Staying Connected

A good community insures itself by trust, by good faith and good will, by mutual help. A good community, in other words, is a good local economy.    -Wendell Berry

By now, we all are aware of the tolls taken from being isolated from our social spaces, deprived of the ability to forge new relationships, the stress of Zoom fatigue, and the difficulty retaining new knowledge during the pandemic.

Despite the difficult year, I am increasingly grateful for the commitment of our student leaders as well as the the creative and inspiring space that our virtual meetings have been for the students in CASL (Community of Appalachian Student Leaders).

Students shared their own practices of maintaining resilience in a year of chaos: regularly going to the university gyms, being in nature, listening to music, lighting candles, getting back to the country. Spending time to understand our own identities and communities serves as a consistent and productive space of gratitude and validation.

Fellow Appalachian students meet biweekly to discuss a variety of topics related to the larger region and hone in on these relatable topics and how they have manifested in their own counties.

Most recently, the group screened the film Moundsville which focused on the rise and fall of a small West Virginia town during the ebb and flow of industry in the area. It was beneficial to learn and understand the nuances of local economies and the tension that rises when jobs leave the area. Some of the conversations stemmed around learning a trade vs. obtaining a higher education given the rising student debt; the social changes and cultural progress made through increased diversity through race, sexuality, and ethnicity and indigenous history in rural areas. Others critiqued the practice of extractive industries and their promise to bring jobs to an area in order to boost economies. The truth is that despite efforts to construct new buildings, and increase scholarships for local students, these corporations often employ those outside the area, adversely affect the housing market for county residents, and create changes that are unsustainable in the retail market.

A relatable discussion took place after screening the documentary, The Devil We Know, whose story also inspired the environmental horror in Dark WatersThese films discuss the devastating public health crises from the spill of DuPont chemicals which was poisoning the water systems in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Each meeting, we all learn more about the systemic ways that our local communities are affected by policy, industry, and economies. In turn, we appreciate the richness of our homes, families, oral histories, humor, and the abundance of natural resources where we grew up. During a time when Appalachian communities are often plucked for soundbites from outside journalists looking to understand national politics, it’s much more interesting and helpful to dive into meaningful and complicated conversations based on lived experiences.

The connectivity and affirmation are critical for making sense of the world around us. I continue to be in awe of the resiliency, compassion, and commitment to the greater good that these students convey and exhibit in their daily lives. It is an honor to advise such an impressive group and we’re looking forward to recruiting the next cohort as well as sending our seniors off later this spring. Thank you all for the commitment you make to yourself and each other.

If you are from Ohio’s Appalachian counties and/or would like to get involved to learn more, please sign up to learn more and to join us on our virtual meetings every other Wednesday! We’ll be waiting on you.

Lynaya Elliott, Advisor

Join our Appalachian Network on LinkedIn

We were thrilled to have Megan Miller from Buckeye Careers Network join us to talk about job strategies, careers exploration, and the importance of professional networking. The hidden job market makes up approximately 80% of the jobs which means that through personal and professional networks, opportunities are filled without ever being advertised to the public or without interviewing candidates from the applicant pool.

One of the values across experiences that we share as Appalachians is our commitment to community. We want to continue to build upon our mutual appreciation and connection with the area.

Please take a moment to join our OSU Appalachian Network on LinkedIn

We hope you’ll use this network to post opportunities, allow students to inquire about your experiences as they explore careers and just to stay in touch with those from your neck of the woods.

“A Dose of Home” Digital Story

During Autumn 2015, Dr. Cassie Patterson led an independent study class and developed a digital story showcasing Malachi (Ki) Pulliam’s relationship to his home in Bainbridge, Ohio.

You can learn more about the class and project here.

If you are an Ohio State Student and would be interested in creating a digital story about your home, email Laura Thomas at

Care and Caring: It’s an Appalachian Thing

Kay Halasek

Care. This is the sentiment I recall most clearly, the memory most palpable to me as I reflect on my years living in Flatwoods, Kentucky, and the now nearly forty years my mother has continued to live there since I left to go to college in Georgetown, Kentucky, and later graduate school in Arizona and Texas. Such a memory of care, philosopher Nel Noddings tells us, is integral to the ethic of care that springs from “natural caring,” those acts motivated not by duty but by a desire to “act on behalf of the other because we want to do so” (“An Ethic” 699).

I found my sentiments about the care that permeates and defines relationships in Appalachia echoed by Kendall Bilbrey, a native of Wytheville, Virginia, who is quoted in the “Millenials Return” page on the “Saving Appalachia” website: “‘The people I met [when in college in the greater Washington DC area] didn’t have the same sense of caring and support and neighborliness that people back home did’ Bilbrey said. ‘I never thought of that as an Appalachian thing.’” Like Bilbrey, I never thought of the sense of caring I experienced in Flatwoods as a teenager as “an Appalachian thing,” either. It was just how people were. It is, though, I’ve come to realize, decidedly and perhaps uniquely an “Appalachian thing.”

