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Students Experience More than Academics at Liberal Arts College

Apr 9, 2018

By Amanda Hayes
Staff Writer, The Record Delta

BUCKHANNON – He was against going to West Virginia Wesleyan College, even stopping to open mailings from the school.

Lucas Trovato had participated in the scholar program through West Virginia Radio but when he didn’t win the top prize had moved on to considering other schools.

“I got a letter in the mail saying I was accepted and I didn’t even know I had applied,” he said. “I got to the point I was so against coming here, I wouldn’t open the mail.”

But as Trovato continued his college search, the Morgantown native heard major complaints at other schools he toured from the education, to environment and community.

When a prospective night to stay at one of the other schools fell through, Trovato still really wanted to stay a night on a college campus and he begrudgingly decided to visit WVWC for Orange and Black day.

Trovato stayed on campus for the night and felt so welcomed by the students he stayed with that when he was picked up the next day, he was ready to tell his parents, “I think I might want to go here.”

Four years later, the senior political science and communication studies major has no regrets about his decision to attend the small liberal arts college he almost said no to.

Trovato immersed himself in campus life working as a resident assistant for two years and now as resident director his senior year.

“To me, my experience has gotten better as the years have gone on,” he said.

He was a student-athlete for two years as a member of the West Virginia Wesleyan College Bobcat Baseball team.

He has participated in the political science honorary and various co-curricular activities.

Trovato has also grown in his faith during his time at WVWC, starting a Bible study on campus and now working on the beginning of a men’s ministry.

He completed two study abroad experiences including one in Kenya that was not a school program but a connection with Wesleyan helped him secure a discount and pair his classes with his major.

He has also served with Student Senate and as a student rep on the board of trustees.

And for a student who once wanted to go somewhere else, he is now planning to remain at Wesleyan to earn a Master of Business Administration.

In his undergraduate time, Trovato fell in love with both of his majors.

“I really, really love the heads of the departments – Dr. Mu Hu, head of communication studies and Dr. Robert Rupp, head of the political science department,” he said. “They have their own quirks and they are fun. Their classes are fun. Above all, I haven’t had a single professor that I felt like didn’t care about their students.

“I think it’s because of the small classes and just the atmosphere here. You know your professors on a deeper level. You have connections with them. I felt like all of my professors have actively sought out their students getting a more intense education than just showing up in class and walking out.”

And Trovato said that everything he has done for the past four years has come through Wesleyan — from summer jobs to study abroad to his graduation trip to England with friends from Wesleyan.

“The connections that I have made have given me experiences outside of the eight months I am on campus,” he said.

Like Trovato, senior Katie Robinson, a biochemistry major from Renick, was also not interested in Wesleyan at first.

“I wasn’t really looking here and then I sort of was drawn in because of the financial aid packet,” she said. “I visited on Do Good Day which was a really good time to have prospective students on campus because the entire campus was alive and thriving.”

Robinson than met with the women’s soccer coach and some of the players who offered a real perspective on being a student-athlete and their experiences at Wesleyan.

She committed to coming to Wesleyan and then visited again for an academic day.

“The head of the chemistry department — Dr. Edward Wovchko and head of math department — Dr. Pamela Wovchko — They fought over me and pulled out all the stops to show me their departments,” she said. “It was funny, but it really showed me how invested they were in what they did and how much they cared about students. At that point, I was really sold.”

In the end, the chemistry department won over Robinson.

“I decided to go to medical school, so I thought that was the best fit,” she said.

For the last 2 ½ years, Robinson has been a research student under Dr. Luke Huggins and received the Appalachian Scholarship Association’s Ledford Scholarship to help fund her research. A four-year soccer player for the Lady Bobcats, Robinson also found her place in the college’s Center for Community Engagement where she has been a WE LEAD issue team leader and part of the leadership development program.

“A lot of it is community service but there’s also an aspect of developing yourself as a leader,” she said.

“That has been a defining experience in my time at Wesleyan because a lot of what I want to do has developed from the CCE.”

Robinson is also a founding member of the Wesleyan Pre-Med Society and has helped lead that group over the last couple years.

