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Zanesville conference brings together those interested in promoting science careers in Appalachia

Ohio University's Zanesville Campus is gearing up for the 2013 Women of Appalachia Conference, scheduled for Oct. 17-18. Registration for the conference closes on Thursday, Oct. 10.

This year's conference, themed "Sisters in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)," will feature sessions on health education, social science education, community gardening education, conservation and environmental education, promoting the arts and community education, and pedagogy and andragogy in cross-disciplinary education.

For a registration fee of just $35, the conference provides networking and scholarship opportunities in areas of both formal and informal education. The conference caters to local educators, health professionals, business and industry representatives, social science service providers and those interested in community education related to science careers and causes to network.

This year's conference will also take special interest in the issue of diabetes, a disease that is particularly prevalent in the Appalachian region. Sharon Denham, professor emerita of nursing at OHIO, will kick off the conference with a keynote address scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 17 in the Elson Hall Auditorium. Denham will discuss her path to pursuing a nursing career, her research on diabetes and the connections she has made to improve healthcare in Appalachia. As part of the conference, Denham will present a session titled "Sugar Helpers and Beyond" on Oct. 18.

The conference will also feature Dr. Darlene Berryman, executive director of the Diabetes Institute at Ohio University. Berryman will facilitate a forum in which she introduces diabetes as a disease. She will also discuss her work at the Diabetes Institute and what she has done to curb obesity in the region and raise awareness.  

An added bonus for nursing professionals is that nursing continuing education has been awarded for Denham and Berryman's presentations. Those interested in the continuing education credits should visit the conference website for specific information.

The idea for the Women of Appalachia Conference originated in 1998. Dr. James Fonseca, dean of the Zanesville Campus, along with former Zanesville Campus Director of Continuing Education Kathi Albertson developed the idea for a conference that would celebrate the achievements and heritage of women of Appalachia and bring visitors to the region. The Zanesville Campus hosted the first conference in 1998 with a general Appalachian theme.

The conference took a hiatus for a few years due to a loss of academic focus, said Christine Shaw, public relations coordinator and interim director of continuing education at the Zanesville Campus. However, the break allowed time to create the Women of Appalachia Conference that takes place today.

"It's a balance to celebrate culture and encourage participation in an academically sound conference where professionals feel the time to participate is beneficial," said Shaw.

Since its return in 2011, conference themes have included Native American Influence in Appalachia and Science in Appalachia.

Dr. Mawadda Al-Naeeli, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Ohio University Zanesville and primary faculty coordinator of the conference, says the event is special in that it "aims to celebrate, promote, educate and inspire the women of Appalachia."

Last year's conference gave Al-Naeeli the opportunity to network with a variety of professionals, including Dr. Michele Withers from West Virginia University where Withers operates the Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching. Al-Naeeli participated in the institute this past summer.

"It allowed me to expand and improve my teaching skills and learn new ways and approaches to engage my students in active learning," said Al-Naeeli. "I had a great learning and networking experience, which is why I got more involved in planning and coordinating the conference preparation efforts this year."
The Women of Appalachia Conference, sponsored by OHIO regional campus deans, is a great opportunity for anyone interested in the topics presented at the event. Most importantly it is a chance to make connections that make a difference.

"The networking that takes place among undergraduate students, faculty, Appalachian scholars, business and industry and professional and community participants always amazes me," said Shaw. "It is the reason I am passionate about engaging faculty coordinators to help bring together those interested in learning more about the Appalachian region."

To view the conference's full agenda as well as lodging information and registration, visit www.ohio.edu/zanesville/womenofappalachia.