FAIRMONT, W.Va. The 27th President of Fairmont State University will be inaugurated Thursday in the Falcon Center at 4 p.m. in a public ceremony. Dr. Michael Davis officially began serving as president on July 1, 2023, after serving as the Chief of Staff at James Madison University.

In the nine months since taking office as president, Dr. Davis said the community has been helpful and accommodating to him and his family. Davis said the outpouring of support has included personal invitations to people’s homes, cheat sheets on important community facts, dinner reservations, but most of all, a feeling of belonging.

One of the first programs to launch were the “Open Mike” sessions. The sessions are typically held at a local restaurant or diner and include students, faculty, members of the community, and business leaders.

“What I’ve learned is that people are really proud of what we have at Fairmont State University and what we have in the state of West Virginia, and it’s been exciting to learn about who we are and who we might be,” Dr. Davis said.

Having a mother who worked on a college campus was his first and only knowledge or experience with higher education until he became a first-generation college student. In college, Davis said he was prepared academically and performed well but struggled socially and financially, experiences he reflects on as the mew leader of Fairmont State University.

“When I see students on our campus who are first-generation college students, I have a pretty good idea of what they’re going through, the challenges they face, and what they need.” Dr. Davis said. “So, I think being a first-generation college student gives me a perspective.”

Offering programs to prepare people for their first job or catering to the non-traditional student reentering school to advance their career possibilities is key to their success. But the changing landscape of education and the growth of technical programs have made Fairmont State University important to many others seeking advancement.

“It’s not just students the skills to help them do that first job, even though that’s really important,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s also figuring out how to give them skills so that as the workforce changes or the job they’re doing changes, they can become successful.”

During his first nine months, a collaboration with West Virginia KVC has resulted in the development of the free Middle College program. The program is the only one in the country tailored to continued development for students who come from the foster care pathway. The program gives students exiting the system not just a place to live but a place to learn a skill to build a career from and eliminates the worry about “what’s next” for that student.

“A lot of our 18, 19, or 20-year-old students don’t have a place to go back to even once they go to college, so I think the fact that you can live on our campus 12 months a year even after you’re out of the Middle College program and a college student is really going to be important,” Dr. Davis said.

According to Davis, he didn’t take this job to run a university; he took the job to be a part of and help the community grow. The futures of the city of Fairmont and Fairmont State University are intertwined and depend on each other.

“We have an opportunity to grow, serve the public, and serve our students in ways that are innovative and new,” Dr. Davis said. “I think you’ll hear a lot about that.”