Educators Explore Appalachian People and History During NEH Summer Institute at UNC Asheville


From Agee Films

Teachers from across the country are coming to Asheville to explore the rich diversity of the mountains and their people in a two-week summer institute, The Power of Place: Land and Peoples in Appalachia. The institute, sponsored by Agee Films of Johnson City, Tennessee and hosted by UNC Asheville, will explore the intersection between natural and human history in the Appalachian Mountains this summer beginning July 8.

Several local teachers will be part of the cadre of thirty professionals who were selected from an applicant pool of over two hundred teachers in a nationally competitive selection process. Participants represent every age group and a range of subjects taught.

The institute is based on the award-winning PBS series by Agee Films, APPALACHIA: A History of Mountains and People. APPALACHIA was filmed in western North Carolina and produced by Jamie S. Ross, a local filmmaker and co-director of the institute. Dan Pierce, National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and chair of the Department of History at UNC Asheville, also directs the institute, which features UNC Asheville faculty Darin Waters, professor of history and special assistant to the chancellor; and Eric Abrams Locklear, professor of English; along with local writers, Wayne Caldwell and Pamela Duncan.

The institute, which is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), provides summer professional development for educators to delve deeply into a topic and, upon their return, integrate this study into their everyday teaching.

“This is our fourth time to conduct this institute and we have been thrilled with the caliber of our participants as well as with the support of UNC Asheville, which has an excellent history department led by Professor Dan Pierce,” explains Jamie Ross, filmmaker and co-director of the institute.

In addition to drawing on the knowledge of faculty, filmmakers, and local writers, scholars will visit area historic sites such as the Vance Birthplace, the Qualla Boundary, the Carter Fold, the Cradle of Forestry and Mount Mitchell, further reinforcing the institute's focus on connecting place, people and local history.

“One of the most exciting things to come out of this institute is the new understanding of the role of place that teachers take back to their classrooms,” says Ross. “Our goal is for scholars to come away with both a richer more accurate view of Appalachia as well as the role that place plays in their own students’ stories.

The institute, The Power of Place: Land and Peoples in Appalachia, runs from July 8-20. For more information about the NEH institute, visit