MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University sent 32 experts to Charleston to lend policy advice to Governor-elect Jim Justice’s transition team.

West Virginia University Provost Joyce McConnell is co-chairing the transition team with Marshall University Provost Gayle Ormiston.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the state to truly take a look at our priorities, our needs and our goals,” McConnell said in a press release. “We were honored to play a role in providing the governor-elect and his staff with the broad-based information they will need on these issues to help them make the best decisions for West Virginia’s future.”

McConnell is also chair of the higher education expert group. Clay Marsh, vice president & executive dean for health sciences at WVU, will co-chair the healthcare/DHHR group with Albert Wright Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, along with two outside experts.

Justice stated during the campaign that he intended to bring together people with expertise necessary to address West Virginia’s challenges and opportunities, McConnell told The West Virginia Record.

“He turned to the provosts of West Virginia’s two main universities – WVU and Marshall – to serve as co-chairs of the Transition Policy Committees,” McConnell said.

“Gayle Ormiston and I are vice presidents for academic affairs and have extensive experience working with experts from many different subject areas,” McConnell said. "Governor-elect Justice selected us to serve as co-chairs of the Transition Policy Committees because of our role in the state as leaders in higher education institutions with experts in areas critical to West Virginia’s future. As co-chairs, we look forward to coordinating a process that will assist Governor-elect Justice to meet the state’s challenges through policy recommendations and development."

Expert groups on eight policy subjects make up the transition team, including tourism, health care/Department of Health and Human Resources, substance abuse, energy and the environment, public education, infrastructure/transportation, economic development and higher education.

One member of the 32-expert group is Joshua Paul Fershee, associate dean for faculty research and development and professor of law, who told The West Virginia Record that the selection process for the members of the group was likely a combination of expertise, energy and business law in his case, and availability.

“I have been researching the economic, social, and environmental opportunities and challenges related to shale oil and gas for 10 years,” Fershee said. “I also have extensive experience working with business formation and development. These are important issues to West Virginia, and I assume these areas of expertise were part of the decision; I'm happy to serve and help where I can.”

The initial meeting last month centered on identifying challenges and opportunities and setting up an agenda to address those, Fershee said.

“We face enormous challenges, and it will take creative ideas from a whole range of people to forge a new path toward a more stable, sustainable and prosperous future for all West Virginians,” Fershee said.

At the meeting, each committee met for three hours to sift through ideas and to make initial policy recommendations to Justice, McConnell said.

“The provosts of WVU and Marshall will synthesize the recommendations and submit them to Governor-elect Justice,” McConnell said. “He will review these recommendations and seek additional research from WVU and Marshall on specified recommendations.”

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