AEI and West Liberty University partner to create new center

The Appalachian Education Initiative and West Liberty University are pleased to announce a new partnership which will result in the creation of an arts and education center on the West Liberty campus.  The Center will be a collaboration between AEI and the Colleges of Education and Arts and Communication at the University. The Center will provide programs, resources and services for artists, educators, West Liberty students, and others and focus on the arts, education, and the integration of the disciplines.  Funding for the Center and the partnership has been provided through a $166,000 grant to West Liberty University from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with West Liberty University,” said AEI Executive Director Lou Karas. “This collaboration will not only provide both AEI and West Liberty University with access to new resources, it will also provide opportunities to expand programs and services to support the arts and arts education in West Virginia schools.”

Dr. Keely Camden, Dean for the College of Education, and Dr. Bill Baronak, Dean for the College of Arts and Communication at West Liberty University, co-authors with Karas on the grant, are working to involve faculty, staff, students, and the community in this collaborative effort.  “We are privileged to be working with Lou Karas and AEI and are most grateful to the Benedum Foundation for their support of this collaboration and center,” said Dr. Keely Camden.  Many of our faculty, staff, and students are already actively engaged in the planning process, and they are very excited for future projects, grants, and professional development,” said Dr. Bill Baronak.  The College of Arts and Communication houses programs in Art Education, Music Education, Theater, Digital Media Design, Graphic Design, Broadcasting, Communication Studies, Sports Broadcasting, and Documentary Films.  The College of Arts and Communication partners closely with the College of Education on Music and Art Education certification programs. A new proposal for Theater Education with teacher certification is being written for state approval.

AEI will move its office from Morgantown to the West Liberty University campus this summer.  The organization will continue its statewide work, including its relationships with the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and VSA, the international organization for the arts and disabilities from its new location.

Planning for the new Center is already underway and will continue through the summer and fall.  For more information about the new partnership, contact Ms. Karas at or 304-225-010.

About AEI:

The Appalachian Education Initiative (AEI) is an arts education intermediary, serving as an information broker and partnership builder throughout West Virginia.  The organization was founded by Jennifer Francis Alkire and her father, Michael Francis, in 2001 to promote the importance of quality arts in the public school curriculum and to provide support to teachers, artists, administrators, parents and others who are working to provide quality arts programs to West Virginia students.

AEI is the West Virginia affiliate of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and a partner with VSA, the international organization for the arts and disabilities. For more information about AEI, go to