According to recent reports, West Virginia’s children face some of the toughest obstacles in the country:
- one in four live in poverty,
- 13 of every 1,000 kids are in foster care (highest rate in the nation),
- the state itself ranks 50th in children’s health outcomes and
- 39th in the country in terms of children’s overall well-being.
According to WVU president Gordon Gee: “Tackling these issues is an enormous undertaking that requires grit and determination. Luckily there is no shortage of these attributes in the people of West Virginia. Enabling West Virginia’s children to envision a future that may not look anything like their present or past can turn the tide in the Mountain State. Our hope is that this program will inspire our youth to stay and prosper in the state and truly move West Virginia forward.”
The Mylan-WVU initiative is intended to inspire West Virginia’s youth by demystifying STEM and breaking through assumptions. The program will show children that STEM curricula and career opportunities are valuable for those kids who want to pursue paths beyond being engineers or lab scientists. The program’s basic tenets will reinforce that STEM skills are fundamental for solving everyday challenges, from managing personal finance to following a recipe in the kitchen. Programming will be delivered through the state’s 4-H infrastructures and WVU’s existing STEM outreach initiatives and will encourage children to become Curious, Active, Resilient and Engaged (CARE). To be curious, children need to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Being active means not standing still – mentally or physically. Resilience is getting up when knocked down, and being engaged means being present.
Mylan and WVU will create and deliver programming designed to reach students through methods that make STEM accessible, real and relevant, reinforcing the value of STEM regardless of career plan. The program aims to expand a student’s vision of career possibilities and potential education tracks, whether it be a technical degree or program or an alternate form of higher education.
Mylan chief executive officer Heather Bresch commented: “West Virginia’s children face some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, but, from personal experience, I know that they are also among the most resilient in the country. They just need hope. This reality drove the discussion and eventual collaboration between Mylan and WVU. We decided on a program that is both sustainable and forward-looking and will focus on expanding kids’ access to opportunity by encouraging them to think differently about STEM.
Bresch continued: “Our plan is to motivate West Virginia’s children to apply STEM principles to the challenges and opportunities that face the state here and now. For example, can old coal mines be repurposed for other uses or can we challenge where our food is grown with newer technologies like hydroponics? We’d like to widen the lens being applied to STEM and make the study of science, technology, engineering and math as interesting and vivid as the imagination of West Virginia’s youth. Clear and compelling connections also need to be made to careers and interests that are not traditionally viewed as STEM. Business leaders apply STEM skills daily, yet business administration, corporate finance and entrepreneurship are not commonly considered STEM careers. As a company whose mission is focused on access and creating better health, we want to help provide opportunities for West Virginia’s children to embrace a brighter tomorrow and make a difference in their home state.”
Explaining the history of the joint initiative, Joyce McConnell, provost and vice president for academic affairs at WVU, explained: “After collaborating with Mylan on relief efforts for the victims of the floods in southern West Virginia in the summer of 2016, we discussed working together on a project that would reach people in every corner of the state and tap into the unique resources and capabilities of both Mylan and the university. Then in 2017, WVUlaunched the statewide prosperity initiative, West Virginia Forward, in partnership with Marshall University and the WV Department of Commerce. West Virginia Forward identifies STEM education as essential to a workforce to prepare for the jobs of the future. This gave us a great framework for our project. Aligning Mylan’s scope of reach and practical applications with WVU’s research-based expertise and the infrastructure of both the 4-H program and our many other STEM outreach initiatives, we will be able to make STEM accessible, real and relevant to students throughout the state.”
National 4-H President Jennifer Sirangelo commented: “West Virginia University’s 4-H program helps kids grow the broad STEM skills they need to succeed in life and career. Since 2007, National 4-H Council and Cooperative Extension have had a major focus on growing 4-H’s STEM programs and outcomes nationwide. The new CARE Initiative in West Virginia is an innovative approach that will provide fresh thinking and I look forward to learning from this project as a powerful pilot concept.”
Bresch concluded: “As a native West Virginian and leader of a global company, which was founded in West Virginianearly 60 years ago and has a workforce of 3,000 in the state, it should go without saying that the Mountain State’s success is personal to all of us at the company. Everyone at Mylan is proud of the significant impact we’ve already had on West Virginia, and we look forward to continue working to make a difference. A J.D. Power economic impact analysis conducted late last year estimated that Mylan generated more than $5 billion of economic impact for its home state of West Virginia over the past three years. Other findings demonstrate the significance of Mylan’s support, including an estimate that nearly one in 100 organizations in the state conduct business with us directly. In fact, the factors that contribute to our impact also allow us to sustain our contributions and continue to serve West Virginia. Beyond West Virginia, global social responsibility (GSR) is intrinsically woven within Mylan’s commitment to achieve our mission and deliver better health for a better world.”