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West Liberty University Establishes New Energy and Commerce Institute

West Liberty University has announced the establishment of the Institute for Energy and Commerce, operated through the WLU Research Corporation.

“Over the past six years, West Liberty University has made a significant commitment to the advancement of scholarly activity through the creation of the Research Corporation and by providing support for such programs as the Center for Entrepreneurship, Arts and Education, the S.U.R.E. program for student-based research in the College of Science, our student research competition in the College of Science and through an 833 percent increase in funding for scholarly activity conducted by our faculty,” said President Robin C. Capehart at a 10 a.m. press conference, held today at the Highlands Center.

From left, Jim Shaffer, Robin Capehart and Chris Hamilton discuss the newly established Institute for Energy and Commerce.

From left, Jim Shaffer, Robin Capehart and Chris Hamilton discuss the newly established Institute for Energy and Commerce.

“We’re here to announce a new initiative, one that — again — responds to the rapidly changing economic world in which we live,” Capehart said. “The continuing influence of the coal industry and the rapid growth of the natural gas industry have created both questions and opportunities.”

“It’s our belief that West Liberty University, which is strategically located in the heart of both the coal and natural gas industries, is well-positioned to lead this regional and national discussion,” he said.

The new Institute will have a two-fold purpose, according to Capehart.

  • Research on issues surrounding the role of the energy industry in the economic future of our state and our nation. Researchers will include WLU faculty as well as a panel of highly regarded researchers from colleges and universities around the nation and individuals associated with other research organizations.
  • Work with the energy industry to determine the academic and professional programs that will be necessary to produce tomorrow’s leaders.

Capehart noted that Dr. Michael J. Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and a professor of economics in the Miller College of Business at Ball State University, has agreed to serve as a visiting scholar and a distinguished research fellow at the new Institute.

Capehart also announced that Chris Hamilton has agreed to serve as the chairman of the new Institute’s Industry Council.

“I’m pleased to join with President Capehart and his administration in this exciting and innovative endeavor. West Liberty University is a proven leader in academic excellence and community leadership and is strategically situated within the nation’s energy reserves and portfolio,” said Hamilton who is a Wheeling native.

Also the senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, Hamilton has spent nearly 40 years in the coal mining industry. He has been responsible for legislative, regulatory and technical matters affecting the industry and serves as co-chair of the West Virginia Coal Forum, a joint labor-management group designed to foster a dialogue between miners and coal operating personnel, and as co-chair of the Mountaintop Mining Coalition.

The former owner of a safety-training consulting firm, Hamilton served as training director for the West Virginia Department of Mines before joining the WVCA. He has worked as an underground miner and section foreman and possesses mine foreman certifications from West Virginia and Ohio.

Additional appointments include the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety, the West Virginia Board of Miner Training Education and Certification, the West Virginia Mine Safety and Technical Review Committee and the West Virginia Diesel Equipment Commission. He earned a master’s degree in business from West Virginia University.

Fostering Business Development by leveraging WLU’s intellectual, technological, and material resources, the WLU Research Corporation was founded to partner with people and businesses that want to develop ideas.

For more information, please visit www.westliberty.edu or call 1.866.WESTLIB.