Campus News

University Press of Kentucky: Q&A with Ashley Runyon

Image of books on bookshelf
Ashley Runyon pictured in red

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 6, 2022) — You may have a book published by the University Press of Kentucky on your bookshelf or on your Kindle. But, what exactly is a university press? And, why are they important?

The University Press of Kentucky is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Since 1969, the press has represented a consortium that now includes all of Kentucky’s state universities, seven of its private colleges and two historical societies.

UKNow spoke with Ashley Runyon, the director of the University Press of Kentucky, to learn about their mission, purpose and all that they offer for everyone across the Commonwealth and beyond.

UKNow: What exactly is a university press, and why are they important?

Runyon: A university press is a nonprofit scholarly publisher. University presses generally publish titles that big trade houses don’t because we’re not driven by profit — but by excellence.

The University Press of Kentucky was set up in 1943 to serve Kentucky and the Appalachian region and publishes around 55 books per year. The University Press of Kentucky has a dual mission — the publication of academic books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields and the publication of significant books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South and Appalachia.

UKNow: What genres or subject areas do you commonly publish?

Runyon: While we publish heavily in Kentucky and Appalachian studies, most people are surprised to learn that we have award-winning lists in film studies, military history, poetry, public health and civil rights. Not to mention our incredible books on three of Kentucky’s favorite pastimes — basketball, bourbon and horses!

UKNow: The press is technically located on UK’s campus, but doesn’t it serve the entire Commonwealth?

Runyon: While the University Press of Kentucky is housed at the University of Kentucky, the press serves all Kentucky state-sponsored institutions of higher learning as well as seven private colleges and Kentucky’s two major historical societies.

UKNow: Tell me a little bit about your NAACP Image Award and American Book Award. What is the significance of both and what does it signify about the impactful work the press is doing?

Runyon: In the past year, the University Press of Kentucky has won many prestigious awards. Two that stand out are the NAACP Image Award for Crystal Wilkinson’s “Perfect Black” and the American Book Award for "{#289-128}" by Randall Horton. These awards are outstanding accolades and signify the great work the press and authors are publishing on a national scale.     

UKNow: What can you offer students at UK that they maybe can’t find elsewhere?

Runyon: The University Press of Kentucky is the largest publisher in the state and has a robust intern program. The press offers students hands-on training in publishing, marketing, and book production at a respected, national press in their own town — not in New York or another big city.

UKNow: You have been director for about two years now. What are your goals for the press?

Runyon: The University Press of Kentucky has a legacy and culture of excellence, both in the books that we publish and in how we give back to the Commonwealth. Despite decades of acclaim, many Kentuckians aren’t aware of the press. I want to change that and make the press a household name in the Bluegrass State by celebrating Kentucky voices that aren’t always heard.

UKNow: What do you want people to know about the press?

Runyon: In addition to publishing award-winning titles, the press also gives back to the Kentucky community. More than 1,300 titles are available free to Kentucky public schools and libraries.

UKNow: How can people stay in touch with your sales, events and new releases?

Runyon: Follow us on social media @kentuckypress or at our website at You can also sign up for our monthly e-newsletter at

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.