. It's his passion.

Julie Cryser Nikky Luna Lindsay Willey Contributing Writers

Kathy Deweese Director, University Content Mikenna Pierotti Senior Writer ADDRESS WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design Office of the Dean P.O. Box 6108 Morgantown, WV 26506-6108 CHANGE OF ADDRESS WVU Foundation P.O. Box 1650 Morgantown, WV 26504-1650 Fax: 304-284-4001 Email:



Hayley Boso Magazine Designer

Brian Persinger M.G. Ellis Raymond Thompson Micah Gregory Caroline Nicholas Jillian Clemente Lindsay Willey Photographers


The Davis College and the West Virginia Division of Forestry have teamed up to reveal the benefits of the state's urban forests.

WVU professor initiates a critical conversation focused on improving access to healthcare in Appalachia.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 02 Around the College 08 Student Spotlight 16 Advancing the State 18 Faculty Research 22 Growing a Natural Partnership 26 Community Partnership 30 Alumni Success 32 The Last Word with Amy Stokes

Snapshot  The New River Gorge is one of many geosites included in the Appalachian Geopark, a WVU-led initiative. (Photo credit: Micah Gregory).


Hello, friends — Your WVU Davis College is in great shape as we head into 2018. Last year, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of our College and WVU, which gave us the opportunity to pause and reflect, as well as to look forward, on the important work we do, the students that are entrusted to us, and how we’ll do even more next. The 150th anniversary book you received last fall was meant to provide a lasting demarcation of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Of all the things we did to celebrate that anniversary, the one that will surely survive to the 300th year will be some well-preserved and some pageworn copies of that book. I hope you have saved yours! In this issue of our magazine we get back to telling our stories of the here and now! Stories to inspire our alums with confidence, stories to note the achievements of our faculty and students, and stories to charge the imaginations of our incoming students! We’ve developed new and more efficient partnerships for the transfer of students to the College from a variety of two-year programs throughout the state and region including WVU Potomac State College! We have terrific ongoing and broadened research activities in all of our units, and more and more focused service activities as well. We recently did an accounting of all the service


LETTER from the Dean




Around the College

A New Kind of Mapping

Leading the Way

Paul Kinder, research assistant professor in the Division of Resource Economics and Management, was named director of the WVU Natural Resource Analysis Center. Before assuming the role of director, Kinder was a research scientist with NRAC for eight years. The Center offers a wide range of research and teaching activities including geographic information systems and remote sensing, environmental planning, wildlife management, and land and water reclamation.

Wrapping up a Yearlong Celebration

Last fall, the WVU Soils Team placed fourth at the 2017 Southeast Regional Collegiate Soils Contest, with three students placing in the Top 25. The nine-member team will compete at the 2018 National Collegiate Soils Contest in Martin, Tennessee, March 17–23. Interested in supporting the team? Make a tax-deductible donation to the WV Chapter of the SWCS Soil Judging Endowment at

Coming Together for a Community

Keith Inskeep, professor of reproductive physiology, recently learned about an innovative method for building roads and walkways that involved tire-derived geo-cylinders and the concept of Mechanical Concrete. After successfully using this method to repair a roadway on his own property, Inskeep took the idea to the WVU Animal Sciences Farm. A one-of-a-kind, 96’ x 50’ feeding pad was constructed and used throughout fall and winter last year with no damage to the surface or the soil.

Among a Sea of Blue Corduroy Last October, WVU staff and students showcased Mountaineer Pride during the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, meeting and greeting thousands of prospective students during the weeklong event.

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

WVU is partnering with West Virginia Conservation Agency, the Monongahela Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on an $8 million rehabilitation project of the Upper Deckers Creek Site 1 dam in Preston County, West Virginia. The project will create a dedicated water supply for some residents of Arthurdale, bring the dam into current design and construction standards, and allow WVU faculty and students to conduct research on mitigation practices at the site.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The Fashion, Dress and Merchandising program is expanding with the addition of two new faculty members. Conrad Hamather, visiting assistant professor of fashion, dress and merchandising, is a design educator and artist with a diverse background in the design industry. Prior to his appointment at WVU, Hamather was faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago within the Department of Fashion Design, where he focused on the hybrid of body and fashion. Prior to his academic trajectory, Hamather ran one of the country’s most prolific and trailblazing arts programs, Miami Dade Art in Public Places. Colleen Moretz is an assistant professor of fashion, dress and merchandising. Her scholarly work includes reducing textile waste through experimental zero waste designs, transforming design by focusing on increasing the value of garments by encouraging extended use, and upcycling of unwanted textiles to create new garments. She also specializes in incorporating technical applications into design, including 3-D technology, laser cutting and digital printing.


Over the last year, we celebrated 150 years of accomplishments in teaching, research and service with a variety of collegewide activities. We dished out scoop after scoop of our anniversary ice cream flavors — Appalachian Apple Crumble and Land Grant Crunch. We welcomed friends and alumni back to campus for our annual college-wide BBQ — and even hosted a 2K race around the Evansdale area of campus. Kinsey Reed, a junior majoring in animal and nutritional sciences and applied and environmental microbiology, ran her way to victory. First-, second- and third- place winners were recognized and received a Davis College “swag bag.” Our festivities culminated with a special edition of DAVIS Magazine. The 100-page publication honors our past while looking toward the future.

Heading to Nationals (Again)

Hone your ability to analyze spatial data with WVU’s new Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis graduate certificate. Graduate students and working professionals who desire advanced training in this high-growth industry can complete the certificate entirely online in less than one year.

Welcome New Faculty



This WVU student not only grows giant pumpkins, but organized our first pumpkin regatta.

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8





Student Engagement the length of the season — anything can happen at any moment. There is a lot of prize money on the line, so you want to be sure all competing fruits are on a level playing field,” he said. When “Pebbles” was loaded onto the scale, the numbers weren’t as high as Trychta had hoped. The digital readout indicated the pumpkin weighed 1,337 pounds. Trychta and “Pebbles” fell short of capturing the West Virginia state record, which stands at 1,412.5 pounds. “At the end of the day, I gave it everything I had and came up second, so that's what I'll have to be happy with for now,” he said. “In all, I was proud of my efforts and set a new personal best weight by 355 pounds.” He’s not going to give up on chasing the record — just not next year. “It has been fun bringing them to the community, but I've pushed my garden hard for two years straight now, and it is probably best to take a maintenance year and allow my soil to rest and rejuvenate,” he said. “I hit the ground running in a new state with a new house at the start of my first semester. Now, halfway through my junior year, I've got to start focusing on a career path and some of the housing projects that have been on the back burner since the giants came to town.” For West Virginia University horticulture student Dustin Trychta, growing giant pumpkins isn’t a hobby; it’s a passion. As a young child, Trychta was fascinated by the giant pumpkins grown by his neighbor. He longed to buy one for Halloween each year, but they were always too expensive. As an adult, he’s been growing giant pumpkins for nine years. When he and his wife, Kirsha Trychta, a teaching associate professor at the WVU College of Law, moved to Morgantown in 2015, one of the things they sought in a house was plenty of green space to grow pumpkins, various vegetables and flowers. After extensive research, they found a place to plant their roots (literally and figuratively) and, during growing season, their front and back yards are home to multiple giant pumpkins — one of which Trychta grew in an effort to set the record for West Virginia’s heaviest pumpkin. “Pebbles,” as Trychta affectionately called the largest pumpkin, grew for 113 days before being harvested on Oct. 13, 2017. According to Trychta, harvest is the trickiest part. The Army veteran constructed a tripod out of four-by-four boards that are 16 feet long, a one-ton engine hoist in the middle and a special harness to cradle the pumpkin. “The height of the fourby-fours allows enough

