Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie visited West Liberty University recently to share his knowledge with Professor Stephen Criniti’s class called “Writing Wheeling.”
McKenzie spoke to the 18 students in the honors English course and explained the history and significance of the Friendly City. Mayor McKenzie, who is a WLU alumnus, described the development and changes that are now happening.
“In order to make Wheeling more appealing for people, it is not enough to just see a big picture. It’s the details that matter,” said McKenzie as he discussed Wheeling’s past and answered students’ questions on the topic.
“The mayor’s visit was very informative. It was meaningful to hear someone talk about the future of Wheeling. He has a lot of great ideas, and I’m grateful he took the time to share his knowledge with our class,” said Kevin Stryker, a freshman from Wheeling and a sports management major.
McKenzie was the third guest speaker for the Writing Wheeling class and followed recent alumna Amanda Carney, who is the new owner of an art studio and framing store in the Centre Market neighborhood of Wheeling. Prior to Carney the class heard from the coordinator of adult programming at Ohio County Public Library, Sean Duffy.
Dr. Criniti implements an interactive approach in his class as a way to make it relevant and dynamic.
“It’s always a challenge to help students recognize the real-world applications of their learning, especially in a general education class. So, as my students were working on writing about Wheeling in the class, it seemed like a powerful teaching opportunity to introduce them to someone who can effect the kinds of changes in the city they were writing about. The Mayor’s visit helped to bring the so-called ‘real world’ into the classroom in a very real way,” Criniti said.
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In addition to learning from the guest speakers, students gathered information for their research from participation in a field trip organized by Jeremy Morris, executive director of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation and from the classroom discussions.
“This class is really enlightening. I learned a lot about the region’s strength,” said Callaway Barr, a freshman from Austin, Texas. Barr is pre-professional biology major, planning on going into the physician assistant program. She was recruited in her junior year of high school to join WLU athletics and plays softball for the Hilltoppers.
“I always try to build my courses around a particular theme. In this case, given that it was an honors course, I thought it might be beneficial — for both the students and the community at large — if some of our best and brightest were given an opportunity to explore, investigate, and form an overall connection with the city,” Criniti said.
Criniti joined West Liberty University as associate professor of English in 2008.
Mayor McKenzie graduated from West Liberty State College in 1992 and earned a MBA from West Virginia University. He also received an honorary doctoral degree from WLU in 2012. Besides serving as mayor, McKenzie is employed as a financial advisor and also has served as a senator with the West Virginia Legislature from 1996-2008.
“I’m grateful to all the professionals who are sharing their knowledge with these students from our Honors College. The class is both challenging and fun. The information that these leaders bring with them is perfect for this group of inquiring students,” Criniti said.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Criniti is the author of Weelunk’s Only In Wheeling series. Apologies for the headline.