Strengthening community assets to shape a positive future for Appalachia
The Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative (ACRI, formerly called the Appalachian Teaching Project) engages students and regional citizens in posing answers to the question, "How can we build a sustainable future for Appalachian communities?" Supported by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the ACRI is a highly successful collaboration between the ARC, Appalachian colleges and universities, and local community partners.
Administered by East Tennessee State University's Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services, the Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative engages students from up to 16 colleges and universities in place-based learning experiences in which they practice community economic development firsthand. Following completion of their community-based research project, the ACRI provides an annnual forum in which students share their work with their peers, with ARC administration and staff, and with invited guests, including community partners and university administrators.
Through this model, the ACRI directly invests in one of Appalachia’s most precious resources: its future leaders. By promoting student engagement with Appalachian communities, fostering leadership development, and bringing students, faculty, and leaders together to share their ideas, this project directly supports ARC’s mission to “Innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.” Since the first ACRI was held in November 2001, 31 colleges and universities from 12 Appalachian states and more than 2700 students have participated in the program.
In addition to grant funding by the ARC. the ACRI is also funded by in-kind contributions from ETSU and each participating institution.