width for us to back in a pickup truck underneath and set the pumpkin on top of a pallet in the bed,” he explained. Although it’s not an easy feat, Trychta has been able to successfully move all of the pumpkins he’s grown over the years. “People have been asking me for years how I move the pumpkins, but I can’t wait until the day where I have the problem that I can’t move one because that means I’ve outdone myself,” he said with a smile. After harvesting, Trychta drove to Canfield, Ohio, for the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh off on Oct. 14. His giant pumpkin, along with others entered into the weigh-off, were thoroughly inspected by three judges. The judges examined the stem area for rotten spots, the blossom end for cracks or fissures, and the entire bottom for rotten spots and to ensure mice haven’t chewed through to the pumpkin’s cavity. According to Trychta, the judges will often attempt to slide a blade of grass into the cavity of the pumpkin. If successful, the pumpkin will be weighed as damaged and disqualified for prizes. Considering Trychta invested more than 150 hours in each of his pumpkins and truly prides himself on growing beautiful gourds, he’s okay with that. “With the amount of time spent on these — and — Dustin Trychta


One of the most frequent questions Trychta gets asked is, “What do you do with your pumpkins?” Last fall, the answer was easy: He turned them into boats. Trychta planned the inaugural WVU Giant Pumpkin Regatta held Oct. 22 at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park in Morgantown. “In 2016, I wanted to take my horticulture club to a giant pumpkin regatta as a fall field trip, but I couldn’t find one closer than about a five-hour drive. Logistically, we couldn't pull it together in time,” he said. “It has been a dream of mine to compete in one since I started growing pumpkins, so I decided to create my own.”

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

“It has been fun bringing them to the community, but I’ve pushed my garden hard for two years straight now, and it is probably best to take a maintenance year and allow my soil to rest and rejuvenate.”

WVU hosts inaugural giant pumpkin regatta.

He initially challenged the WVU Horticulture Club and Men’s Rowing Club to the relay race on the Monongahela River. As a veteran, however, it seemed natural to also extend an invitation to WVU student-veterans. “We had an ‘All Forces’ team consisting of one studentveteran from each the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps,” he said. “The veterans were family long before I became a Mountaineer, so I stood with them and pulled the Army leg of the race — leaving my spot on the Horticulture Club team open for another proud plant geek.” With one final fruit, North Elementary School was invited to join the festivities. For the last two years, Trychta has worked with Jim Rye, former WVU Extension agent in Monongalia County, to help the school to get its fourth grade organic gardening program up and running. “It is a learning-based program where all of the produce grown goes straight to their cafeteria to be prepared for fresh and healthy school meals,” he said. “Not only are they conscious of providing healthy food, but they are working to be more sustainable by installing a rainwater collection system as well as solar-powered roof vents in their greenhouse.” When hollowed out, pumpkins are less dense than water, which enables them to float. “You never quite know how they’re going to float. There’s a lot of people who sink before the end of the race, but that’s one of those things we’ll have to see how it goes,” he said. “These pumpkins are probably a little small for boats, but I have no control over Mother Nature and how big she wants my pumpkins to get.” The goal for each team was simple — be the first to paddle across the finish line. The WVU Horticulture Club proudly claimed first place. Second, third and fourth went to the Men’s Rowing Club, teachers from North Elementary and the veterans, respectively. “The regatta was an absolute hit for those who got to spectate and participate,” Trychta said. “Our fruit didn't float that well, but they did float on their own with people inside of them. To be able to say that you grew your own transportation is pretty cool.” For Trychta, the spirit of the event extends well beyond who crosses the finish line first. “At the end of the day, I was able to show people that a pumpkin is not ‘just a pumpkin.’ My pumpkins are a vehicle,” he said. “A vehicle by which I'm able to spread good spirit and sober fun. A vehicle to promote agriculture at a land-grant university. A vehicle to pull clubs of very different backgrounds together in a collaborative way. To me, my pumpkins are priceless, and because of that I will not waste them. I decided long ago, I would always find a way to share them after harvest. It's challenging coming up with new ideas each year, but no one likes the same old thing so it's worth a bit of effort.”




Wildlife and Fisheries Resources students are using eDNA to assess the population status of eastern hellbenders. WRITTEN BY LINDSAY WILLEY


creatures in the world” during Introduction to Fisheries Management (WMAN 445) taught by Eric Merriam, post-doctoral research assistant within the School of Natural Resources. “One day Eric asked the class if anyone wanted to help with some hellbender research and I jumped at the chance,” Hartley said. “I spent an entire day flipping rocks in the West Fork Greenbrier River; we caught five in one 100-meter section, which was impressive.” Often nicknamed “snot otters” and “mud dogs,” eastern hellbenders are quintessential habitants of

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

the way of articles on sites like Time, Mashable and Nerdist. Discovery Canada also gave a shout-out to the hellbender on its television show “Daily Planet.” Shannon snapped the photos while conducting field research with Jimmy Hartley, a senior wildlife and fisheries student, in the Greenbrier watershed. While the internet fame is fun, Hartley is most excited to shine light on the important research he is conducting. During his junior year, Hartley fell in love with what he describes as “one of the most beautiful, amazing


What’s it like to become overnight internet sensations? Two West Virginia University students found out after Ty Shannon, a junior wildlife and fisheries resources major, shared photos of an eastern hellbender on his personal Twitter account. Shannon’s tweet went viral after fans of “Stranger Things” likened the aquatic salamander to a baby Demogorgon, a monster featured on the Netflix original show. The post garnered almost 9,200 likes, over 1,400 retweets and 374 comments. And the fun kept coming in



Student Spotlight



Hartley isn’t afraid of a challenge, though, and expressed an interest in continuing to conduct hellbender research. More specifically, he wanted to use environmental DNA, or freefloating DNA shed by animals as they move through the water, to better understand the species. The self-described jokester never thought he would be taken seriously or, more importantly, that funding would be available for a project like he described.



eDNA samples with the more traditional and intensive sampling techniques. column,” Hartley explained. “We “Hellbenders enjoy living under were able to collect water samples, large flat rocks in clean streams. But filter and extract the DNA and then what about these flat rocks make them use a DNA fingerprinting technique optimal to be inhabited,” Hartley asked. to determine hellbender distribution Last fall, Hartley and other without actually having to catch them.” student volunteers sampled 18 sites While in West Virginia, understanding overturning hellbender “They are cryptic, hundreds of distribution random rocks sneaky and within various per site in hopes nocturnal — three of catching the watersheds is an important factors that make sneaky creatures. indicator of If they were catching them water quality, successful, the very difficult. Hartley also plan was to wants to better record the length It’s comparable understand their and weight of to finding a habitats in an the hellbenders brown needle in effort to protect as well as habitat them. a haystack with characteristics To do so, it such as rock size giant rocks on was important to and depth, water top of the hay.” cross-check the flow around the — Jimmy Hartley

rock, its location relative to the stream bank, and what type of substrate surrounds the rock. They would then compare it to random “ideal” rocks to see what characteristics the hellbenders liked. They hit the jackpot during their last day in the field (Nov. 11), finding one and capturing the now infamous pictures. Although he has an abundance of data to analyze, Hartley is still relishing the attention bestowed upon something near and dear to his heart. “I’d never heard of 'Stranger Things' until a week or so ago,” he said. “But, if it wasn’t for the show and its fans, the hellbender wouldn’t have gotten such publicity. I am happy to be recognized for the research, but hopefully the hellbender gets the respect it deserves and hopefully actions and more interest can be aimed at helping preserve the species.” DAVIS .W VU. E DU

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

Appalachian rivers and good indicators of clean water; however, their populations are on the decline due to habitat loss and degradation associated with growing human development. Even without a declining population, hellbenders are extremely difficult to find. “They are cryptic, sneaky and nocturnal — three factors that make catching them very difficult,” he explained. “It’s comparable to finding a brown needle in a haystack with giant rocks on top of the hay.”

