Students Participate in 2012 Appalachian Teaching Project

Friday, December 07, 2012

A team of Fairmont State University students traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier in December to present their comparative research tourism as part of the 2012 ARC Appalachian Teaching Project. Their project focused on the exploration of conflict and poverty in relationship to community sustainability and economic stability between Northern Ireland and North Central West Virginia through heritage tourism.

The project is conducted through the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on the shared main campus of FSU and Pierpont. The students’ faculty mentors are Dr. Judy P. Byers, Director, and Noel W. Tenney, Cultural Specialist. The ARC designated Byers and Tenney as ARC Appalachian Teaching Fellows for the 2012-2013 academic year. FSU also received a $4,000 grant to assist with the purchase of materials and travel used for the presentation.

“This is the fifth year our proposal has been accepted and awarded the grant,” Byers said.

The FSU team -- the only team from West Virginia selected to present on the national level -- was comprised of students Nicole Alexander, who is majoring in Contemporary Fine Arts and Technology with a minor in Graphics Technology; Kelly Blake, who is majoring in Speech Communications and Theatre; Mitchell Haines, who is majoring in Forensics and Chemistry; Sean Rafferty, who is majoring in Political Science and National Security and Intelligence; and Holly White, who is majoring in English Education with a concentration in Folklore Studies. Two other students, Brigitte Satterfield, who is majoring in Art Education, and Brittny Allen, who is majoring in Elementary Education, did not travel to Washington, D.C., but also participated in the project and gave public presentations before the Lifelong Learners of Fairmont and before an open forum of social science students directed by Dr. Craig White at Fairmont State. The students participated in a nine-month, intensive short course, local presentations and study abroad research to prepare for The Appalachian Teaching Project.

“It was the culmination of almost a full year of work. It was great to see so many other schools and students that cared about Appalachia as much as we did. Seeing these presentations and watching so many young Appalachians gave me and many other participants hope for the future,” Rafferty said.

In the summer of 2012, the students participated in a study and travel abroad program through the Folklife Center called “Roads to Appalachia Study Abroad through Northern Ireland.” The trip explored West Virginia’s connections to these root areas. All seven students received scholarships to assist with their expenses for the program. In preparation for that trip, the students took a spring 2012 intensive course. Rev. Dr. Richard Bowyer, Emeritus of the Wesley Foundation on campus, also accompanied the group to Northern Ireland.

“In April, visitors from Northern Ireland will travel to the Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College shared main campus in Fairmont to share and to help continue the study,” Byers said.

For their research project, the team of students worked through the Folklife Center and partnered with various branches of West Virginia United Methodist Church Conference. The project focused on the work of the United Methodist Conference activities in Northern Ireland and West Virginia, in relationship to conflict resolution, leadership and economic development planning. The four missions that were studied and compared in North Central West Virginia were The House of the Carpenter in Wheeling, Ohio County; Head and Hand in Philippi, Barbour County; Upshur Parish House in Buckhannon, Upshur County; and Scott’s Run Settlement House in Osage, Monongalia County.

“Fairmont State University’s perspective is unique because West Virginia is the only state that is entirely located within the whole Appalachian region,” Tenney said 

The students built upon first person experiences from their trip to Northern Ireland. With different field studies in West Virginia, students developed leadership skills and became active learners and participants by adapting previously observed and learned concepts from their study abroad experience.

“I have gained a lot of leadership skills that I did not have previously to my experience in this project,” said Holly White.

The purpose of the Appalachian Teaching Project is to provide college students the opportunity to engage in research projects that address endemic challenges facing Appalachian communities. Led by the Consortium of Appalachian Centers and Institutes, a coalition of Appalachian-studies organizations throughout the region, the program includes coursework and active student research on ways to build sustainable communities in Appalachia. This year’s conference included presentations from students representing 15 colleges and universities in 11 Appalachian states and their constituent community. This participation strengthens critical leadership skills and engages young people as active participants in their communities.

“We are honored that Fairmont State University values this initiative, which offers students a unique opportunity to conduct active community research and present their findings to an audience of their peers and ARC administrators and staff,” said Earl F. Gohl, Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

For more information about the Appalachian Teaching Project, visit For more information about the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, visit or


About the photo:

Pictured from left to right in the front row are Kelly Blake, Nicole Alexander and Holly White. In the second row pictured from left to right are Sean Rafferty, Mitchell Haines, Noel W. Tenney, Dr. Judy P. Byers and ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl.