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Grant allows Appalachian study for 16 educators next summer at Shepherd

ISSUED: 4 September 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
(Grant allows Appalachian study for 16 educators next summer at Shepherd)

Shepherdstown, WV--Shepherd University will host a seminar for 16 high school teachers from across the country to study Appalachian literature and culture through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for three weeks in July.

With the $99,000 grant, participants in "Voices from the Misty Mountains: Appalachian Writers and Mountain Culture" will learn about Appalachian culture, music, storytelling, and drama from experts in the field to increase understanding of a region that is often misunderstood.

"Most of the literature in Appalachian literature and Appalachian studies has dealt with the stereotypes of Appalachians," said Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, project director and professor of English. She applied for the grant after attending a NEH workshop last fall where she found interest in Shepherd's Appalachian Studies program. There was also interest back at the university.

"Everybody went out of their way to say, 'What can I do?'" Shurbutt said of putting together the grant application.

"It made it pretty easy for me, and we already had an established program of Appalachian studies," she said of writing the grant-application narrative. "It almost made the writing of this grant a pleasure because everybody seemed to want to go out of their way to help us." She thanked Dr. Tom Segar, vice president for student affairs, for arranging facilities and lodging on campus for the participants.

Also helpful, she said, was Warren Calderone, Shepherd's director of foundation, government, and corporate relations, who created the budget.

The seminar syllabus is structured with discussion groups, presentations, activities, and field trips, as well as time for research. Participants will complete a research project or unit that will be individualized and can be incorporated into their own teachings.

The seminar takes place at the same time as the Contemporary American Theater Festival on campus, and seminar participants will have tickets to performances as well as discussions with its founder and producing director, Ed Herendeen, who, Shurbutt said, helped plan the seminar.

"The theater festival is kind of a mainstay," she said. "It works wonderfully with Appalachian studies because the theory behind the festival is cutting-edge drama that attacks and makes you think about prejudice and discrimination."

The festival will feature a stage reading of Silas House's play Long Time Travelling. House is an award-winning Appalachian playwright and fiction writer and former Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence at Shepherd, a weeklong residency that celebrates and honors the work of a contemporary Appalachian writer.

Rachael Meads, who teaches English and Appalachian culture and music at Shepherd and is the director of the annual Appalachian Heritage Festival, will discuss the region's music, and Adam Booth, an award-winning storyteller who is also teaching at the university, will lead a seminar session about Appalachian storytelling.

"We have some of the best people in the country working on this and contributing to this project," Shurbutt said.

"The idea with any NEH summer seminar is that you attempt to have a curriculum and experiences that will reshape their lives. My goal for this Shepherd experience for these teachers is that it will be a life-changing force for them."

Once Shurbutt receives selection guidelines and specifics from the NEH next month, she will publish a seminar website which will include information about applying. The seminar is open to all high school teachers from all disciplines nationwide.


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Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt

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