Then, in 2016, WVU received funding from the National Science Foundation to establish the Appalachian Freshwater Initiative (AFI). Administered through the University’s Institute of Water Science and Security, AFI is a collaborative effort between WVU, Marshall University and West Virginia State University to develop the science and technologies needed to secure freshwater resources in the Appalachian region for future generations. With Merriam as the lead researcher and a mentor, Hartley has been using eDNA to better describe hellbender distribution in the streams of the Appalachian Mountains. “We are coordinating with researchers at West Liberty University and The Wilds, a private, nonprofit safari park and conservation center in Ohio, to better understand their distribution throughout West Virginia,” Merriam explained. Hartley’s efforts are focused on better understanding hellbender distribution within the Greenbrier River drainage since it’s unclear how far down the river the population extends. “As we know, DNA can be used to identify living organisms. We’re most familiar with this from 'CSI' or 'The Jerry Springer Show,'” he said with a smile. “Wildlife and fisheries biologists can use DNA found within the environment to detect species of interest, such as hellbenders.” Hellbenders breathe through their skin and are especially sensitive to unclean water. According to Hartley, this makes them good indicators of water quality because they require clean, well-oxygenated habitats. It is very labor-intensive to sample a stream for hellbenders and requires a lot of raw strength. Using eDNA allows researchers to detect their presence more easily. “Aquatic environments are the easiest to detect species as the DNA can get suspended in the water


Student Spotlight

Career Rehearsal

The best way to learn science is by doing science. For our undergraduate students, conducting research enriches their educational experience, gives them a taste of what a career in science will be like and allows them to discover their passions and talents. WRITTEN BY LINDSAY WILLEY AND NIKKY LUNA


When I was younger, I watched my grandfather suffer through his cancer. It was frustrating that nothing seemed to help. I never dreamed that one day, I may be able to have an impact on other people in his situation.


My parents both have a great work ethic, and that has inspired me to work hard in everything that I do, as well. It’s hard to pinpoint a single person that has influenced me. Many of my teachers before college recognized my passion for learning and encouraged me to pursue a graduate or professional degree. As for faculty, Dr. Kovinich has influenced me the most. I was given freedom to truly experience research and gain valuable insight on my own future interests in research.

WHAT PROBLEM DO YOU HOPE TO HELP SOLVE IN THE WORLD? One thing I hope to help with is emphasizing the value of education to children. I really wish it could be viewed as a benefit and not a burden.

SAMUEL GARY Junior, Biochemistry Sissonville, West Virginia

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH IN THREE WORDS. Semi-natural cancer treatments.


Potentially everyone. In some way, most people have been, or will be, afflicted by cancer — through a family member, friend or even themselves.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY SUPERHERO POWER, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY? I would have to pick flying, mainly to avoid traffic.


Definitely the assistance given to students interested in research, internships and jobs. I believe placement into these programs is significantly enhanced by WVU’s actions.

Senior, Animal and Nutritional Sciences Charleston, West Virginia Eat your greens! That's one of the important takeaways from Marissa Frazie's research. She analyzed 11 different mustard crops at baby leaf and mature leaf stages to determine their phytochemical concentrations. The chemicals found in plants are often studied for their antioxidant capabilities that can aid in preventing certain chronic diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


My interests in cancer prevention nutrition research were cultivated after my aunt’s battle with breast cancer and my own experiences with skin cancer.


Chemoprevention, nutrition and health


I believe every individual is impacted by my research, considering nutrition and chronic disease prevention can

play major roles in our health and development.


Undergraduate research is important to me because it allowed me to fully invest in the topics I am interested in. It also allowed me to work with Dr. Kang Mo Ku, an inspiring and brilliant horticulture professor at WVU.


For our work to allow for vast progression and innovation in our respective fields.


I hope to lessen human suffering in the world by furthering health education, practicing as a physician and remaining involved in impoverished community outreach programs.



After working in the greenhouse for my research, I developed a deeper love for nature. Since then, I found myself enjoying the beautiful hiking areas around Morgantown.


I would advise incoming freshmen to embrace their differences and find what they are truly passionate about. Although there will be multiple positives and negatives of your college career, you must work persistently towards your dreams and stay true to yourself. No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else. Therefore, I encourage you to work diligently, seek new opportunities and value every amazing experience that WVU will allow you to have.

Since I am currently pursuing a career in medicine to help others, I would choose the power to heal.


With an increased public interest in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of naturally occurring plant flavones, Gary, with the guidance of Nik Kovinich, assistant professor of genetics and developmental biology, set out to evaluate two plant compounds — apigenin and genkwanin — as potential cancer growth inhibitors. Gary

ultimately wants to pursue a doctoral degree in pharmacology and focus his research on design and improvement of pharmaceutical drugs.




Though sometimes it can be hard for me to see in the everyday work, research gives you the opportunity to make lasting and broad impacts on people’s lives. It is so rewarding to think that you can add to the knowledge that could be used one day to save someone's life.


The best days are when I see results from a difficult experiment. Most of our experiments take weeks, so it is nice to see the work finally pay off.


Definitely my research mentor, Laura Gibson. She is an incredible scientist and a strong leader. Looking back to K-12, there were plenty of teachers who inspired me. Particularly, my AP Biology Teacher (Barb Sutherland) kick-started my interest in science and put me on my current trajectory.


PATRICK THOMAS Senior, Biochemistry Hurricane, West Virginia

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


Cancer, relapse and metabolism


I study acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common cancer in children. We are trying to find better treatments that are more effective at completely eliminating cancer cells, so anyone with the disease has the potential to be affected. This work could also have implications for many other cancers as well, since the phenomenon we study happens in many cancer types.


The sense of community built around this school and town is incredible.


No matter what you think you want to do in life, you can start it now. There are so many opportunities to get involved beyond normal course work. Research is one, but it goes so much further than that.

Senior, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics Massillon, Ohio One of two children who grew up in a single-parent household, Spencer hopes to one day own a lobbyist firm and establish a scholarship program to support students of single parents. In the meantime, he’ll use his research on government responses to climate change to help him excel in the internship he recently landed. Next stop on his journey: the nation’s capital!


Government, climate and reactions.

WHAT AND WHO ARE IMPACTED BY YOUR RESEARCH. Policies and actions carried out by governments at different levels.


I believe that addressing the issue of climate change is vital to our movement forward when it comes to energy.


My mom. She has worked so hard as a single parent to get me where I am today. I also had two teachers in high school — Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Clark — who influenced me the most because they put in the extra effort to prepare me for college. Stacy Gartin, professor of agricultural and extension education, has been the most influential faculty member in the Davis College. His teaching style developed my speaking skills and other useful tools that can be applied in real-world scenarios. His high level of concern toward my schoolwork, professional path and overall well-being make me want to do well for myself.

