Topper Spotlight


Jessica Crighton crosses Abbey RoadJESSICA CRIGHTON ‘13

West Liberty University graduate Jessica Crighton ‘13, was selected as digital media assistant at the University of Hertfordshire, England recently.

Crighton, who’s from Chester, W.Va., earned her WLU degree in digital media with the College of Arts and Communications. She now lives in London and commutes by train to her position at the University of Hertfordshire, which is about 30 miles out of London.

Jessica Crighton takes an iconic pose on Abbey Road, London, imitating the Beatles famous album cover of the same name.

“It’s a big university and has more than 25,000 students. London is my favorite city so I’m very happy,” Crighton said in an email interview. She visited London during her semester abroad program with the Washington Center, an internship program offered at WLU and even spent her last semester studying at Hertfordshire.

“I work on the website ( and my job entails pretty much everything that I learned in my digital media degree: graphic design, video production, online marketing, web, etc. I’m so happy with where I am and enjoy what I’m doing! I know my internships through the Washington Center and skills I learned in my degree helped me out immensely!

“I’m also happy I attended West Liberty. It allowed me to go to D.C. and London through The Washington Center which I think is one of the best programs West Liberty offers it’s students.” West Liberty offers its students opportunities to work and study abroad through the Washington Center and is the largest internship placement organization in Washington, D.C.

“Jessica was a great student and one of many from her family to graduate from WLU. It’s not a surprise she is finding success right after graduation. She’s smart, creative, driven and very sincere. She was able to take the high tech skills she learned in college and package that with excellent creative and story telling skills,” said one of her instructors here at WLU, Brian Fencl. Fencl is professor of art and chair of the department of communications studies and visual art.

“All of the teachers I had at West Liberty cared about their student’s success and were so helpful. I will look back fondly on the MAD festival (which I consider an Art Department Celebration and was my favorite time of the year on the hill) as well as all of the AIGA functions I attended,” she said, referring to the annual spring Media Art and Design exhibition (MAD) and the American Institute for Graphic Arts club that is very active on the WLU campus.

“On the communications side, I learned so much from my experience at WGLZ radio. I’m thankful for being taught to use professional video equipment in my video production classes. I’ll now be using this knowledge to make videos at my job. I learned everything that helped me start my professional career.

The College of Arts and Communication includes the department of journalism, communication studies and visual arts and the department of music and theatre. For more information, please contact Dean Bill Baronak at [email protected]



Curtis Johnson '81CURTIS JOHNSON ‘81

“WLU is a good choice for serious music students. The faculty are professional, personable and always there for the students. I enjoyed my time there immensely and enjoy returning,” said music educator and artist Curtis Johnson recently.

Johnson is a renowned R&B performer and has backed stars like Ray Charles, Little Anthony, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry, Isaac Hayes, Lou Rawls, The Spinners, Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves, Cheryl Lynn — and is currently touring with Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Most recently, he was one of 217 music teachers from 195 cities across 45 states announced as quarterfinalists for the first ever Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy® and the GRAMMY Foundation®. In total, more than 30,000 initial nominations were submitted from all 50 states.

He also performs freelance and has completed many successful tours of Europe for more than 30 years. Since 2008 he performed in several International Jazz Festivals in Russia. In addition he performs with the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra under the direction of world-renowned trumpeter Sean Jones.

He was guest soloist with WLU’s own jazz ensemble in 2011 and has never forgotten his happy times on the Hilltop.

Now a retired associate professor of music at West Virginia University, this alumnus taught at WVU for more than 20 years. After earning his Bachelor of Music degree at West Liberty, he earned a Master of Music degree in saxophone performance at WVU. Johnson has been an adjunct faculty member at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Washington & Jefferson College and at his alma mater WLU.

As active as he has been in his performance career, Johnson has never left the classroom. Jazz education continues to be his forte. He began his career as director of jazz studies at WVU, taking several large ensembles and small groups to regional conferences and national performances.

He has conducted numerous all-star high school and college bands, including The 1996 Maryland All-State Jazz Ensemble. Johnson also has served as artistic director for the Krakow (Poland) School for Jazz and Contemporary Music Summer Jazz Academy.

Creative Music Solutions, an organization run by Johnson since 2001, has sponsored numerous tours to Europe with various performing groups since 2002 and began sponsoring high school and college music group tours to Europe during summer 2005.

Johnson also is an artist/clinician for the Yamaha Corporation of America Band and Orchestra Division.

Classically, Johnson has performed on numerous North American Saxophone Alliance Conference programs, World Saxophone Congress programs and national Saxophone Symposium programs. He has performed as soloist with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to a Curtis Johnson performance by clicking here.



Kim Lawrence '75KIM NUZUM LAWRENCE ‘75

Alumna Kim Nuzum-Lawrence spent most of her professional career in educational public relations but is now partner and co-founder of one of West Virginia’s most respected and award-winning advertising and political consulting firms: Rainmaker, Inc. Formed in 2005, Rainmaker has captured dozens of state and national awards for its creative work in radio, television, print, politics and public affairs.

Nuzum-Lawrence also serves as the executive director of Energize West Virginia, an organization that promotes the burgeoning natural gas industry and development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia.
“I love the fact that I’m working on a second chapter in my professional life,” she said. “My work with Rainmaker has been so gratifying especially since we are a relatively small, new firm but have been able to emerge as the one of the top award-winning advertising/marketing agencies in the state. And the fact that we are considered the state’s premier political consulting firm is another great source of pride.”
Prior to forming her own company, she served as director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Education where she was responsible for the agency’s entire communications effort and was chief speechwriter for the state superintendent of schools and the state board of education.
Nuzum-Lawrence also spent 20 years traversing the country as an emcee for beauty pageants. A former Miss West Virginia-USA, she hosted shows in nearly every state for the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss Teen All American and Mrs. America pageant systems.
Originally from Wheeling, she has lived in Charleston since 1991 and she and her husband, Alex, are avid golfers and tennis players.

Author: IA Staff

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