April 1, 2o14. “In the mountains, of the mountains, and for the mountains” has long been the motto of Lees-McRae College. At this spring’s Appalachian Studies Conference hosted by Appalachian State University in Boone, the college fulfilled the motto with strong representation from students and faculty, as well as an alumna and former trustee, and professors emeriti.
Assistant Professor Kathy Olson played a vital role in the conference, serving as program chair. She spent hundreds of hours organizing the meeting, which was the largest in the history of the Appalachian Studies Association. Over a thousand participants gathered to share their research, creative work, and ideas during the 36th Annual Conference with the theme: Communities in Action, Landscapes in Change. Over 150 separate sessions illuminated this topic in a variety of ways.
One roundtable session, On Building Self-Esteem in Appalachian Women through Appalachian Literature and Creative Writing, featured all Lees-McRae participants and drew a roomful of listeners from throughout the region. Convened by Dr. Michael Joslin, director of the Stephenson Center for Appalachia at Lees-McRae College, the panel included Jane Stephenson, alumna and former chairman of the Board of Trustees; Donese Preswood, research librarian, and Jessica Stone, a junior English major. In the audience were professors emeriti Allen Speer and Ted Ledford, as well as another LMC student, Meg Quinn.
During the session, Joslin and Stephenson discussed their experiences teaching Appalachian Literature and creative writing to students and to women attending the New Opportunity School for Women. Preswood told about her role in guiding students as they explored the Stirling Collection of Appalachian Literature in Carson Library at LMC, and she presented members of the audience with a study guide to Appalachian authors. Jessica Stone read a poem she had written, and related how her studies at the New Opportunity School for Women and at Lees-McRae have enriched her life and given her professional goals to pursue. The presentations led to many questions and spirited discussion among those attending.
During the session titled Think locally: Community Change in Western North Carolina, Joslin also presented his study Buladean: A Good Place to Live and Enjoy the Mountains, a look at how a 200-year-old community has reacted to 21st century changes that have impacted age-old ways of life.
The involvement in the conference of this varied selection of Lees-McRae folks illustrates the most cherished goals of the college: to engage students in personal and professional growth; to encourage meaningful collaboration among students, faculty, and alumni; and to promote lifelong learning and service to the community.
“As a professor and Director of the Stephenson Center for Appalachia, I could not be prouder of my fellow faculty members and our students, as well as Jane Stephenson, an alumna and former trustee, for their commitment to our region and their fields of study,” said Professor Joslin. “Their good work shows how we fulfill our mission and our motto.”
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Lees-McRae College is a private, four-year college offering diverse baccalaureate degrees, strong athletic programs and outstanding faculty. With 850 students hailing from 40 states and more than 10 countries, Lees-McRae’s broad core curriculum is enhanced by field-specific career preparation and experiential learning with an emphasis in leadership and service. For more information, please visit www.lmc.edu or call 828-898-5241.