WHAT PROBLEM DO YOU HOPE TO HELP SOLVE IN THE WORLD? I want to make sure that every kid and young adult who has the willpower to better themselves has the channels

necessary to do so, whether it be access to college or trade schools, or even the chance to work and move out of poverty-stricken areas.


To be able to fly. I love traveling and being able to go anywhere at any time without the restriction of money would be awesome.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO AN INCOMING FRESHMAN? Bribe yourself to get things done quickly. For instance, if you get your paper done a day early, take yourself to your favorite restaurant. These little things will keep you motivated — especially in the late part of the semester.


Patrick Thomas wants to help people live longer and more comfortable lives — especially those afflicted with cancer. With the help of Laura Gibson, deputy director of the WVU Cancer Institute, he characterized the leukemic cell population residing in bone marrow and resistant to drug therapy. His research is another step toward creating drugs better able to eradicate drug resistance and prevent drug relapse in patients.


Teleportation: getting between classes and research takes up so much time. I am constantly back and forth between campuses and getting there instantly would give me so much free time. I also love to travel so this would save me a ton on flights.



Capitalizing on the Best of West Virginia WRITTEN BY NIKKY LUNA

A geopark is a single, unified geographical area where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic approach, promoting education, conservation and sustainable economic development. It formally ties together and promotes the geology, cultural heritage, natural resources and outdoor recreation in the region. “One of the aims of a geopark is to enhance awareness of the


included geosites: several state parks (Babcock, Hawks Nest, and Beartown), the Greenbrier River Trail, New River Gorge Bridge, the National Coal Heritage Area, numerous caves, the Greenbrier and Tamarack. “We have the ability to show people what’s going on in our state and let them see the story of West Virginia in a really professionally prepared manner,” Burns said. In the months ahead, WVU and USGS will continue to work toward formally establishing the Appalachian Geopark, continuing collaborations with local and state governments, communities and other key stakeholders. Eventually, Burns

would like to see the development of a national geoparks program. Until then, he’ll remain focused on ensuring that West Virginia leads the way, keeping the true heart of the project at the forefront. “We’re focusing on rivers, rail, caves, coal and people,” Burns said. “The critical thing about this is the last word — people. It’s the people who have done things related to rivers, rails, caves and coal. “So it’s really about them — about us. It’s about our heritage.” Learn more at

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

West Virginia has it all. Beauty, culture and a whole lot of heart. And, at its heart are some of the state’s most distinctive geological and cultural treasures. To help promote and preserve these treasures, West Virginia University is partnering with the National Coal Heritage Area Authority and the U.S. Geological Survey to establish the Appalachian Geopark. Its establishment would make it the first geopark in the country.

significance of the geological heritage and promote understanding of some of the key issues facing society, such as using the resources sustainably,” said Robert Burns, professor and director of the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, who is leading the initiative. “By raising awareness — from both a historical and present-day standpoint — a geopark gives local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthens their identification with the area,” he added. In addition to pride, a geopark bolsters job creation and stimulates sustainable economic development. “The creation of jobs and highquality training courses is a primary goal,” Burns said. “New sources of revenue are generated through geotourism while the geological resources of the area are protected.”

U.S. Geological Survey Scientist (USGS) Emeritus Tom Casadevall, who has been working with WVU on the project, wholeheartedly agrees. “The key goal for me, particularly here in the United States, is to bring additional economic benefit to the area,” he said. “So, this initiative is all about the opportunities for economic development, job development and attracting more visitation to south central West Virginia.” The geopark concept was first introduced in Europe in the early 1990s and became more formalized in 2004 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization developed the Global Geoparks Network. At that point, more than 20 UNESCO Global Geoparks had been established in Europe and China, and, to date, more than 130 have been established in many places around the world, with the exception of the United States. But, hopefully that will soon change. The Appalachian Geopark would encompass some of the state’s most culturally and geologically-rich settings in Fayette, Greenbrier and Raleigh counties. “This is an interesting juxtaposition between the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, which we’re well associated with at the University, particularly in our division, and the National Coal Heritage Area,” Burns said. “We would be linking these two areas together with this geopark.” “This area has outstanding geological significance,” Casadevall added. “It also has a number of communities that have a long history with the region. “The idea behind a geopark is that those communities can help to manage and conserve the geological resources, while continuing an effort to sustainably develop the resources of that region.” Existing infrastructure would be used, capitalizing on the many sites, referred to as geosites, and resources in the area, all of which are within just a half-day’s drive for more than one-third of the U.S. population. Some of the



Advancing the State



The benefits of West Virginia urban forests extend far beyond their aesthetic value.



S PR I N G 2 0 1 8




Faculty Research ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF URBAN TREES Mitigate storm water runoff by utilizing waste water that would otherwise end up in storm drain systems. Conserve energy, providing shade in the summer and acting as a windbreak in the winter, reducing cooling and heating costs respectively. Increase property values by up to 15% and help sustain economic stability. Create habitat for wildlife and help foster plant diversity. Improve the health of individuals who live and work in urban areas.


ACRES POPULATION YEARS IN TCUSA 12 624 154 22 10,447 5,590 9 7,094 2,006 22 2,986 1,336 9 286 394 17 2,676 1,946 27 49,138 11,616 15 3,830 2,437 19 29,660 6,519 19 31,492 8,005 16 1,765 936 16 1,734 204 8 3,572 2,711 19 10,749 2,434 * 28,486 10,114 33 2,908 1,120 4 2,847** 102

THE FOUR STANDARDS REQUIRED TO BECOME A TREE CITY USA COMMUNITY Establish a tree board or department. Establish a tree care ordinance that forms the foundation of a city’s tree care program. Establish a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita. Demonstrate the community’s commitment by passing and reciting an official Arbor Day proclamation. (In other words, hold an Arbor Day celebration!) For more details on how to earn the Tree City USA designation, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website at


S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


overall benefit of $53,308,328 in stored carbon. Combined, the annual ecosystem services and sequestered carbon totals more than $59 million. Dahle’s comprehensive study — one that started out as a 2015 summer project for one of his former undergraduate students and was completed earlier this year — focused on West Virginia’s 16 cities and towns that had earned the Tree City USA designation in 2016. These communities are part of a national program that provides the framework for community forestry management in the United States.

