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Six OHIO students visit nation's capital, share insight into Appalachian community development opportunities

Published: December 19, 2019 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University students and faculty convened with 13 other Appalachian-based colleges and universities during the 19th annual Appalachian Teaching Project (ATP) Symposium in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

OHIO students presented their capstone service-learning project, a collaboration with the Little Cities of Black Diamonds (LCBD) Council in Southeast Ohio, entitled, “The Past Informs the Future: Evaluating Programming by the Little Cities of Black Diamonds,” to other student delegations, Appalachian Regional Commission leadership and community leaders at the Symposium.

The project was the culmination of an interdisciplinary course collaboration between OHIO’s College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) and College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Both classes worked alongside LCBD, an organization that preserves and promotes the history of the small coal mining towns in the Southeastern Ohio region, for its 25th annual “Little Cities of Black Diamonds Day” themed “The Past Informs the Future.”

“The ultimate goal of this project was to help the LCBD envision future sustainability for both their organization and their valued efforts in the community. I also think our students really learned the value of rural communities and how important it is for them to continue to thrive,” said Dr. Tiffany Arnold, associate director for the Appalachian Rural Health Institute within OHIO’s College of Health Sciences and Professions. “Although several of the students involved were already from the Appalachian region, I think this project helped them to develop even more pride in their heritage.”   

As part of each course’s collaborative research efforts, students from CAS’s “Sociology of Appalachia” course collected quantitative and qualitative data to measure community response to the LCBD’s annual event. Meanwhile, CHSP’s “Introduction to Appalachian Studies” students gathered stories and ideas shared by both the community and within vision boards displayed during the event.

“Our ability as faculty to work with the community allows us to provide transformative experiences for OHIO students where they can apply their classroom knowledge and skills to working with people and places in Southeast Ohio,” said Dr. Rachel Terman, assistant professor of Sociology within OHIO’s College of Arts and Sciences.Our ongoing partnership with the LCBD contributes to the University’s commitment to community engagement, and we are grateful for the support of the Appalachian Regional Commission and OHIO’s Center for Campus and Community Engagement.”

Both classes also completed an assessment of LCBD Day to help evaluate the Council’s current efforts and assist them in future planning.

“I am very proud of the students representing Ohio University as they continue their important coursework toward building a better future for their communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “These students are engaged in work that benefits an entire region and represent an institution that has worked consistently within our region to prepare our next generation of leaders.”

Since 2001, over 2,350 college and graduate students from across Appalachia have participated in the Appalachian Teaching Project. A recent survey of past participants found that 65 percent of ATP alumni still live in the Appalachian region and credit their participation in the ATP as either moderately or highly influencing their decision to stay. Over 85 percent of ATP alumni are employed and report that ATP had a lasting impact on their career.

ATP is a partnership between ARC and the Consortium of Appalachian Centers and Institutes and is administered by the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University.