Fairmont State’s American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter swept the concrete canoe competition at the ASCE Virginias Regionals Symposium hosted by Marshall University on April 14.
In addition to taking home the overall team title, Fairmont also earned first-place in each of five races as well as the following categories: technical proposal, project presentation and final product.
“This has been an exceptional weekend for the student chapter,” said Tabitha Lafferre, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Technology and ASCE Student Chapter Faculty Advisor. “The students truly put their heart, blood, sweat and tears in to this year-long project.”
The ASCE Virginias Regionals Symposium provides students from schools across West Virginia and Virginia a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience by competing in many engineering-related competitions. For the concrete canoe competition in particular, students must follow strict rules that dictate the contents of the concrete matrix in building the canoe and, of course, the vessel must float, to be eligible to compete in the races. The canoe entered in this year’s competition, named “Black Diamond,” is a tribute to coal miners and West Virginia’s status as a top coal producer in the country.
According to Lafferre, this marks the 18th regional level win for Fairmont State. The team will now move on to the national concrete canoe competition at the ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championship hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville from June 10 to 12.
“The team always has a goal of placing in the top 10 overall,” said Lafferre. “Even though the regional symposium is over, they’ll continue practicing paddling until the last day of the spring semester.”
To help fund the trip, the Fairmont State ASCE student chapter held an elimination dinner at the Knights of Columbus on May 5th. The dinner included a buffet-style meal, historical presentation, keynote address, canoe display, gift basket raffles and a $1,000 cash prize.
Planned enhancements include the addition of Velocity Based Training (Vitruve) devices and ANCORE PRO functional trainers for all eight squat racks in the weight room. With these upgrades, Fairmont State Athletics can continue providing student-athletes with the highest performance training.
“Our second Fighting Falcons Lift-a-Thon was a huge success,” said Fairmont State’s Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Adam Kolberg. “We had 278 student-athletes participate, and thanks to their tremendous efforts and the gracious support of sponsors, we raised over $8,500 for the strength and conditioning program.”
Fairmont State University honored graduates during the University’s 154th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 6 in the Feaster Center.
“Commencement is always an uplifting and exciting event on our campus,” said Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Oxley. “Not only does it represent centuries of higher education tradition, it marks a significant milestone in the lives of our graduates that will serve them well throughout their lives. Commencement also reminds the University’s faculty and staff members of the importance of what we do, and why we do it; focused on a culmination of teaching, learning, and student engagement.”
This year’s commencement speaker was Fairmont State alumnus William “Bus” Jaco, Ph.D. The Grafton, WV native is Regents Professor Emeritus, Oklahoma State University, and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at Rice University. He holds degrees from Fairmont State University (B.A. Cum Laude), Penn State University (M.A.), and University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D.). He held faculty positions at University of Michigan and Rice University before joining the faculty at Oklahoma State University as Head of the Department of Mathematics in 1982 and was appointed Grayce B. Kerr Chair in 1993, an endowed position that he held until his retirement in 2021.
During his time at Fairmont State, Jaco was heavily involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity when not in the classroom. During his speech, he fondly remembered his previous Professor in Mathematics, Dr. James La Rue who he referred to as an “advisor, mentor and friend.” La Rue had encouraged Jaco to continue on to higher education with his studies in math. When Dr. Jaco graduated from the College on the Hill in 1962, his son had attended with him donning a miniature cap and gown. Dr. Jaco returned to campus as commencement speaker and his wife, Linda, and eldest son were again with him for the occasion.
Jaco spoke briefly about his many accomplishments, achievements, and experiences that followed graduation from Fairmont State. He had enrolled in classes as a first-generation college student, hoping to make a living as a math teacher. He graduated with the determination and confidence to turn his dream into an incredible career. “Over the 61 years following my graduation from Fairmont State, I have held either a research, a teaching and research, or an administrative position in nine different states, through appointments at twenty different research institutions, and I have travelled the world to collaborate on research and work with colleagues spread across nine countries.”
Before ending his speech, Jaco left the graduates with some words of advice, emphasizing the importance of hard work and the inevitability of change. He reminded the class of 2023 to take chances, stating “I would rather be sorry for something I did, than to be sorry for something I never did do.” Finally, he encouraged them to view their time at Fairmont State as only the beginning of a lifetime of learning.
When asked about his experience returning to campus as the commencement speaker, he explained that learning of the wide array of programs offered at Fairmont State and seeing the graduates made him “impressed and proud to be there
Kickin’ it for Katy 5K Run/Walk raised awareness for suicide prevention, funds for forensics students
The Fairmont State University Forensic Science Program hosted the second annual ‘Kickin’ it for Katy’ 5K run and walk on Saturday, April 29, on the University’s campus. All proceeds from the race go to the Kaitlynn Towson Forensic Memorial Award to raise awareness around suicide prevention, benefiting Fairmont State Forensic Science students.