The value of the report has been farreaching, extending from West Virginia to eastern Brazil. “The report began as a project for Angela Sakazaki, who was at WVU as part of her study abroad program from Brazil,” Dahle said. “Angela wanted to learn how to utilize i-Tree Canopy, a state-of-the-art software suite from the USDA Forest Service, so that when she returned to her home university she could introduce this tool.” Dahle reached out to Bob Hannah, urban forestry coordinator with the West Virginia — Bob Hannah Division of


Forestry, to see if there were any needs they could meet. “Bob advised that the state would be interested in an i-Tree Canopy baseline assessment of the Tree City USA program in West Virginia,” Dahle said. Such an assessment had never been done before. “This information should prove to be a valuable tool to promote the Tree City USA program, as well as urban tree care in West Virginia,” Hannah said. “Our urban forester, Sam Adams, has developed a summary that will soon be distributed to municipalities throughout the state.” Hannah views this new data as being a means to a much bigger end, saying the data will be valuable to helping the Division of Forestry meet its two-part goal. “First, this will be valuable information for existing Tree City USA communities

to share with their respective city officials and councils so that tree care efforts and investments in the program will continue,” he explained. “Second, we hope this will encourage additional cities to become interested in the benefits of trees and begin taking steps toward becoming Tree City USA communities.” For Sakazaki, the experience served as both a concluding and launching point in her academic career. She finished her project, returned to the Federal University of Viçosa and completed her program, earning a bachelor’s in forest engineering in 2016. “When I finished the presentation of this project, my teacher told me that it is absolutely possible to use my findings as the foundation for a graduate-level project,” Sakazaki said. Though she doesn’t plan to do that as an immediate next step, Sakazaki says it is a possibility for the future and,

in the meantime, the project has been beneficial to many of her colleagues working on sustainability-related projects. For the Mountain State, where both urban and rural forests cover more than three-quarters of the state, this study is especially important. “In this heavily forested state, many residents take their urban trees for granted,” Dahle said. “This report helps our forest managers better understand and communicate the crucial role urban forestry fulfills in our cities and communities. I hope this will help drive interest in not only planting more street trees, but in maintaining green spaces along homes and businesses throughout the state.” To learn more about the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources visit


The benefits of urban forests extend far beyond the pretty canopy they provide along city sidewalks and neighborhood parks. In addition to enhancing the landscape, urban trees result in tremendous economic and environmental impacts. West Virginia University researchers and the West Virginia Division of Forestry have teamed up to better understand and communicate these benefits to communities across the state. Greg Dahle, associate professor of arboriculture and urban forestry in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, completed a report estimating that West Virginia urban forests provide annual ecosystem services of $6,441,179 by capturing 4,348,592 pounds of pollutants. The report also revealed that more than 2.8 million tons of carbon are sequestered by the trees that make up these urban forests, resulting in an


Faculty Research nonprofit, community-based rural health center network in southern West Virginia that serves Lincoln, Logan, Kanawha and Mingo counties. Lincoln Primary Care Center was in the midst of developing a new facility that would serve a subpopulation of its patients who met three criteria: 70 years old and above with a diagnosis of a chronic condition and on two or more medications. Though the design phase of the new space had been completed, Haddox and LPCC saw this as an opportunity to improve future facility projects using an evidence-based design model.


S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


isn’t there any information on rural health facilities?’” he said. His question was met with another question from his colleagues at the conference: “Why don’t you look into that?” Haddox learned there was a paucity of research in this particular area. Very few had looked at rural healthcare through the lens of evidence-based design, which is the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes. So, following the conference, he developed a plan to engage a West Virginia clinic in a qualitative pilot study. With the help of Debrin Jenkins, executive director of the West Virginia Rural Health Association, he started working with Lincoln Primary Care Center, which is part of a

LEAVING THE CONVERSATION OPEN-ENDED In West Virginia, more than 700,000 residents live in rural areas and, according to a 2017 Rural Health Information Hub report, there are 53 rural health clinics and 28 Federally Qualified Health Centers statewide. Across the country, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in areas classified as rural, and these areas are served by a total of 4,099 rural health clinics (Rural Health Clinics, 2016).

BIG 12 FACULTY FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM: SUPPORTING COLLABORATION In 2015, Haddox was awarded a research grant as part of the Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Program, which offers faculty members the opportunity to travel to other Big 12 institutions to pursue collaborative research. This grant made it possible for him to travel to Lubbock, Texas, to collaborate with evidencebased designer and researcher Debajyoti Pati, professor and Rockwell Endowment Chair of Interior Design at Texas Tech University, and Apoorva Rane and Mahshad Kazem-Zedah, both doctoral students in the Texas Tech Department of Interior and Environmental Design. Rane and Kazem-Zedah assisted with the preparation and review of Haddox’s research manuscript, titled “Impact of Design on Patient Participation in Healthcare in a Rural Health Clinic in Appalachia.”

In Haddox’s research manuscript, published in 2017 by the Center for Health Design, he points out that rural health clinics are encountering growing demands to increase and improve healthcare delivery. In addition to caring for their existing patient base, they’re facing an influx of new patients as a result of the Affordable Care Act making regular and preventive healthcare a new option for many people.

PERCEIVED BARRIERS TO HEALTHCARE PARTICIPATION Haddox outlines eight themes with a direct design component that were identified as perceived barriers to healthcare participation. Privacy/confidentiality at check-in Identification of healthcare staff via pictures and names in the reception area Local versus generic art in the facility Presence of clutter throughout the healthcare facility Seating options and arrangements in reception and exam rooms Natural lighting in reception and exam rooms Waiting for appointments in the presence of sick or contagious patients Elevator to the new treatment space Two themes, more “human-centered,” emerged as perceived barriers to healthcare participation. These have an indirect connection to a design component. Front office staff turnover Personality and temperament of the front office staff

“A better understanding of the relationship between facility design and health outcomes could increase effectiveness and reach of the funds that are invested in these facilities,” Haddox said. Continuing the conversation is one way to advance that understanding. “This research was interesting and demonstrated the value in asking patients about how they would like to receive their healthcare,” said Stephanie Belford, chief operations officer for Lincoln Primary Care. “We have talked about utilizing his research methods for new buildings in the future — to gain insight from our patients and help design the best flow for patient services.” The timing of Haddox’s “conversation-starter” is appropriate — and, perhaps, a bit overdue. “This research is innovative and is the first time, that I know of, that anyone has ventured down this path,” Jenkins said. “At a time when many are facing a lot of impact to healthcare, any research that can improve the lives of West Virginians and their health is a positive,” she continued. “The more information we have, the better.”


Like most researchers, Chris Haddox doesn’t shy away from questions that lead with “why.” It’s these types of questions that prompted him to initiate a critical conversation centered on improving access to healthcare in rural settings in Appalachia. In 2015, Haddox started laying the groundwork for his research by simply asking a few questions. “It essentially started because I participated in a health design conference hosted by the Center for Health Design,” said Haddox, assistant professor of sustainable design. “I was attending a presentation about improving patient outcomes through facility design.” He noticed the primary focus was on patient satisfaction at large, well-funded facilities. “Because so much of healthcare is delivered in rural areas, I asked, ‘Why

IDENTIFYING THE BARRIERS With his newly developed plan in hand, Haddox used a carefully crafted qualitative survey to lead a series of focus groups, in which 39 patients participated. It became increasingly evident with each conversation that facility design plays a significant role in patient participation. And, unsurprisingly, patient participation is integral to successful healthcare delivery. While there is no widely adopted, standardized definition of patient participation, it is believed that patients who are more actively engaged in their healthcare will realize improved health outcomes. “One of the things I learned as I talked to a lot of these rural clinics before doing this study is that ‘no-show’ rates — patients not showing up for their appointments — is a widely used metric for measuring a facility’s success,” Haddox said. Focus group participants identified 10 design-related elements they felt affected their participation. Most of them were associated to reception areas rather than the clinical space, as originally anticipated by Haddox. Eight themes emerged with a direct design component, ranging from privacy and confidentiality at check-in to the use of local versus generic art to natural lighting in the reception and exam rooms. Two themes emerged

with an indirect design component: front office staff turnover and the temperament and personality of staff. “After I talked with all of these patients about what they liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t work, I asked them, ‘At the end of the day, does any of this stuff ever keep you from going to an appointment?’” Haddox recounted. “Invariably, the answer was, ‘Heck, yeah. All the time.’ “Patients are missing their appointments because they simply decide, ‘I don’t feel like dealing with that today.’”


