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Appalachian Studies to host NEH summer seminar July 10-30

ISSUED: 5 July 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University will host its second National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminar for Teachers, “Voices from the Misty Mountains: The Literature and Culture of Appalachia.” The seminar will bring 16 public school educators from across the country to Shepherd July 10-30 to explore the culture of Appalachia and discover ways they can incorporate it into their curriculum.

Guest artists include 2014 Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker and award-winning Appalachian novelist Silas House. Both House and Walker have written dramatic productions that will be featured as part of the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), which is also running throughout the month of July and is partnering in this NEH event.

Storyteller Adam Booth, Appalachian culture and music expert Rachael Meads, and CATF Director Ed Herendeen will also serve as guest artists, as will the CATF actors and staff who will participate in seminar workshops.

Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, English professor and coordinator of Shepherd’s Appalachian Studies program, is director of the seminar. Shurbutt’s grant proposal for $118,868 to run the seminar featured the uniqueness of Shepherd University and Shepherdstown as a gateway to Appalachia. It was selected from among hundreds of proposals submitted to the NEH.

The selection of the 16 seminar participants was made from an application pool of 115. The selection committee attempted to bring a diversity of educators together whose disciplines, geographic areas, racial and ethnic diversity, and teaching appointments cover the full range of diversity that characterizes the American cultural landscape.

The 16 educators will study literature, music, storytelling, and history over the weeks of the seminar culminating with a range of project teaching/research presentations and an Appalachian road-trip across the mountains of West Virginia. Participants will visit the Culture Center in Charleston, the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, the once-thriving railroad town of Thurmond in the New River Gorge, and Hawk’s Nest, the site of one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history. Shurbutt said one of the required readings will be Denise Giardina’s “Saints and Villains,” which is about the Hawk’s Nest disaster.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for Shepherd, because these talented teachers and educators will touch the lives of the children and young people that will shape America’s future,” Shurbutt said. “The important feature about Appalachian literature is its very inclusive quality and shattering of the stereotypes often associated with this region of the country.”

The 16 teachers selected to participate in Shepherd’s program will each receive a stipend to cover their travel, study, and living expenses. The approximately 521 NEH Summer Scholars who participate in programs of study across the country will teach over 91,175 American students the following year.

In 2012 Shepherd was awarded $99,000 to host a similar seminar, which took place in July 2013. The NEH is a federal agency that each summer supports enrichment opportunities at colleges, universities,  and cultural institutions so faculty can work collaboratively and study with experts in humanities disciplines.

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