Becky Hobbs

Featured guests at Ohio University-Zanesville's Women of Appalachia Conference include Grammy award-nominated singer-songwriter Becky Hobbs (shown here). 

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Women of Appalachia Conference returns to Zanesville campus

On Oct. 20-21, the Women of Appalachia Conference returns to Ohio University-Zanesville, continuing the celebration of women’s contributions to American culture.

The free conference will focus on Native American Women’s influence, impact, and intersection in the region.
Since 1999, the conference has provided Appalachian women with opportunities to better understand and appreciate their culture. The conference did not take place in recent years, giving the planning team time to regroup and engage faculty in planning the content, according to Christine Shaw, director of public relations and continuing education at the Zanesville campus.

"Faculty engagement is an important component to making conferences not only entertaining, but viable to scholarship," Shaw said. "The Women of Appalachia Conference has celebrated the past contributions of women in Appalachia, but it is critical to also encourage the continuation of the Appalachian culture for future generations of female leaders."

This year's featured guests include Grammy award-nominated singer-songwriter Becky Hobbs and Duane Sciacqua, a songwriter and producer who performed with legends like Paul McCartney and Glenn Frey in a career that has spanned four decades.

Hobbs and Sciacqua will open the conference with a concert at 7 p.m. Thursday evening at Zanesville’s Elson Hall Auditorium. They will perform country and rockabilly songs, as well as Nanyehi songs, inspired by Cherokee legend and peace maker Nancy Ward. The event is free and open to the public.

The concert, co-sponsored by the Zanesville Cultural Committee and OHIO’s five regional campuses, will entertain and introduce the community to the academic conference that will take place the following day.

Hobbs said she hopes to inspire the audience through the Nancy Ward project, which explains how Appalachian women sustained Cherokee culture and traditions. Hobbs is the 5th-great-granddaughter of Ward.

On Friday, the conference will open with a roundtable discussion led by Matt Wanat, assistant professor of English at Ohio University Lancaster. The roundtable will feature Hobbs; David Schubach, musician and playwright; Clarissa Confer, associate professor of American history at California University of Pennsylvania; and J.D. Durst, professor of sociology at Ohio University Zanesville. The panelists will discuss the Nancy Ward project and how it relates to the oral history, culture and traditions of Appalachia.

Julie Dixon, a filmmaker for Words and Pictures Productions, will also present her documentary "Melungeon Voices," which examines the lives of descendants from southwest Virginia.

Lisa Haven, assistant professor of English at Zanesville and an organizer of the event, explained that the conference will focus more on academic scholarship this year.  More than five scholars will contribute their papers on Native American Women in Appalachia.

"The fact that we're located in Appalachia is a unique way for us to have a voice and take part in that discussion," Haven said.

"The conference has the potential to touch many more generations of women leaders into the future,” Shaw added.

For more information on the conference, visit

Community Partner Day kicks off conference

To kick off the Women of Appalachia Conference at Ohio University Zanesville, a Community Partner Day will take place on Thursday, Oct. 20.
In collaboration with Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center (MVESC), Becky Hobbs will present “An Interview with an Artist” video education program for school districts from around the country.

Cost to districts is $85 per site payable to MVESC. For information on participating contact Leslie Charles at 740-454-4518, ext. 133, or via email at