Faculty Research


For more than a decade, Chris Haddox has been engaged in teaching and service at WVU. In addition to earning a bachelor's in animal science, the four-time WVU graduate holds two master's degrees and a doctorate in human community and development. Learn more about his path through — and back to — the place he calls home.


I am from Logan, West Virginia. My dad, sister and brother are all health professionals. I started college thinking I would be a veterinarian, but after earning my bachelor’s from WVU, then going on to vet school, I realized that I just did not fit in.



WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE DOING NOW? The work I’m doing now is a serendipitous coming together of many things I’ve done, from affordable housing to healthrelated endeavors. I have a strong affinity for making things better in West Virginia and am very aware of the healthcare challenges in rural settings — seems it just took a while to figure how to best approach it for me.

Breath of Fresh Air

Landscape architecture professor evaluates green design elements of three healthcare facilities. WRITTEN BY LINDSAY WILLEY

As part of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s prestigious Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, Shan Jiang, assistant professor of landscape architecture, had the opportunity to evaluate the performance of landscape projects at three healthcare facilities in the United States. The program is a unique research collaboration that matches foundationfunded faculty-student research teams with leading practitioners to assess the environmental, economic and social benefits of various designs. The research teams are led by CSI Research Fellows, select faculty members who provide the knowledge base for preparing case studies, expertise in identifying and quantifying landscape benefits, objectivity and

academic rigor. Each Fellow receives an honorarium and funding to support a student research assistant. “As a whole, the program seeks to better integrate innovative work and research being conducted within academia and the industry to advance our knowledge of landscape performance,” Jiang said. By investing in this type of research, the foundation hopes to move the landscape architecture profession toward designing every project with specific performance objectives, routinely collecting performance data and integrating landscape performance in design education. In 2017, the Landscape Architecture Foundation selected 13 highperforming landscape projects spanning three continents for its Case Study Investigation program. Projects ranged in scope from a pedestrian trail that connects two oceanside cities, a former ballast quarry, three healthcare facilities, a master planned community, two reclaimed elevated rail lines and more. Jiang was selected to complete a post-occupancy evaluation of the environmental, social and economic impact of gardens at three hospitals in Minneapolis, Owensboro, Kentucky, and Voorhees, New Jersey. All were designed by HGA Architects & Engineers.

“Case studies are often used in landscape architecture to evaluate the successes and failures of finished projects,” she said. “They also allow us to gather information that will benefit future design projects and the profession.” Jiang indicated these particular projects also had special significance. “Landscape design in the healthcare industry hasn’t been extensively evaluated by the Landscape Architecture Foundation,” she said. “Additionally, when it comes to hospital environments, landscape architects must also consider the social benefits — how nature can help patient recovery and reduce stress for patients and employees by providing a calming soothing environment — of their designs.” In order to evaluate the social benefits of the three greenspaces, Jiang hosted focus groups with doctors, nurses and administrators at all three project sites. “Overall, they reinforced the benefits of having green spaces,” she said. “For example, at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, they have an exercise trail on campus that many staff members use for exercise or to take a break from work. Even though the hospital isn’t close to residential neighborhoods, community members still walk their dogs and bring their children to the playgrounds. It’s more than just a hospital.”


S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

After vet school, I took time off to go to Nashville to explore

the music industry while earning a master’s in business administration along the way. After some encouragement from my brother, I decided to go to medical school. After two years, it became apparent that I loved the patient aspect, but hated everything else, so I rebooted. I then had a stringed musical instrument repair business before becoming the executive director of the Monongalia County Habitat for Humanity. After more than nine years in that role, I one day took a call from Dr. Barbara McFall, director of the then-Division of Design and Merchandising. After asking me lots of questions about my interest and expertise in green building, it was my turn to ask, “Why all the questions?” Her memorable response was, “I am trying to create an odd program at WVU, and I need an odd bird to make it work. I think you might be the odd bird I’ve been looking for.”

During her site visit with Virtua Voorhees Hospital, Jiang found the greenspaces were particularly beneficial to nurses and babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. “The NICU nurses have very stressful jobs, so they would visit the rooftop gardens adjacent to the NICU wing for fresh air and a break from the stressful environment, which would allow them to go back to work reenergized,” she said. “The nursing manager also mentioned having window views of the rooftop gardens provides plenty of daylight to the NICU and that helps regulate sleep rhythms of the babies.” Of the three sites, Hennepin County Medical Center’s Whittier Clinic is the most unique. “It’s an outpatient clinic providing community health services, so their greenspaces were not designed specifically for facility occupants,” Jiang explained. “The facility’s location provides easy access to residential and commercial areas, so many people use the greenspace as a shortcut to those areas, creating an inclusive community.” While her evaluations showed the three sites to be functional and beneficial, Jiang also made recommendations for improvements. “The greenspaces at Whittier Clinic are like rain gardens with herbaceous plants,” she said. “I’d recommend planting more trees for shade and shelter. In Owensboro, the spaces were designed mostly of natural herbaceous grassy materials. When they grow tall and wild, they are often viewed by visitors as unmaintained; however, that is the strategic.” Correcting the latter comes down to education. “It’s important to educate the public on sustainable design practices,” she said. “When they understand that gravel and stones are used to filter rainfall — and low maintenance plants are used to reduce mowing and trimming — they begin to better appreciate the design and space.”


Community Partnership


A Unique Partnership

Future Green Berets receive human and animal medical training at WVU. WRITTEN BY JULIE CRYSER

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the first line of defense may be an antibiotic — for humans and animals. WVU Medicine and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design have teamed up with the Special Warfare Medical

Dr. George Bal, WVU Sports Medicine chief. Bal spent 18 years in the Army as an orthopedic surgeon; the last seven were spent teaching at Fort Bragg. When the Army visited WVU, representatives met with Bal and Dr. Alison Wilson, chief of the Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care and the Skewes

“The faculty and staff have really gone out of their way to ensure our students get a phenomenal experience. Participation in programs such as these allows our medics to stay relevant and prepared for missions they could face in the future.”

— Major Shawn Van Tassell

Family Chair for Trauma Surgery. During the meeting, Army officials said they would benefit from a large animal module. Wilson just happens to be married to Matthew Wilson, associate dean for programs in the Davis College, and she knew the College was up to the task. “The Special Forces medics when deployed are considered the medical

experts,” Alison Wilson said. “Sometimes they have to help with animal care in a village. They get some of that training at their school in North Carolina. But they don’t have the facilities to do this. We offered this as an option. The faculty and staff at Wardensville have been fantastic. The students come back and say they have had a fantastic time out there.” Students spend two days at Wardensville out of the 25 total training days at WVU. The large animal module is designed to teach basic livestock husbandry and herd maintenance skills along with the recognition of animal diseases. Faculty and staff from the College and WVU Extension Service taught soldiers how to do physical exams, check for common diseases and apply preventive medicine to sheep, cattle and pigs. To date, nearly 70 students have been trained at the medical center and Wardensville. Matthew Wilson hopes this program will lead to other collaborations between the Department of Defense and the WVU Davis College. “The professors at Wardensville have been amazing,” Van Tassell said. “They are incredibly patriotic and have gone out of their way to ensure our students have the best experience possible. This has created an amazing environment for learning. When we combine a great learning environment and motivated students, great things happen.” Dr. Lowell T. Midla, a veterinary technical services manager for Merck Animal Health who volunteers with the program, said when he asks for volunteers, students elbow each other to be the first to conduct exams or perform procedures. “The goal of any nation’s foreign policy should be to make friends, and you can make friends by helping people,” said Midla. “We can’t make them a veterinarian in one day, but we can give them some tools in their toolbox to help them to make friends.” DAVIS .W VU. E DU