“We are pleased to see the outpouring of support from this community, and we are excited to watch Kickin’ it for Katy grow,” said Gina Dixon, the grandmother of Kaitlynn Towson. “Our family is proud that Katy’s name and story will be remembered and that we are spreading awareness.”
After the race, participants and spectators were invited to the ‘Stomp Out the Stigma’ celebration hosted by Falcon Wellness and Mental Health Services on the Falcon Center Quad for race awards, live music, food vendors, raffle prizes, a dunk tank and more.
“These two events are a natural fit together as they both support the mission of suicide awareness and prevention, which is especially important in our college-age students,” said Forensic Science Program Coordinator Mark Flood. “The scholarship money being raised is in memory and support of Katy’s legacy and will mean that these collaborative short-term events will have a longer-lasting impact.”
“We want students to know that their mental health is our priority here at Fairmont State University,” said Director of Student Health Chelsea Collins. “All supporters of mental wellness are invited to come and promote mental well-being. Students are not alone, we want them here with us to enjoy life.”
Fairmont State’s Ruth Ann Musick Library hosted its first writing contest this March in which Fairmont State University students submitted work based on the American Library Association’s National Library Week theme, “There’s More to the Story.”
Students were encouraged to write either a short story or a poetry submission inspired by the theme of “There’s More to the Story” and the prompt “Photo and/or Diary." Nineteen submissions were received: eight short story submissions and eleven poetry submissions. The selected winners for the short story category include Avary King (first place), Sydney Brooks (second place), and Natalie Clingenpeel (third place). The selected winners of the poetry category include Molly Simpson (first place), Alexandra Mellott (second place), and Vetra Foster (third place).
Reilly Crow, a junior Graphic Design Technology major from Glendale, West Virginia, established the contest in partnership with the Ruth Ann Musick Library staff . “People need a way to express themselves,” he said. “When people share stories, there are always some left-out details. With the theme “There’s More to the Story,” we see what reading stories are for.”
Each first place winner received a $250 cash prize and publication in next year’s edition of Whetstone, Fairmont State University’s undergraduate literary and art journal.
“We have a lot of creative, amazing young people on this campus that are growing, changing, and always doing awesome things,” said Jacquelynn Sherman, Assistant Library Director.“Their accomplishments are just one example, one little piece of the whole that makes Fairmont State such a great place to learn.”
“Fairmont State was wonderful for me,” said Dr. Jude Black, President of the Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling Center in Fairmont. “It was big enough that I could get lost in, but small enough that I could stay grounded when I needed to.”
Dr. Black, 1990 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts with a degree in Criminal Justice, presented career advice and career optimization to students in psychology courses and the Student Veterans Organization. She credits Fairmont State as the birthplace of her independence and confidence as an entrepreneur of a prominent local business.
“I loved the foundation that I got through Fairmont State. It’s where learning clicked for me,” said Black. “I really had to learn how to apply myself and that helped me with a lot of my business decisions. I never knew I could fail because it wasn’t something I considered.”
Dr. Mitch Sokolosky, a 1988 graduate with a degree in Biology from the College of Science and Technology and the Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, presented biology and healthcare management to students in biology courses and the Tri-Beta Biology Honors Association. He attributes the experiences he had as a Falcon in shaping his career in emergency medicine.
“I took an emergency medical technician elective. It wasn’t required for my degree, but it allowed me the opportunity to volunteer in a local ambulance service and later become a paramedic in Fairmont,” said Sokoloksy. “Fairmont State is the reason I became an emergency physician.”
Bill Black, 1989 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Vice President of Operations at Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling Center, presented leadership lessons and career advice to students in the National Security and Intelligence program, the Student Government Association and the Student Veterans Organization.
Danijel Velicki, 2000 graduate of the College of Business and Aviation and Founder and CEO of Sqwire, a company which conducts financial wellness courses, presented on financial literacy and business leadership with the men’s basketball team and students in business ethics courses.
Ryan Weld, 2003 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts with a degree in Political Science and West Virginia State Senate Majority Whip, presented leadership lessons and career advice to students in the National Security and Intelligence program and the Student Government Association. Weld, a former member of the Men’s Swimming team also took time to meet with members of the current Men’s and Women’s Swimming teams to share experiences from his time as a student athlete.
Gerard Schmidt, 1971 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts with a degree in Psychology and Chief Operations Officer of Valley Healthcare System, an institution designed to treat patients facing addiction, mental illness, and disabilities, presented leadership lessons and shared advice on mental health nursing to students in the Nursing program.
Robert Hawkins, 1970 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Retired Director of Faculty Professional Education at Defense Acquisition University, presented to students on the value of a degree in education. He also gave his presentation “Elements of Change: How Learning is Being Redefined” to faculty in the College of Education Health and Human Performance.
Roberta Stronsider, 1967 graduate of the College of Education, Health, and Human Performance and Professor Emerita in Special Education at Towson University and Co-Director of the Institute on Executive Functioning, presented to education faculty and students on accelerating students’ executive growth the utilizing explicit instruction of metacognitive strategies.
