The Center for Appalachian Studies enacts its mission, commitments and values through initiatives in the following areas: Service Learning, Appalachian Studies, Community Engagement, Social Justice, and Sustainability. As the Center develops, programs will be expanded in each of these initiatives.
Appalachian Studies Initiatives
- Appalachian Studies Collection. Housed in the College’s Zell & Shirley Miller Library, this is a collection of learning resources focused on the many issues related to the complex and diverse Appalachian region.
- Byron Herbert Reece Collection. Housed in the College’s Zell & Shirley Miller Library, this is a collection of artifacts, letters, documents and the personal library of Appalachian poet Byron Herbert Reece, who both studied and taught at Young Harris College.
- Byron Herbert Reece Society and Interpretive Center. Headquartered at the College, the Society’s purpose is to preserve, perpetuate and promote the literary and cultural legacy of the Georgia mountain poet. The Society is developing Reece’s farm, located near Vogel State Park south of Blairsville, Ga., as an interpretive center. The farm site includes a visitor’s center, picnic pavilion, a plaza highlighting Reece’s poetry and historical exhibits on Reece and on Appalachian farm life in the early 20th century.
- Heinze Lecture Series. This endowed annual lecture series focuses on lectures and cultural events related to Appalachia. Recent lectures featured Dr. Helen Lewis, the “grandmother of Appalachian Studies” and a workshop and concert by Songs of Water with special guest Ricky Skaggs.
- Minor in Appalachian Studies. The Minor in Appalachian Studies and Community Engagement is an interdisciplinary program designed to introduce students to the study of the Appalachian region through engagement with its history, people and places. The program focuses on the rich and diverse cultures of the region, the natural history and rich environmental resources in the region, the experiences of the Appalachian people, the varied depictions of the region in popular culture and literature and the many challenges facing the region.
The minor requires a core of nine credit hours plus nine credit hours of electives. Core courses examine Appalachia's culture, environment, economy and history, the unique role of the Appalachian Trail as a metaphor for the region and as a learning experience and challenge students to be engaged in service and community. Electives allow students to explore the region's literature, art, music, environmental issues, folklore, natural history and resources, religion and other topics. Field experiences are an integral part of the minor. The Center partners with the Outdoor Leadership department to ensure that each student has an outdoor experience on the Appalachian Trail.
Community Engagement Initiatives
The Center promotes service learning and community engagement though the Academic Service Learning Program and the Bonner Leaders Program.
Academic Service Learning Program. The Academic Service Learning Program assists faculty members in developing service learning components in courses across many disciplines in the College curriculum. Numerous courses have incorporated service learning components, and students have worked with community organizations including the Hiawassee River Watershed Coalition, Regency Hospice, the Hinton Rural Life Center and Towns County Schools.
Bonner Leaders Program. In 2009-2010, the College established a chapter of the Bonner Leaders Program, joining more than 50 campuses nationwide that have affiliated with the Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J., to offer the program. The mission of the Bonner Leaders Program is to transform the lives of students and members, the life of the campus, their local community and the world through community engagement and leadership. Through a combination of work-study funds and, in some cases, AmeriCorps Education Awards, students are eligible for significant scholarships through the program.
Bonner Leaders work a certain number of hours each week during the school year at non-profit agencies throughout the community. This work can include, but is not limited to, mentoring elementary school students in an after-school and outdoor education program, constructing affordable housing for low-income families, coordinating sustainability efforts throughout the campus and community, developing educational programs to address the needs of neglected animals and providing services to victims of domestic violence and child abuse. Bonners also have the option to choose a site at which to work during the summer months as well.
Sustainability Committee. The Center for Appalachian Studies and Community Engagement collaborates closely with the College’s Sustainability Committee to promote education, community engagement and service related to sustainability in the region. Some of the committee’s initiatives include campus-wide educational events, service projects, recycling programs and policies to promote sustainable campus development.
Chesnut Tree Grove and Heritage Garden. The Center has planted several blight-resistant chestnut trees behind the Center’s facility, which will provide the centerpiece of a heritage garden showcasing traditional Appalachian plants.
Community Garden. In conjunction with the City of Young Harris, Towns County Schools, and Sodexo Dining Services, the Center is developing a community garden, which will help to provide fresh vegetables for a local after-school program and for the College dining services.