BUCKHANNON – The 19th president of West Virginia Wesleyan College was inaugurated at the college’s annual Founders Day convocation Friday.
Dr. Joel Thierstein, who previously served as the executive vice president and provost of Mt. St. Joseph University in Ohio, welcomed the students, alumni, faculty, staff and board of trustees members to the college’s Homecoming convocation, held Friday afternoon in Wesley Chapel.
“Welcome to the best college in the world at the most beautiful place on earth,” Thierstein said shortly after he was officially inaugurated president by chair of the college’s board of trustees, Gavin Appleby.
Thierstein’s inauguration address focused on the importance of information technology and individualized learning in 21st century academic life. He referenced a 1997 Apple commercial, “which ushered in a technology driven world where everyone could be a misfit, a rebel, a troublemaker, where everyone could be a round peg in a square hole,” he said.
In 2006, the development of the smartphone, marked a massive cultural shift from “the melting pot to a mosaic world … from a world where there was no ‘I’ in team to trying to put together a team with a whole bunch of ‘I’s running around,” Thierstein added.
“Your job as an individual is to push the human race forward, and we are not only relevant, but we are leaders of change,” the new president said. “As we design solutions to today’s problems, we in the academy … inspire students to think differently.
“As we move from the rows of desks — part of the fact-model learning strategy of the 1700s — to discussion-based learning, where each individual contributes to the intellectual growth of society, we lead,” Thierstein continued. “As we move from mass education to personalized education, we lead. As we integrate project-based learning with textbook learning, we lead. As we blur the lines between formal and informal learning, we lead. As we create these individualized learning pathways, we are mindful that the journey to intellectual and spiritual enlightenment is dynamic.”
Thierstein said it’s important to acknowledge that while higher education used to encompass four years of learning that prepared students for one job, now it consists of “an education that prepares you to deal with the rapid rate of change and then continues to engage you through multiple careers over a lifetime of learning.”
The new president ended his address on a comical note by taking a picture of the crowd gathered in Wesley Chapel and then tweeting it.
“Now before I go, and now that I am officially the president of West Virginia Wesleyan College, I have one more task to perform; as you know, these days, presidents tweet,” Thierstein said, eliciting laughter from the audience with a reference to U.S. president Donald Trump. “Now, in order to fulfill my first responsibility as president, I need a picture of all this so I can tweet this out to the world, thus commemorating this event for at least 15-20 minutes.”
Instructing audience members to say, “Go Bobcats!,” Thierstein snapped a picture.
Also during the Founders Day convocation, eight new board of trustees members — including John Allevato, Jesse Ketterman, Katie Loudin, Brian Maxwell, James Moore, Ken Ramsey, Craig Welsh and Christine Rapking Cox — were sworn in by Thierstein and Appleby. Assistant professor, director of the School of Exercise Science and Athletic Training and associate athletic director Rae Emrick was honored with the General Board of Higher Education of the United Methodist Exemplary Teaching Award. The award honors faculty members who model “excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education, and service to students, the institution and the community,” according to a Wesleyan press release.