WLU Foundation secures a $200,000 donation to update Blatnik gym and graphic design lab

Visual communication design (VCD) Emily Everson working on one of the new iMacs in the updated graphic design lab.

The West Liberty University Foundation secured a $200,000 procured gift from two donors, Kristina Williams and Jim Taibi, both who graduated from West Liberty State College in 1986. Williams and Taibi currently reside in Urbandale, Iowa. The donation will be used for several maintenance projects across campus but will mainly go towards updates in the Blatnik gym and the graphics lab, located in room 111 in the fine arts building. 

Angie Zambito-Hill, executive director of the WLU Foundation, explained that the foundation is a separate, non-profit organization from the university; however, its mission is to serve the university “through fundraising, investment, stewardship, and management of private funds.” 

Hill described how the Foundation goes through a development process each fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) which helps them identify projects on campus that need to be addressed. “​​So, each cycle we have a number of projects that we have slated to be addressed and that list is approved by the president and his cabinet and reviewed by the board of governors as well as the WLU Foundation Board. This process sets the tone for projects that we are going to be pursuing,” Hill further explained. 

Joe Rodella, the university’s chief information officer/chief operations officer information technology says that the computers were “past their useful life” and needed replaced. “Without the support of the WLU Foundation and the generosity of their donors, the project would have taken multiple budget cycles. We are very grateful for the philanthropic generosity of our donors and are convinced that this will prove a great benefit to our students by allowing faculty to leverage the most current software in their curriculum,” said Rodella. Hill said, “These two projects will have a direct impact on students. The design programs are very dependent on updates on technology. That was viewed as a significant need to replace them. Blatnik gym is involved in updating the floor and the space to make it more user friendly for student recreation activities.” 

Dr. Martyna Matusiak, chair for the department of media and visual arts, shared her gratitude towards the donors and the WLU Foundation. Revealing she was “thrilled” to learn the updates were happening this year, Matusiak said, “[I felt] extreme gratitude for the generous support. It was a long road and investment that wouldn’t be possible without the WLU Foundation’s hard work.”  According to Mutasiak, the iMacs in the graphics lab were over 10 years old and had been limiting student and faculty potential. She added, “this new space will allow students to gain skills in artistic, academic and industry-specific areas under the guidance of WLU faculty.” Additionally, these specific updates will be serving many programs within the college of liberal and creative arts. 

“These updates will serve several areas in our college. We have consolidated two digital labs into one now, so this design lab serves music technology programs, photography students, the digital media design program and visual communication program. It is probably the busiest classroom in our building,” Matusiak shared. 

Moonjung Kang, professor of visual communication design, expressed her feeling of excitement by saying “[I felt] happy and thankful. These updates are a vital and essential thing for us.” Kang shared how difficult the learning and teaching process was while working with outdated equipment saying, “you would not believe how bad it is when we are trying to run a program and it is running really slow.” 

After the updates have been made, Kang claims there has already been a “significant” difference in the classroom. “These computers are a tool. It is our major program. Basically, if the computers and their programs are rusty and not working, you cannot study properly.”  

Emily Everson, a visual communication design student here at the university, shared some of her experiences with the new updates to the lab saying, “the design lab updates are definitely very beneficial to our design experience and efficiency. Between receiving new iMacs and other new technology, like drawing tablets, we are able to benefit from newer, faster and more modern technology. I use the iMacs in the design lab often, especially for programs more difficult to run on my laptop like After Effects. I feel like I have already noticed a difference in speed and performance, which is very exciting!” Everson showed emotions of appreciation saying she would like to thank those who have contributed to the updates in the lab. Everson said, “I know that I and many others are very appreciative of their help to us!”

Both the students and professors within the college of liberal and creative arts extend their deepest gratitude to Williams and Taibi, whose generous gift made these updates to campus possible.  The college would also like to thank IT services for seeing the updating process through.  

The WLU Foundation is focused on building a culture of philanthropy at WLU. We hope to find ways to educate our students on the impact philanthropy has on our campus and the number of projects, scholarships and programs that private donors give back on an annual basis. Many of them give because WLU had a huge impact on their lives and they are now in a position to give back,” said Hill.