More than 16 years before Stephen Murphy played a key role in bringing down the most notorious drug lord of the 20th century, he was a member of the Bluefield, West Virginia Police Department.
In early November 2015, Murphy returned to Bluefield, with Javier Pena, to discuss their role in heading the largest, most complex, high profile investigation of its time against Pablo Escobar, the world’s first “narco-terrorist.”
One word immediately comes to mind when describing Bluefield State College: Passion.
Bluefield State’s 120-year history has been filled with and shaped by extraordinary passion for students and their success. Countless lives have been – and continue to be – transformed as a result.
Bluefield State College (BSC) was chartered in 1895 as Bluefield Colored Institute to educate the children of African American coal miners in southern West Virginia.
The college remains true to our founding mission of providing an affordable, accessible education for those who otherwise would not have that opportunity.
This passion fills the heart and soul of the campus.
Bluefield State’s story is told through the lives of the women and men who have been transformed by the college, including the composer of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” three Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American to serve on a Virginia Governor’s executive team and who later served in positions under four United States presidents, the dedicated engineer who led the team that rebuilt the Pentagon after 9/11, one of the DEA agents whose real-life work inspired the Netflix series “Narcos,” a former NASA official who received the organization’s Medal for Outstanding Leadership, and the Executive Director of the West Virginia Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs.
Bluefield State graduates also are exceptional K-12 educators, administrators, and coaches. Each of these individuals is a role model who has extended Bluefield State’s reach many times over by shaping the lives of those fortunate enough to cross their paths.
Graduates and current students frequently share stories with me about how Bluefield State has transformed their lives through the intervention and inspiration of exceptional faculty members. A note from a freshman last May speaks volumes about how deeply Bluefield State faculty and staff care about the success of our students:
“Dear teachers and staff, I would like to personally thank [the 16] of you tagged in this email for making my first year of college a success. I want to thank all of you for your help, your words of wisdom and your words of encouragement . . . and for always pushing me to do my very best. I thank you from the bottom of my heart; I could not have done it without you all.”
That is the essence of Bluefield State.
With a student body of approximately 1,500, the college offers an amazing, personal undergraduate experience that includes numerous opportunities to excel through research, competitions, special projects, internships, community outreach, and service.
Every day, faculty challenge students to apply their classroom learning and theory in real world situations. Students tackle and solve real-life challenges. As a result, Bluefield State graduates are well prepared for the workplace and highly sought after by employers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields as well as in health care, education, business, and many other professions.
Bluefield State’s passion, individual student orientation, and accessible size combine to produce a big impact. Students can easily avail themselves of a variety of distinctive opportunities, including:
- International Autonomous Ground Vehicle Competition: Bluefield State's Robotics Team placed fifth in the design component of the 2015 competition, ahead of institutions more than twenty times our size.
- Steel Bridge Building Competition: BSC's Engineering Technology students won the 2013 regional championship and advanced to the national competition.
- Undergraduate Research: Biology students conduct grant-funded research side-by-side with faculty studying cholesterol absorption, the application of natural products for immunotherapy, and cancer. They present their work in state and national venues, including the National Biomedical Research Conference where several have received special recognition. Many of these student researchers further their education in graduate-level biomedical science programs or in medical school.
- Business Competitions: BSC's student team won an international championship in the GLO-BUS Global Business Strategy Simulation competition in 2013. Another group of students was recognized as the Top First-year Enactus Business Team that year.
- Internships: Students put their classroom learning to use in solving needs of local governments and civic and non-profit organizations through internships that have included designing buildings and landscapes and surveying the city's entire stormwater infrastructure.
- Community Outreach: Teacher education students engage elementary school students in "Science Fridays," family literacy, and learning about people from other lands. Nursing and Radiologic Technology students provide free flu shots and blood pressure and glucose screenings to the public. Students in the Cole School of Business complete over 300 tax returns for area residents each year. Electrical Engineering Technology students design and construct holiday light displays that brighten the campus and City Park each December.
- Global Opportunities: Bluefield State has partnerships with universities in Liberia, Taiwan, Russia, and India. Students can study in China through the HBCU-China Scholarship Network. BSC students also interact with their peers across the globe through the Soliya program that connects students from multiple countries through technology for virtual face-to-face study.
- Athletics: The Men's Tennis Team has won four consecutive NCAA Division II regional championships and advanced to the finals. BSC's "Lady Blues" Basketball Team won the 2014 and 2015 ECAC Division II Championships. A member of our women's Volleyball Team was recently featured as the ECAC "Player of the Week," and the NCAA Division II recognized a BSC softball player for the 2014-15 season. Our student-athletes also are known for their community service in activities such as Habitat for Humanity.
Bluefield State College reflects passion through community.
Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., Senior Fellow at the King Center and nephew of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., recently visited campus for the annual “Celebration of Unity.”
This remarkable event brought together people of diverse ages, races, and creeds to celebrate the shared bond of humanity that unites us and creates community.
This collective passion for community is captured in BSC’s Ten-Year Master Plan. The plan sets forth an exciting vision that bridges the College’s historic past with a vibrant future through the return of residence halls after nearly half a century. Future students will, once again, enjoy a full residential experience on campus and the sense of community that our alumni recall.
In my inaugural address to the campus in May 2013, I observed, “Knowing where we’ve been and where we are now provides a clear picture of the course the College must follow in the years ahead. Like a majestic tree, we must deepen our roots in order to continue growing upward and extending our branches. Student success is our heritage. It also represents our future. This is what has and will continue to define and differentiate Bluefield State College . . . The college’s impact on those students will, in turn, empower them to make an impact in our local community and in the region, state, nation, and world through their careers and service.”
Bluefield State’s passion lies in making that difference.