“We started out very small, but it has been fun to see it grow,” she said.

Robinson also made time to study abroad in Israel through the Maxine Bruhns Scholarship on campus.

“I studied refugee mental health which went along with my psychology minor and it was a phenomenal experience,” she said.

Robinson said she recommends Wesleyan to friends and to anyone she can back in her home area.

“I think the defining experience of my time here is how invested everyone is in you,” she said. “They want you to have maximum opportunities of experiences and they are so interested in you having the optimal experience. Everything I am involved in, there is not one area that people are not really excited about.

“I think Wesleyan attracts students who like that and the students I have interacted with are very driven and bettering themselves into having the best possible experience,” she said. “I think Wesleyan attracts that type of student.”

Greg Strader, a graduate student in the Master of Business Administration Program from Pennsylvania, attended WVWC for undergrad.

As an undergraduate, one of the first things Strader became involved in was Enactus which takes on business-minded projects in the community to empower others. The group is working with Opportunity House on a project currently.

He also became involved in campus life which teaches students how they can help the community through various pillars of leadership and community.

Strader was also able to travel to Korea this past summer through an opportunity he made through a connection at the school.

Strader found the opportunity to explore West Virginia with the outdoor recreation group.

“In my undergrad, I participated in a lot of their trips,” he said. “I also interned with outdoor recreation and helped them facilitate programs my senior year.”

Even being able to earn his MBA at WVWC is a result of getting a graduate assistant position at the school.

“The whole community aspect pulled me in but also helped me to do great things,” he said. “It enabled me to continue that community to help empower new people so that is a nice cycle.”

Sarah Sisson, of Parkersburg, is a junior majoring in athletic training with a psychology minor.

“I liked that it was a smaller campus,” she said. “This really helped me get involved like I was in high school.”

Sisson found outlets through WE LEAD and has been a team leader for animal welfare and sustainability teams and a coordinator for the poverty reduction team.

“We take those issues and try to educate people,” she said. “We create awareness around campus.”

Zeta Tau Alpha sorority has helped Sisson develop more leadership skills which she has also learned through the CCE’s leadership development program.

Sisson also works with the football and baseball teams as a student athletic trainer.

Senior Joie Johnston, from Wheeling, will graduate in three years.

She came to WVWC because of former head cross country and track coach Jessie Skiles’s special program for runners to not over extend themselves.

“He put me on the program that has allowed me to be injury free all three years,” she said.

Johnston has run cross country, indoor and outdoor track and says balancing her life as a student-athlete has taught her a lot.

“It forces you to manage your time better,” she said. “I have two to three practices every day. You know the free time you have, has to be spent on doing your homework. So with that limited amount of time, you prioritize well. I’m in season all year long. I could not imagine being in college and not being a student-athlete.”

Johnston said her coaches have always stressed academics over athletics which has helped her in her history major.

“Academics come first always,” she said. “The women’s cross country team has had the highest grade point average on campus for many years. I liked that we came into a program that emphasized our academics.”

Johntson said she has been an Academic All-American as have most of her teammates.

“Coach Skiles instilled that in us so that’s 10 times more important than what we learned on track,” she said.

Outside of athletics, Johnston is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority where she has served as philanthropy chair and chaplain.

“Being chaplain has been most rewarding,” she said. “Whether it was starting a Bible study or developing faith in my sisters, it has been one of the best experiences of my college career. I feel like that’s why God led me to join ADP.”

Johnston also joined College Republicans and has helped organize several events.

“Being in College Republicans has only further expanded my interest in politics,” she said.

In Student Senate, Johnston said her experience there rivals ADP because she was a vice president and set in on committees with students, faculty, administration and staff to see how hard everyone at Wesleyan works to help the students succeed.

“I even was given the opportunity to work on the inauguration committee for our new president,” she said. “That was a very cool experience.”

“Wesleyan is really great at allowing students to be involved in a million different things and still focus on their academics. I think being involved in so many different things helps you grow as a person. You can really pursue an academic career and grow in leadership development.”