When most people think of military special forces, they envision soldiers slinking onto boats or dropping out of airplanes behind enemy lines in an old John Wayne movie. But for soldiers enrolled in the Special Forces Medical Sergeant (SFMS) Course at the U.S. Army John

Group at Fort Bragg to conduct Special Operations Clinical Training (SOCT), a 25-day program that is the culmination of all medical training for students in the SFMS program. The training is designed to help soldiers develop treatment plans, perform minor surgical procedures, document findings and conduct patient education. It is only at WVU, however, that students also learn to work with animals. Students spend two days on WVU’s Reymann Memorial Farm in Wardensville, West Virginia, gaining hands-on experience and veterinary training for large and small animals. “WVU is the only SOCT site where our students get to work with animal scientists and veterinarians,” said Major

Shawn Van Tassell, group operations officer for the Special Warfare Medical Group. “The faculty and staff have really gone out of their way to ensure our students get a phenomenal experience. Participation in programs such as these allows our medics to stay relevant and prepared for missions they could face in the future.” There are four main components to a Special Forces team: weapons, engineer, communications and medicine. The Special Operations Clinical Training experience is the conclusion of 13 months of medical training to become a Green Beret Medical Sergeant. This training provides soldiers with maximum patient contacts in multiple clinical specialties. It takes place in 20 Army hospitals and underserved hospitals throughout the United States over a period of 25 days. For at least 240 hours, each student operates under the close supervision of a medical preceptor and is expected to perform on the same level as a third- or fourthyear medical student. “The skills they learn during the large animal module could be used in a variety of situations,” Van Tassell said. “Special Forces teams often work in underdeveloped or rural areas, and may be called upon to diagnose or treat local farm animals in order to gain trust or build rapport with the local population.” The importance of understanding animal care cannot be understated. “Special Forces teams used horses at the very beginning of the War in Afghanistan to ride into battle alongside their Northern Alliance counterparts,” he said. “And a Special Forces Medical Sergeant may be called upon to provide treatment for the multipurpose canines that are frequently deployed with the teams. This program exposes students to animal treatment techniques that can’t be replicated in a classroom.” The partnership between WVU and the U.S. Army Special Forces began with


Community Partnership


Service Over Self How a U.S. Army veteran and Davis College graduate student regained his sense of purpose among the veteran community. WRITTEN BY JULIE CRYSER

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


Olesh worked with Robert Burns, director of the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Nicolas Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology, to develop a Veterans’ Resource Room in Percival Hall and organize the Davis College Veterans Professionals Group. Both Army veterans, Burns and Zegre were very supportive of Olesh’s ideas. According to Olesh, many of the veterans groups on campus are geared toward helping recently separated service members transition to civilian life in an academic setting. However, the Davis College Veterans Professionals Group is different. It focuses on professional development of student-veterans as they map out their careers beyond college and graduate school. The group provides mentorship, networking and professional development opportunities structured within the comradery of previous military service.


Olesh, who suffered from separation anxiety and even survivor’s guilt added, “You go from being a part of a true fraternity and then you leave. You leave a family.” The Veterans’ Resource Room in Percival Hall provides a place for veterans to meet, do homework, play darts and talk. “Having that physical space is important because it gives us all — veteran student, faculty, and staff — a place to rally around,” Zegre said. “It also shows that faculty and staff do care about them.” The professional organization has targeted preparing veterans for finding jobs and seeking graduate degrees. The skills veterans have need to be refocused on a career development path, Olesh said. He’d also like to see more veterans attend graduate school.

“We have a ton of veterans who are meeting faculty to see if research is something they want to do,” he said. The group hopes to find funding to support veterans who wish to attend professional conferences, explore graduate education and conduct professional development seminars specifically designed for veterans. Olesh hopes that the college veterans’ organization will grow and attract students from across the campus. For him, working to engage veterans and find new opportunities for them has been inspiring. “The common denominator with most veterans is selfless service,” Olesh said. “It’s given me a sense of purpose in the veteran community again.”


When Ed Olesh was 17 years old, he asked his parents to emancipate him so that he could join the Army Rangers, an elite Special Forces unit. “I chose to try out for the Ranger Regiment because I knew I always wanted to be the best and Rangers are the elite infantry unit,” Olesh said.

In 2010, after four deployments and several close calls, he and his wife decided to pursue other opportunities. Olesh chose to go to college and, in 2015, graduated from WVU with his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries resources. He’s currently pursuing his master’s in fisheries ecology. Over the years, however, he has struggled at times to adapt to civilian life. “Unfortunately, the state and federal governments don’t do a good enough job of getting veterans ready to be a civilian,” he said. Olesh’s story is all too common and often times deadly. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that 22 veterans commit suicide each day, roughly one every 65 minutes. The WVU Davis College has around 70 veterans enrolled in its various programs, and Olesh decided something had to be done to give them a way to connect and adapt.

It is just one of several programs the College has created to boost efforts to acknowledge veterans and other diverse groups. “The WVU Davis College is committed to ensuring that we are creating a welcoming and nurturing environment for all of our underrepresented groups,” said Dean Daniel J. Robison. “We are committed to developing a strong program that addresses the needs and concerns of our student-veterans, but this is also just a component of our overall inclusion strategy.” The Davis College is determined to recognize and support these students, and the leadership efforts of Burns and Zegre have made it possible for people like Olesh to be leaders among their peers. “The impact is greater than just among our students who are veterans — it filters to all our students, from every background, to all the diversity that makes up this college and the informed, kind and vibrant learning environment we are determined to have,” the dean added. Zegre, Olesh and Burns have similar stories about joining the military. “I had no interest in going to college, and the military offered me the opportunity to get out and figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” said Zegre, who served in the Army from 1993 to 2001 as a nuclear biological chemical warfare specialist. Burns joined the Army in 1978 when he too was 17. Staring at the potential of a future working in a brake shoe factory in Pennsylvania, Burns joined the Army in 1978 when he also, was 17. “I realized if I didn’t leave southwestern Pennsylvania when I did I’d probably be in jail,” he joked. And all three have similar stories about feeling isolated when they left the military. “Veterans come out and suffer from professional and social isolation,” Zegre said.


Alumni Success


Building Lifelong Connections

The Davis College Mentor program links students with alumni mentors, providing opportunities for invaluable real-world experience. WRITTEN BY JULIE CRYSER

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8


Students can apply as freshmen for a mentor. If you would like more information about becoming a WVU Davis College Mentor, please contact Julie Cryser at 304-293-2400 or Andrew Barnes at 304-293-6962.

onsite training. Boney took Newman’s advice and joined a member interest group associated with AFIA and folks in feed manufacture. “I was able to open networking and potential job opportunities for John as he was getting closer to completing his PhD studies,” Newman said. “I was pleased that John wanted to extend our working together for a second year so we could work through to his graduation. I took that as a vote of confidence that he was valuing the experience also!” Newman said he believed very much in the work Boney was doing with his research and broader feed safety studies. “I was able to share his research papers with others in the industry, giving both John and his work more exposure,” Newman said. “I was quite pleased to discuss career options with John, introduce him to and open some interview opportunities and participate as a reference for him.” Newman said he has enjoyed watching Boney’s success, growth and excitement. “I know he will be a strong contributor at Penn State and beyond, and I am pleased to have been able to contribute a small piece to that,” he said. “I have also enjoyed getting to know John more personally, and I hope our friendship lasts well beyond his graduation.” Both Boney and Newman said they were glad they took part in the program and gained much. “This mentorship program taught me to be a beneficial alumni and how to give back to my college home,” Boney said. “I would advise students to take opportunities and to take chances. I think it’s really important to do more than simply take classes.” But students have to remember that in order to make the relationship work, they have to work as well, he said. “It is important for students to understand that their mentor is likely a successful and busy individual,” Boney said. “It’s OK to be the one driving the bus and making the mentorship work.” DAVIS .W VU. E DU

For more than three years, the WVU Davis College Mentor program has been connecting students with industry professionals.