“It’s difficult to express how much we appreciate the investment of each of these alumni making time to come back and pour into our students. The value that they provided with their years of insight and experience has been incalculable,” said Tim Liebrecht, Director of Development. “We are so proud to be able to help connect alumni back to our current students and faculty and we look forward to more of these events in the future.”
Spies like us: Fairmont State University's National Intelligence Program
Four intelligence analysts are hunched over a computer screen. On the wall behind them are various maps of the world and three clocks that show the hour in different times zones. They have tracked everything from the Russian military’s involvement in the Ukraine to vulnerabilities with NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
But on this particular Tuesday afternoon, with the lights off and computer screens bright, they are diving into the nefarious underworld of email scams. The project’s codename is Operation Trident.
The lab is known as OSIX, short for Open Source Intelligence Exchange, and it’s run by the cream of the crop from the school’s National Security and Intelligence (NSI) program. Out of the department’s approximately 200 students, only 16 are currently working in the lab. “We take our best and brightest and put them in that environment,” explains Professor David Abruzzino.
Students in the OSIX lab sift through court records, public databases and, now more than ever, social media posts. When the devastating floods ravaged West Virginia towns in the summer of 2016, a group of FSU students were monitoring Facebook and Twitter for people in need. “OSIX was instrumental in identifying somebody who had a need for police assistance and then notifying the state authorities,” says Professor Todd Clark, who mentors the students in the lab. “Social media monitoring really paid off. It’s a key to a lot of what we do.” The advantage these students have, he says, is that they grew up with these technologies. “They have a sixth sense of where to look on social media. They have a fresh perspective.”
Nick Oliveto, a 29-year-old native of Fairmont, was one of the first students to partake in the OSIX lab before graduating FSU in 2012. After school, he got a job with Lockheed Martin before moving on to law school. He’s now working as a counter-terrorism analyst in the Maryland suburbs. “The program gave me the professional foundation needed to pursue my career,” he says. “I use what I learned at Fairmont every day.”
Oliveto credits his success to teachers like Abruzzino who, before arriving at FSU a decade ago, was in the CIA where his area of expertise was the heroin trade in Afghanistan. “In many cases when we’re talking about concepts that are expressed in their textbooks, I can bring up a real-world experience I had where I faced that situation and can explain to them how it played out in a real-world scenario,” Abruzzino says.
Students have come from across the country – as far away as Oregon – to enroll in Fairmont’s NSI department. The school’s proximity to the national security community in D.C. makes having guest speakers easy. And the FBI office in Clarksburg comes to campus to recruit students for internships.
Alumni have landed gigs at dozens of national agencies – including the CIA, FBI and NASA. Many have opted to stay in the region and work for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and the West Virginia Army National Guard. An NSI master’s program is in the works for those students who want to further their education even more.
Back in the lab, the team of students are prepping a presentation they will be giving at the state capitol in Charleston. There, they will meet state delegates and senators and show them the latest project they are working on. It may not be the CIA, but it’s a step in the right direction. As a sign on the wall declares: “You don’t have to start out as an expert. You just have to start.”
The “Every Gift Matters—the Scholarship Campaign” helps students to continue their education both in and out of the classroom while also being able to gain experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have had. Student-athlete Lake Porter of Charleston, W.Va., said scholarships give her a sense of relief knowing she is taken care of and can focus on her academics.
A double major in marketing and accounting and a member of the Women’s Soccer Team, Porter said receiving a scholarship is the same as hearing someone is betting on her to become successful.
“It’s like receiving a key tool that will help you with this journey. Scholarships mean everything, I set out on a journey at 8 years old to get a scholarship to help me have a ticket to education,” she said. “It’s given my mom peace of mind knowing that I’m taken care of here and I can’t wait until the day I have a diploma in my hand and my mom in the other, I owe that all to the scholarships I received from Fairmont State University.”
Porter is on the Student Leadership Board for the School of Business and a member of Team Impact. Over the next few years she hopes to join more clubs with focuses on business and entrepreneurship.
"My scholarships are proof that hard work and staying focused may be rewarded. They give me a certain drive on the field and in the classroom to make sure that I maintain the requirements necessary to keep them,” she said. "This blessing has also given me responsibilities that I think have helped shaped me into a person my parents, siblings, mentors, and coaches can be proud of."
To be given the opportunity to attend Fairmont State through the ticket of a sport she loves and the emphasis donors have put on the importance of a college education, Porter said is one of the things she is so grateful for.
"We are treated like family members here. I have never stepped into a room full of students and staff members where I have felt unwelcome. The range of diversity is refreshing,” she said. "It’s incredibly easy to learn something new every day, whether it be in the classroom, while meeting new people, or even finding out something about yourself. This is the best time.”
Porter enjoys being surrounded by people who are on a mission to achieve their dreams just like she is and that the best part is the professors and staff on campus help them to do just that.
"When you donate to Fairmont State University, you can rest assured that your donation is being used to help a kid turn their dreams into a reality,” she said. "There are some students here are the very first in their families to attend college, and you can know that you have helped that student make history."