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A letter to Graduate and Professional Students from Katherine Karraker

Dear Graduate and Professional Students,

I’m happy to introduce the latest Graduate and Professional Student Newsletter. I encourage you to read all of the interesting and useful information that is included.

The Spring semester Graduate and Professional Student Town Hall meeting was held on Wednesday, February 28. These meetings usually provide an open forum to students to ask questions, express concerns, and make suggestions. This meeting was a little different. Several University administrators and staff members gave presentations on specific topics that were mentioned as concerns in previous meetings, and then answered students’ questions. We had a very lively discussion about the topics below:

1.     Pedestrian safety. Rob Alsop, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, described the actions the University is taking, in coordination with the City and State, to improve pedestrian safety on and around campus. This initiative follows two recent incidents in which students were struck by vehicles while walking in marked crosswalks (one resulting in death, the other in serious injury). Mr. Alsop described the establishment of a task force to study pedestrian safety, specific improvements being put into place in areas identified as especially dangerous, and planned increases in communication with both walkers and drivers about safety. He answered students’ questions about problem areas, challenges with enforcement of traffic laws, and future planning related to vehicular traffic on campus.


2.     Tuition and fees. Paula Congelio, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, explained the role of tuition in the University’s overall budget. She described the many factors considered in setting tuition rates, including state appropriations to the University (which currently provide about 17% of operating expenses), set costs (such as faculty and staff salaries), comparisons with other Universities, and student debt rates. Student questions and comments focused on college tuition (especially when charged to graduate assistants, thus effectively reducing their stipends), graduate assistant stipends (especially the lack of raises in recent years), and the need for clear and timely communication about changes in tuition and fee rates.


3.     Student health insurance. A panel of individuals involved with student health insurance and health care addressed students’ questions. The panel consisted of Toni Christian (Director of Benefits Administration) and Elizabeth Slavensky (Human Resources Manager) from the Student Insurance Office, Deborah Olson from Aetna Insurance, and Dr. Carmen Burrell (Medical Director) and Amy Sartor (Manager of Ambulatory Services) from the WVU Student Health Service. Most questions concerned the cost of health care, even with the student health insurance coverage plan. Panelists addressed how the plan deductible and out-of-pocket maximum work to affect payments for health care, how the current plan was chosen, how WVU Medicine and the student insurance plan are related, and a variety of other concerns.

This discussion clearly indicated the need for more communication with students about these issues. Plans are underway to provide more information sessions for all graduate and professional students about health insurance and health care in the fall and to include articles in this newsletter in the future to help inform students about these topics. In the meantime, if you have concerns or questions about the student health insurance plan, please review the Student Insurance Office information or contact someone in that office at Concerns about WVU Medicine care or billing should be addressed to WVU Medicine (see your WVU Medicine bill for contact information); problems with resolving issues can be addressed to Amy Sartor (, 304-285-7324) or Dr. Burrell (, 304-599-2273).

I hope that you will be able to attend future Town Hall meetings. If you have issues or concerns related to graduate education that you would like to bring to my attention, please send them to the Office of Graduate Education and Life at

Have a wonderful spring break, either here or elsewhere. I hope the rest of the year goes well for you. Congratulations to those of you who graduate in May!


Dr. Karraker

Associate Provost for Graduate Academic Affairs