Flatwoods—a town of about 7500 residents located just to the north and west of Ashland—is more affluent than most comparably sized Appalachian towns such as Pikeville, due in part, I imagine, to its proximity to the Ohio River and affiliations with historically strong regional steel, coal, petroleum, and railroad industries. But like Pikeville and other smaller towns in eastern Kentucky, Flatwoods (and neighboring Russell) is a community whose citizens are actively involved in their churches and volunteer organizations. It has its share of evangelical and Pentecostal churches as well as mainline Christian denominations and a growing LDS community. The churches—along with area social service agencies and organizations—collectively comprise a network of what Noddings terms communities of care (“Language” 54), institutions that support “carers” (those who give care).

I was reminded of my own deep personal connections with Flatwoods and Noddings’ concept of an ethic of caring this past June when my mother suffered a stroke. At the hospital and rehab facility, she was in the hands of professionals (many of whom are natives of the area) who embodied Noddings’ concepts of receptivity and relatedness, who enacted caring as a relationship through their attentiveness to her (“Language” 53), not simply as an obligation imposed on them by their professions. Although by early August my mother was back in her own home and by the end of the year driving again, the stroke had put her in the hospital for several days and then in rehabilitative care for nearly eight weeks. During my mother’s hospital stay, my family and I were able to be with her, but as the summer progressed, our visits to her at the rehab center were limited to only three or four days each week. And after her return home in August and the start of the fall semester at OSU, our trips became even less frequent and limited to a couple of days (at most) on occasional weekends.

Although our trips became less frequent, the attentions of my mother’s neighbors and friends were unfaltering. Karmen and Jim had her over for dinners. Doug still puts her paper inside her storm door each morning and takes her trash to and from the street each week. Denny plows her driveway—as he has for years. Roger and Toni bring over soup and help with home repairs—and Roger built the ramps that lead to her front door. Peggy and Leon (backdoor neighbors from the 1970s and 80s) bring in Meals on Wheels. She is surrounded by care and carers. These folks’ gestures of care are second nature, common (in the sense of familiar and ordinary), done without flourish. They’re not instances of “paying it forward.” They do not anticipate return or repayment. Caring is not a contractual exchange or transaction. These folks are not stockpiling good works against some anticipated future drought or meager harvest, times when they may be in need. They simply tend to others.

I do not myself conduct research in Appalachian studies, but Noddings provides me a means through which to reflect with my own sense of care on my life and relationships and those of my mother. Noddings’ concepts of natural caring and an ethic of caring provide me the means through which to characterize just one element of this Appalachian community and her people.

My mother, Erma Halasek Slavens

Kay Halasek

Kay Halasek


Kay Halasek is an Associate Professor in the Department of English whose research specializations are rhetoric, composition and literacy. 


References Advameg, Inc., 2016. Web.

Noddings, Nel. “An Ethic of Caring.” Reprinted in Ethical Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2013: 699-712.

Noddings, Nel. Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Print.

Noddings, Nel. “The Language of Care Ethics.” Knowledge Quest 40.4 (2012): 52-6. Print.

Weisser, Ryan. “Saving Appalachia.” 17 March 2016. Web.

Barbara Kopple Visits OSU

Our community in the Appalachian Project is still buzzing from our inspiring visit by the two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Barbara Kopple, after her visit to OSU’s Columbus campus this week.

Several groups partnered with us to host a special screening of Harlan County USA to a packed audience in the Wexner Center’s Film/Video theater on Wednesday, March 2. The crowd enjoyed the musical accompaniment by David Morris, who provided some of the original music for the documentary, along with his son Jack Ballangee Morris, which included the classics such as “Which Side Are You On?”, “Coal Tattoo” and “Dark as a Dungeon”. We also had a special sneak preview of Jack’s new song, “West Virginia Refugee.” Kopple screened her film and then engaged the audience in a Q&A session. During the discussion, people asked about what Harlan County is like today (especially the role that coal plays in their economy), how the UMWA was faring, and how making the film impacted Kopple’s life and art. A number of audience members were from the region, related to coal miners, or were labor activists and scholars from the community and university.

On Thursday, graduate and undergraduate students engaged Kopple on all aspects of documentary filmmaking, including individual advice about getting their own projects in motion. Students also had the opportunity to view her latest documentary film, Shelterwhich tells the story of military veteran homelessness.

If you were unable to join us for the event, don’t worry! Video from the event will be housed in The Appalachian Project Collection at the Center for Folklore Studies Archives.

David Morris and Jack Ballengee Morris perform before the screening.

David Morris and Jack Ballengee Morris perform to a packed house before the screening.