Perhaps one of the most successful connections is John Boney and Joel Newman. In 2014, Newman, president, chief executive officer and corporate treasurer of the American Feed Industry Association — the world’s largest organization representing the U.S. animal feed industry and its suppliers — became Boney’s mentor. For Boney, who earned his doctorate in animal nutrition with a focus on applied poultry nutrition and feed manufacture in December 2017, it was important to establish a strong professional relationship with a prominent and influential leader in the feed industry. “Joel opened doors to several folks in the feed industry for me,” said Boney. “He set up personal meetings with CEOs of global companies.” Boney and Newman, who graduated from the Davis College in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in animal and nutritional sciences, were one of 10 matches made as part of the inaugural mentorship program cohort. And the mentorship sustained throughout Boney’s doctoral pursuit.

Now an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, Boney is extremely grateful for the opportunities the Mentor program provided. “I talked about this mentorship opportunity in every job interview and it was received quite well,” he said. “Often those folks directly knew Joel.” The WVU Davis College Office of Advancement developed the program to help students build lasting bonds with successful alumni who could help them develop their resumes, learn how to have conversations with professionals and make links to professional organizations. The program is being expanded to include a match-making session in both the spring and fall, giving students a chance to be mentored by successful alumni. The program not only benefits students but alumni and the College. It provides students with another perspective and experience to draw on, beyond their studies. It is a great way to keep alumni involved and sharing the value of their real-life experiences and expertise. And alumni mentors have the opportunity to give back. “I enjoyed the experience of a few very good mentors at key points in my career and was interested in giving back to the Davis College,” Newman said. “I did have a good mentor growing up, but unfortunately not in my WVU days, which was another reason for my wanting to participate.” Students have been mentored by alumni who work at the National Institutes of Health, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and a variety of private industry professionals in landscape architecture, veterinary and banking, among others. Six mentor-mentee matches were made in fall 2017. Students must apply for the program and are then matched to alumni who have either graduated from their field of study or have gone on to have success in similar fields. They are then introduced during a luncheon and asked to develop a mentor contract, which lays out how often they will connect and what goals they hope to accomplish. Newman and Boney worked out a plan for how they would tackle their mentor-mentee relationship early on. “We talked about this when we first started working together,” Newman said. “We discussed current work or projects he was working on and we found opportunities for me to offer my thoughts and experience where I might assist him.” Newman also made arrangements for Boney to attend an AFIA Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points training program to enhance his feed safety knowledge, which helped with both his research and his management of the University feed milling operation at the WVU Stewartstown Farm. He also updated Boney on the Food Safety and Modernization Act through webinars AFIA conducted and


The Last Word with Amy Stokes What new skills did you learn, and how will they benefit you in the future? I have learned an immense amount of hands-on horse handling skills, the different types of treatments and remedies used around the world, organization, management and problem-solving. I have secured a great foundation for my future career in the thoroughbred industry that I will be able to build on for years to come.

What did you learn about yourself while living abroad? While living abroad I have learned independence and gained confidence. I have the tools I need to compare and contrast one country from the next and form my own knowledgeable opinion. Amy Stokes, a native of Middletown, New Jersey, graduated from WVU in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management and a minor in equine studies. She’s no stranger to living and working abroad. Stokes spent one summer as an intern at Darley Kildangan Stud in County Kildare, Ireland; she completed the prestigious National Stud Diploma Course in Newmarket, England, and, most recently, worked as a stud hand at Arrowfield Stud in Australia. Now back in the United States, Stokes reflects on her time abroad.


 ow did your love H for horses develop?

My love for horses began at the young age of seven years old. A family friend was working as a barn manager for one of the big show jumping farms in Rumson, New Jersey. She brought my sister and I out [to the farm] and put us up bareback on a horse and led us around. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What drew you to Arrowfield Stud in Australia?

Can you describe your dayto-day responsibilities? I worked in the hospital division treating mares with reproductive issues and foals with conformational imperfections or illnesses. I provided the appropriate treatments, feed and maintenance; check horses for any signs of illness or injury, and assist in evaluation of foals for farriers, shockwave therapy and/or surgery to correct their conformation for their future careers as racehorses. I moved onto prepping yearlings for the annual sales, which included appropriate feed management to keep the horses fit, daily exercise and handling.

Probably the biggest challenge I have faced is financially. Visas can cost quite a bit of money to start and when you’re living in another country you want to see everything before your time is up so you end up spending the majority of your earnings on travel. I call it “getting paid to travel.” It is well worth the experiences, but you do have to be prepared to live a bit lighter than you may be used to for a bit.


October 10, 2018 / Agricultural Sciences Building This is a great opportunity for you to meet students seeking internships and entry-level jobs. This career fair will connect you with students across all the majors within the College, from Forestry and Agriculture to Landscape Architecture and Design Studies.

OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED As a WVU graduate, you know Mountaineers make excellent employees. Here are some ways you can network with our students:          

Campus Visits Event Sponsorship Faculty Interactions Information Sessions Presentations and Technical Talks

For more information, contact Rachael Conrad, employer relations specialist at: or visit

What advice would you give to students considering studying or working abroad? Don’t make excuses as to why not, make it happen. It may be a bit scary to go somewhere with a different language, lifestyle or culture, but that’s the beauty of it. You’ll not only learn about yourself as an individual trying new things, but you can learn so much about the world in general.

S PR I N G 2 0 1 8

Arrowfield Stud is one of the most prestigious breeding farms in Australia. It is best known for being the leading vendors of thoroughbred yearlings and housing the country’s top stallion in

Redoute’s Choice and his champion son Snitzel. They are clearly doing something right and I knew they would have plenty to teach me.

What challenges did you face?






Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design P.O. Box 6108 Morgantown, WV 26506-6108

WVUDavis @WVUDavis

DAVIS is produced twice each year for the alumni, friends and other supporters of the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. Copyright ©2018 by the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. Brief excerpts of articles in this publication may be reprinted without a request for permission if DAVIS is acknowledged in print as the source. Contact the editors for permission to reprint entire articles. The WVU Board of Governors is the governing body of WVU. The Higher Education Policy Commission in West Virginia is responsible for developing, establishing and overseeing the implementation of a public policy agenda for the state’s four-year colleges and universities. WVU is an EEO/Affirmative Action Employer — Minority/Female/Disability/Veteran.

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Morgantown, WV Permit No. 34

Davis College Spring 2018 Magazine  

To learn more about the Davis College, visit

Davis College Spring 2018 Magazine  

To learn more about the Davis College, visit

Profile for wvudavis