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New master’s degree in Appalachian studies to begin fall 2019

Pictured (l. to r.) are Dr. Richard Stevens, dean of graduate studies; Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, director, Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities; and Dr. Scott Beard, provost.

Shepherd University will begin offering a new Master of Arts degree in Appalachian studies in fall 2019. The Higher Learning Commission recently gave final approval for the program.

“The new degree builds upon a number of nationally recognized programs at Shepherd, including the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, Speak Storytelling Series, Appalachian Heritage Festival and Writer-in-Residence program, West Virginia Fiction Competition, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, and a vibrant Appalachian Community Speakers series,” said Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, director of Shepherd’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities.

Shurbutt said the new degree should appeal to students interested in improving their qualifications for the regional job market, those already working in a variety of areas such as education, politics and government, local and regional planning, economic development, historic preservation, and cultural and arts organizations, and those interested in understanding the region from a variety of historical, cultural, and global perspectives.

The Master of Arts degree in Appalachian studies is an interdisciplinary program requiring 30-33 credit hours. There are two concentrations, Appalachian history, culture or heritage, and preserving Appalachian communities, business development, and the environment. Students who have earned Shepherd’s 15-hour graduate certificate in Appalachian studies can apply all those credits toward completion of the master’s program.

Students in the program must complete some form of community service and can choose to work for a semester in the region through an internship program or to study abroad in lieu of required electives. Students who select an optional semester studying at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have the opportunity to earn two master’s degrees, one in media studies from UWS and the other in Appalachian studies from Shepherd.

“Shepherd has a rich tradition of celebrating Appalachian culture,” said Dr. Richard Stevens, dean of graduate studies. “The Master of Arts degree in Appalachian studies builds upon and expands the great work of Shepherd as a whole and its successful non-degree Appalachian studies certificate as we formalize this learning to a brand-new graduate degree. This truly interdisciplinary degree complements our six other existing graduate degrees.”

“The new program offers outstanding opportunities that are particularly appealing and distinctive to those wishing to learn more about our region,” said Dr. Scott Beard, provost. “A signature feature of the new program includes study and field experiences both in Appalachia and abroad, our Appalachian Writer-in-Residence program that partners students directly with experts in the field, and the community service component. All these initiatives provide enhanced engagement opportunities as students become aware of the broad spectrum of Appalachian culture and needs of the Appalachian community.”