In December 2013, the West Virginia University Student Government Association selected three students to serve on the WVU presidential search committee. Each student has met with The Daily Athenaeum in order to share their stories, their role on the committee and give WVU students a better sense of who has been selected to be their voice in the presidential search process. Throughout the remainder of the week, we will feature each of the students selected.
It’s something about extension services, it’s something about land-grant institutions, and it’s something about Morgantown that have shaped Paul Garton into the person he is today.
“4-H was actually my first introduction to WVU, through the WVU Extension Service,” the senior philosophy and international studies student said. “I grew up in Extension. And then I came to WVU freshman year, and I really fell in love with it here. WVU nurtured a love for the entire state and Appalachia for me.”
Garton, who is from Jane Lew, W.Va., has been selected to serve on the WVU presidential search committee.
He was also named as Mr. Mountaineer for the 2013-14 academic year.
Throughout his entire life, Garton said he had a special appreciation for the WVU Extension Service and the concept of a land-grant institution.
It’s something instilled in him through participating in 4-H and his mother’s former job as an Extension agent in Taylor County.
The WVU Extension Service originated as an agricultural-based program, but has now extended to all 55 counties and offers programs including youth development, family and health information, and resources on nutrition and agriculture.
After graduating from WVU, Garton said he hopes to earn a master’s degree at the University of Maryland and his doctorate at the University of Georgia – both land-grant institutions.
Garton said land-grant institutions are something near and dear to him, and something he wants WVU’s next president to love and appreciate, as well.
“I really think the land-grant mission is something worth pursuing, and I just want to do everything in my power to help WVU and land-grants all across the nation,” he said. “(Land-grants) opened up the doors for higher education for people like me who can’t afford it.”
When looking for potential presidential candidates, Garton said he also wants a leader who can think beyond WVU and look at the broader perspective of the entire state.
“I think it’s very important to consider the broader picture beyond just WVU,” he said. “Since WVU is such a large institution and so important to all of West Virginia, and especially Morgantown, this isn’t just a typical president of just a small college.
“This is one the most powerful and influential positions in West Virginia. It’s something that I take extremely seriously.
“Whether their big plan can be achieved or not, I’d like to see someone have a lot of eagerness. Even if its not all realized, a lot of it may be realized and that’s so great.”
Garton said he hopes to select a candidate who can look to the future for West Virginia and continue its rich cultural past.
“I want them to see potential in West Virginia. I want them to see opportunities that WVU and WVU Extension can shoot at to try and develop in some of the less developed areas and further develop areas that are already developed,” he said.
“But, apart from them looking at the potential West Virginia has, I also want them to be able to look back and see the rich history and culture that West Virginia has had and do their best to maintain that.”
But working to improve WVU and the city of Morgantown are also important aspects for Garton, too.
As a member of “The Pride of West Virginia” The Mountaineer marching band, Garton became familiar with a variety of areas on campus, including the Creative Arts Center and WVU’s athletic department.
Garton said he loves Morgantown because it offers a little bit of something for everyone.
“It’s something about Morgantown. I can never put my finger on it. It’s a wonderful town. It’s sort of a cultural center for West Virginia,” he said. “I think WVU is sort of the epicenter, institutionally, for West Virginia. And I just think that’s so cool.”