Why Study Appalachia?

Group of students looking out at mountainous landscape

No matter where you are from, once you are a student at Berea College, you are situated in the Appalachian Region and have come to an institution that has long seen its institutional identity as tied to place. One of the interesting things about Berea College is the student diversity. From Appalachia, there are those from rural areas such as southwestern Virginia, along with those from urban areas, such as Birmingham, Alabama. Eight in ten students come from Appalachia and Kentucky as a whole. Others come from mountainous regions elsewhere in the world, such as Lesotho or the Carpathian mountains, while other international students from myriad places in the world travel to Berea for an education. The point is, studying Appalachia makes sense for all students — those born in Appalachia and those new to it.

Appalachia has characteristics and challenges that are similar to many areas of the world, and while most of us like to think that Appalachia is completely distinct, more often than not, the Region probably has as many, if not more, similarities to the rest of the world than are commonly considered. The great poet and novelist James Still referred to the sense of place in Appalachia as “earth loved more than any other earth,” but a strong sense of place is shared by many people around the world—both rural and urban. Learning about these characteristics and challenges is incumbent upon all students, and horizons can be expanded by studying regionalism no matter where one eventually will settle. It is the hope of Berea College, however, that many of its graduates will choose to settle in the Appalachian Region determined to make a difference.

As an interdisciplinary minor, Appalachian Studies can benefit all students from all majors. You’ll learn about history, about culture, about the Region’s challenges, about health, and about sustainability within the Region. The question often comes up among students interested in exploring a minor in Appalachian Studies: “What can I do with an Appalachian Studies minor?” The answer truly is, “Whatever you want.” Courses of study are not limiting; they widen one’s horizons. Courses of study enhance opportunities, not restrict them.

Come and talk to us! We’re in the first floor of Stephenson Hall.