Fairmont State Students to Participate in Appalachian Teaching Project Conference

Thursday, November 12, 2020

A team of Fairmont State University students will take part in the 2020 Appalachian Teaching Project virtual conference this weekend.  
The conference, hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Consortium of Appalachian Colleges and Universities, will feature student-led, community-based research that aligns with the ARC’s mission to innovate, partner and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia. Students from fourteen institutions across Appalachia will present their projects to one another and then participate in breakout sessions to create opportunities for discussion and feedback.  
“The intention of this conference is to engage these students with one another,” says Dr. Francene Kirk, the interim director of the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.  
Fairmont State’s team, which is led by Kirk, includes students from the University’s Preserving Appalachian Culture course and student workers from the Folklife Center. Their project, “Voicing History: Enhancing Tourism Through Story,” focuses on collecting oral history from the Four States community, once a thriving mining town, located on the border of Marion and Harrison Counties. Kirk and her students have been interviewing former Four States coal miners and their family members to detail what it was like to live and work in the community.  
“The Four States story reminds us what is good about Appalachia, but also the things that challenge us,” says Kirk. “These people have been so gracious to share their stories with us and trust us with their memories.”  
The ATP virtual conference will be held via Zoom on Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14. Fairmont State’s presentation is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. on Saturday.  
“We have such a strong tradition of storytelling here,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “From Ruth Ann Musick to Dr. Kirk and her students’ work, the University has long used storytelling to not only share the unique and vibrant Appalachian culture, but also to build a sense of community, identify and confront challenges, and increase opportunities for this region’s people.” 
As part of a partnership with the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the oral history that is collected through this project will be shared on the MCCVB website and social media channels. Signage displaying QR codes that will allow passersby to listen to audio stories about Four States is also set to be placed along the Rail Trail near Worthington.  
For more information or to contribute to the project’s ongoing oral history collection, contact Francene Kirk at fkirk@fairmontstate.edu or 304-367-4403.