Overview and History




Purpose: To support community-based research and civic entrepreneurship by strengthening educational partnerships among students, faculty, and citizenry in Appalachia.

Description: The Consortium of Appalachian Centers and Institutes, a coalition of Appalachian Studies organizations in higher education, seeks to support and encourage student research and interaction among sixteen (16) campuses in eleven (11) Appalachian states and their constituent communities.


  • Students will strengthen leadership skills and awareness of community assets that can foster sustainability.

  • Students will be engaged as active learners and participants in community projects.

  • Students will engage in traditional and active research to assist communities in creative approaches to sustainability through asset-based development.

Required Student Activities:

  • Presentation of research at a conference in Washington, D.C.

  • Creation of a poster for presentation at the conference in Washington, D.C.

  • In addition, students must participate in at least two of the following options:

  • Presentation of research to at least one civic organization or to elected officials within the community.

  • Presentation of research at a national conference.

  • Participation in a poster session or panel discussion, or delivery of a formal paper at the Appalachian Studies Association's Annual Conference in March.


The Consortium of Appalachian Centers and Institutes grew out of a reciprocal concern between the academic centers and the Appalachian Regional Commission to work more closely together in service to the Appalachian region.

In July 1999, the Commission hosted university Centers and Institutes for a symposium on Appalachian Research in Washington that involved presentations by each center or institute and discussions among the group and Commission staff about what the group might accomplish. The group agreed to develop a vision statement, some common goals and objectives, and a short and long-term action plan.

In September of 1999, the group met again to work on the initial draft of the vision, goal, and objectives statement. They also identified areas in which more shared information was needed, such as regional scholarship, community-based and technical assistance programs that existed on each campus, technological resources that could be shared and possibilities for project funding.

The third consultation was held in October 1999. At that meeting, the group finalized the vision, goal, and objectives statement, and discussed the strengths the centers brought to achieving the objectives and the barriers that would prevent success. The group developed a six-month work plan and explored potential funding sources. In March 2000, the Consortium met to consider drafts of survey instruments to determine technological, financial, human, and other resources available across the region and to discuss implementation of the work plan.

At the next meeting in October 2000, the group provided updates on work at each center and institute and began planning the collaborative project for the fall of 2001. In March 2001, the group finalized the goals and parameters of the teaching and research project, agreed to make the necessary arrangements on each campus, and asked the current Whisman Scholar, Dr. Jean Haskell, to prepare a proposal for funding to the Appalachian Regional Commission. The Commission awarded the Consortium of Appalachian Institutions a $60,000 grant.

Since the fall of 2001, sixteen (16) institutions of higher learning representing, at various times, eleven (11) of the thirteen states in the ARC service region have participated in the Appalachian Teaching Project. Undergraduate and graduate students engaged in class work and field research related to the question, "How do we build a sustainable future for Appalachian communities?" Each campus approaches the question uniquely, but all follow a set of common guidelines.

The guidelines required that students focus on particular Appalachian communities, preferably in one of the ARC-designated distressed counties; engage in participatory research with the community; address one of more of the goals of the ARC strategic plan; become familiar with the structure and work of the Commission, its state offices, and the local development districts; communicate with other students across the participating campuses; attend an orientation meeting in the region and a final meeting in Washington, D.C.; prepare a final report; and make presentations at the end of the project at various forums.

Typically, the faculty directors travel to an overnight orientation meeting in September. At the end of the project, the students travel to Washington, D.C., where they present the findings of their projects to each other, to ARC staff and administrators, and institutional administrators. At the end of the Washington meeting, faculty from the schools meet to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the project and to make plans to conduct such collaboration for a second year. Reports of the work of each group are contained in a master report submitted to the Commission.