The Committee on the University’s College at Wise convened Friday at 10:00 a.m. to hear a report on the College’s athletic strategic plan which includes goals to promote and develop athletic scholarships, use athletic programs to strengthen the image of Wise and complete an internal review of gender equity.
Wise has been a member of the South Atlantic Conference since 2019 and currently has 306 active student-athletes competing in thirteen sports. The number of sports offered by Wise will increase with the addition of men’s and women’s indoor track-and-field and outdoor track-and-field for the 2023-2024 school year.
In order to promote the development of the athletic program at Wise and improve facilities, Wise recently had the field at Carl Smith Stadium re-turfed, and intends to re-turf the baseball and softball fields. According to Athletic Director Kendall Rainey, this move will aid in recruiting student-athletes and improve the competitiveness of their athletic programs.
“We've recently started these discussions on wanting to be a competitive athletic program,” Rainey said. “So we want to be able to provide the tools to do that and the four main areas that we look at in this category would be facilities, scholarships, staffing and budget.”
Wise also aims to continue efforts relating to community relations including by hosting a Kid’s Day basketball game in which children from local elementary schools are bussed to a basketball game to watch the players.
Rainey also stated that some teams at Wise have worked with Team IMPACT — a program that allows children with serious illnesses or disabilities to become part of a college sports team. In 2022, a young cancer survivor was made an honorary member of the baseball team at Wise.
“We tend to view athletics as the front porch of the college in many ways and our constituents — being our student-athletes, our student body, the faculty, staff, fans, parents, community — we want to be able to provide a quality experience to all those involved,” Rainey said.
Rainey also said that it is important to promote health and wellness among student-athletes as well as supporting equity and inclusion initiatives. Last year, Wise signed the Tracy Rule, which prohibits any person who has been convicted of violent or sexual offenses from playing on a varsity sports team.
Wise Chancellor Donna Henry also spoke at the committee meeting, providing an update on recruitment to Wise and current admissions statistics. According to Henry, Wise has received a significant increase in the number of applications this year.
As of early March, Wise has received 2,776 applications, up from the past five year’s average of 950. Of those applicants, 1085 have been admitted to Wise and 221 are committed to attending.
“We're really looking forward to enrolling a great class of students,” Henry said.
Henry also said that the high cost of out-of-state tuition at Wise results in a low number of students coming from outside of Virginia. While Wise has admitted approximately 100 non-Appalachian out-of-state students, only three have confirmed that they will attend, according to Henry.
Tuition at Wise costs $11,498 per year — for out-of-state students, the cost is $31,592 annually. Out of state students from the Appalachian region are offered a reduced tuition at $12,213 per year. For Henry, a reduction in out-of-state tuition may be effective in bringing more students to Wise.
“I am looking now at some proposals of what we might do there,” Henry said. “I may come back to you with a presentation to actually reduce our out-of-state tuition and then I think we might be able to capitalize on some of those students as well.”
Wise is also in the process of creating a Master of Education program, and, according to Henry, a cohort of around 30 students is interested in pursuing this program in the fall semester.
Jinny Turman, faculty consulting member for the Board and History professor at Wise, shared accomplishments of Wise faculty. She said that associate professor of biology Josephine Rodriguez is collaborating with University staff and a professor of chemistry at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College to submit a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation.
The grant will support the team in exploring ways to promote STEM education and help students impacted by socioeconomic barriers succeed in STEM fields. The proposed program is called Pathways for Access, Collaboration and Equity for Central Appalachian Students.
“This team has been working on a proposal that I believe they just submitted this week to the NSF to explore developing strategies for STEM education that will help students overcome various socioeconomic barriers that may limit their advancement into STEM fields,” Turman said.
The Board will meet again June 1 and 2.