By Bethany Miller
Appalachian culture is not only important to natives of the region. Often misunderstood and underrepresented, it is necessary for our nations' society as a whole to be aware of Appalachian America. From Oct. 23 through Oct. 25, Ohio University Zanesville's The Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments national conference draws attention to such issues.
Though the title of the conference celebrates women's legacy and achievements, participation is not limited to women. Many Appalachian issues cross gender, Zanesville Dean Jim Fonseca said.
"Men need to learn what's going on in the region involving women's studies, too," Fonseca said. Fonseca was involved in the founding of the conference five years ago.
The conference is really a celebration of Appalachian culture in general, providing participants with "a sense of who they are and where they come from," Cindy Oliver said. Along with Jamie White, Oliver coordinated this year's conference due to the retirement of the director of the Office of Personal and Professional Development at OU Zanesville.
"The conference was started to make women and the people more aware of the heritage of Appalachia," Oliver said.
Since its beginning, the conference has undergone many changes. Previously oriented to an academic audience, the conference now includes applied professionals such as nurses, social workers and health care providers that are also involved in Appalachian issues, Fonseca said.
The conference has also expanded in size with a growing number of attendees each year. Oliver said she estimates 150 participants but sets the limit at 200 to maintain close relationships among attendees.
"People have the opportunity to hang together," Oliver said. "It gets to be like a little family."
Also added since the conference's first year is the art exhibit, which includes a wide variety of art from quilted pieces, sculptures, paintings and photography.
This year's featured guests are also a selected assortment including accomplished writers Joyce Dyer and Kiki Delancey, musicians Hank Arbaugh and David Morris, flatfoot dancer Christine Ballengee-Morris and Patricia Thomas-Wilson, who will perform a one-woman play.
The Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments is still accepting registration, and some events are open the public. For a complete schedule of events or for registration information, visit www.zanesville.ohiou.edu/ce/wac/default.asp.
Bethany Miller is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.