Skip to main content

UK Appalachian Center Honors Seven Students With Annual Research Awards

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 26, 2022) — The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center is honoring seven students with its annual research awards.

Four graduate students received the James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research on Appalachia, and two graduate students and one undergraduate student received the center's Eller and Billings Student Research Award.

"Every year students from across the university conduct outstanding research projects in the Appalachian region," said Kathryn Engle, director of the Appalachian Center. "The Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program is thrilled to support these students and their summer work." 

The James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research on Appalachia is given to honor the memory of James S. Brown, a sociology professor at UK from 1946 to 1982, whose pioneering studies of society, demography and migration in Appalachia (including his ethnography of "Beech Creek") helped to establish the field of Appalachian studies at UK and beyond.

To be eligible, students must be actively enrolled in a master's or doctoral degree program at UK. The award must be used to meet the costs of doing research relevant to social life in Appalachia including travel, lodging, copying, interviewing, ethnography, data collection, archival research, transcribing and other legitimate research expenses. Up to $1,000 is awarded to each recipient.

The recipients will present their research at Sharing Work on Appalachia in Progress with Appalachian Studies Program faculty and students during the 2022-2023 academic year.

The 2022 James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research recipients and their projects are:

  • Jed DeBruin, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences: “From Past to Present: Black Farming in Appalachian Kentucky.”
  • Allen Fletcher, Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences: “Women, Politics, and Education Reform in Southern Appalachia, 1920-1970.”
  • Bonnie Lewis, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education: “The Risks of Remembering: Teaching Hard History in Appalachian Classrooms."
  • Mai Nguyen, Dr. Bing Zhang Department of Statistics, College of Arts and Sciences: “LGBTQ* Youth and Mental Health in Rural Appalachia.”

In the spirit of collaboration across units, colleges and academic and community boundaries, the Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program established the UK Appalachian Center Eller and Billings Student Research Award for research by UK students focused in and on the Appalachian region, especially toward furthering the conversation on sustainable futures in the region. Named after longtime UK historian Ronald D. Eller and longtime UK sociologist Dwight B. Billings, the award seeks to encourage and promote cutting-edge research across disciplines.

To be eligible for this award of up to $1,000, students must be actively enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program at UK. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Recipients of this award will also present their findings during the 2022-23 academic year. 

The 2022 Eller and Billings Student Research Award recipients are:

  • Megan Buland, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: "Exploration of the Orchid-Fungal Symbiosis in White Fringeless Orchid — A Federally Threatened Species.”
  • Courtney Martin (undergraduate), Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences: “Assessing Cancer Literacy and Risk Behaviors among Appalachian Kentuckians through an Oral History Approach."
  • Sarah Tomke, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: “Status Assessment of Kentucky’s Largest Salamander, the Eastern Hellbender.”

The winners will be acknowledged at a special “Coffee Hour at the Appalachian Center” this Thursday, April 28. The UK community is invited to join to meet the students and learn more about their work.

The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center contributes to the land-grant mission of the University of Kentucky by fostering community-university partnerships in research, learning and engagement in Appalachia, a region faced with unique opportunities and challenges toward sustainable development in a globalized context.

The Appalachian Studies Program, like the Appalachian Center, has an active 40-year history at the University of Kentucky. It is an interdisciplinary program based in the College of Arts and Sciences with participation by faculty and students from across the colleges at UK.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.