David Morris, Christine Bellengee Morris, American Indian Studies Program Director and Faculty in Arts Admin, Educaiton and Policy, and Matt Schneider

David Morris, Christine Bellengee Morris, American Indian Studies Program Director and Faculty in Arts Admin, Educaiton and Policy, and Matt Schneider

L to R: David Morris, Matt Schneider, Appalachian Project Student with Barbara Kopple

L to R: David Morris, Matt Schneider, Appalachian Project Student with Barbara Kopple

L to R: Lynaya Elliott, Appalachian Project Member, David Morris, Barbara Kopple

L to R: Lynaya Elliott, Appalachian Project co-facilitator, David Morris, Barbara Kopple

A special thank you to our sponsors for the event:

This event was organized by The Appalachian Project, Ohio (a collaboration between the Center for Folklore Studies, the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Student Life’s Department of Social Change), and co-sponsored by the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy; American Indian Studies; Wexner Center for the Arts; Comparative Studies; Film Studies; the Department of English; the Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise; and the School of Environment and Natural Resources.

There’s no right way to talk

Kathryn Campbell-Kibler

Group discussion at Appalachian Project meeting.

Group discussion at Appalachian Project meeting.

Accents or dialects are one of the most important ways that people signal belonging to a place or a community. For some people, though, including many from Appalachia, these marks of belonging can also prompt unfair judgements from others about everything the speaker’s intelligence to their personality.

Language bias is often treated differently than other kinds of discrimination. Many people who pride themselves on their open-mindedness make an exception for language, calling themselves the “grammar police” or bragging about their “language pet peeves”. The idea one often gets is that disliking how someone else talks is a good thing because it shows knowledge or education.

The reality is that there’s no objective right way to talk. More than that, judgements about “incorrect” language forms can’t be separated from bias about the people who use those forms, because that’s where they come from. Language researchers have have lots of evidence that the speech you like best (or least!) comes from your opinions of speakers, or from years and years of other people’s opinions building up. Some work has even suggested that what you think about a person can influence how you hear their speech. For example, Donald Rubin and his colleagues have shown that a face (Asian-appearing or white-appearing) can change how students hear a lecture. Students seeing the Asian-appearing face not only thought they heard an accent that wasn’t there, they understood less because of the accent that wasn’t there!

In the US, people who grow up in communities where many people use speech called “uneducated” or “incorrect” may follow a few different paths. They may speak the ways they hear around them because they don’t interact with “correct” speakers often enough to fully pick up their patterns. Some people who do have that access may stick to their communities’ way of talking on purpose, rejecting the negative label put on their speech by others. This can invoke costs, like not getting a job or being targeted for jokes or criticism. Others may shift to higher-prestige ways of talking, consciously or unconsciously adapting to the pressure. Some will develop two “voices”, allowing them to code-switch as needed. Learning to code-switch sometimes develops easily and naturally, and sometimes takes a lot of work, depending on the individual and their experiences.

All of these responses are understandable, and we can’t really say which one is right or wrong for a given person. But we can say that one thing is wrong: the idea that the speech found in Appalachia is inherently incorrect, lazy or uneducated. It’s just not accurate, and it hurts people.

Some linguists have been working to support speakers from marginalized communities learn more about their speech and push back against stigma. Check out these resources for more information:

Kathryn Campbell-Kibler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics who work focuses on sociolinguistics and whose interests include language variation, with an emphasis on the role of the listener in variation; language and sexuality; language and the construction of masculinity; and the role of language in the formation and performance of identity.



[1] D. L. Rubin. Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates’ judgments of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. Research in Higher Education, 33(4):511–531, 1992.

[2] D. L. Rubin and K. A. Smith. Effects of accent, ethnicity and lecture topic on undergraduates’ percep- tions of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14:337–353, 1990.

Community of Appalachian Student Leaders

We are excited to recently kick-off our pilot year for the Community of Appalachian Student Leaders program which aims to engage students from the Appalachian region with a community of students, faculty, and staff who are committed to developing academic, professional and leadership skills. This year, we launched the program in September and have a group of 24 students from Ross, Tuscarawas, Morgan, Perry, Gallia, Hocking, Muskingum, Belmont, Guernsey, Floyd County, KY, Jackson, Ashtabula, Pike, and Putnam County, WV.

If you would like to present to our students or wish to participate, please get in touch with the coordinators, Amanda Baker or Lynaya Elliott.



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Welcome! We’d like to invite you to share your research, paper, and/or relevant articles including your personal journey and stories that pertain to the region.

While Ohio State does not have an Appalachian Studies program at this time, our goal is to be able to connect faculty, staff and students with each other to learn about the work each of us are doing in the area. If you’d like to serve as a guest blogger, please contact me at for access.

Thanks for your interest in our project!

Photo of Mead Paper factory from lookout point in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Photo of Mead Paper factory from lookout point in Chillicothe, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lynaya Elliott