The January 22nd information session was attended by close to 50 faculty, staff, students, and community partners. Below is the follow-up e-mail we recently sent to those who attended and/or expressed interest but were unable to attend:

Thank you all for attending the information session for the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian and Place-Based Studies last Thursday, or for indicating your interest even if you were unable to attend. It was wonderful to have such a mix of students, faculty, staff, and community members together to begin to share ideas and think about how we might use this collaborative process to build upon the work aligned with Southern Appalachian and Place-Based Studies that so many have created and fostered over the years with new and expanded ventures. Indeed, we hope that this collaborative process supported by the Mellon Foundation not only increases interest in Southern Appalachian and Place-Based Studies per se but also in this process of developing a program.

For those of you who attended last week’s session, we hope it offered the opportunity to think about how you might collaborate with a range of individuals around your interests, and to make connections with some with whom you might not typically interact. We very much encourage you to think about how the available funding might help to support the development of your ideas and possible collaborations, and to submit a proposal. As mentioned at the information session, the Collaborative aims to serve as an incubator, facilitator, and amplifier of new, creative, and continued collaborative approaches that ground learning in place and connect understanding to action; part of this facilitatory role involves helping to identify and connect potential interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and academy-community collaborators. We’ll be responding to the information cards turned in at the information session and hope we can continue to be in conversation about your ideas and how we might help. To help identify and connect possible collaborators, we would like to share the contact information that you provided (most probably via the Collaborative’s website). If you would rather that we not do so, would you please let us know by February 3? We also ask for your help in encouraging others who may have ideas aligned with the Collaborative to bring those ideas forward.

For those of you interested in the Collaborative who were unable to attend last Thursday’s session, please know that we are glad to speak with you about possibilities and that we are also hoping to share some of the introductory material about the Collaborative at other gatherings such as departmental or student organization meetings.

We are also working to identify some more specific topics for future sessions. Some of the themes arising from Thursday’s session and other informal conversations include: rural health, regional music, rural economies, food and food insecurity, regional history, ecotourism, protection of biodiversity, literacy and education, and community-building. We welcome suggestions for venues and/or for specific topics, please do send those our way (

Below the body of this e-mail is an example that we hope suggests how place-based, humanistically-driven inquiry and public scholarship might manifest themselves through a variety of collaborative possibilities (within and across disciplines, institutions, academy-community, and more) around a shared topic. The particular example we offer below focuses on tobacco use in the region, a community-identified interest that the local health councils and others have been working to address. We hope this example is helpful in imagining the possibilities as we each consider our own interests and how they may intersect with those of others; by no means is this single example meant to be exhaustive or constraining with regard to topic, approach, or otherwise.

This might also be a good time to note that the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) already has developed a variety of long-term partnerships with community groups that might offer fruitful ground for campus-community collaborations: local free clinics, three local school systems, with students supporting college counseling, student empowerment, mentoring at-risk students, supporting physical activity and enrichment programs at elementary schools, supporting two community garden projects, working on alleviating food insecurity, running an ESL program, among others. Starting this academic year OCE is also working working with five local partners in the VISTA program addressing poverty alleviation through workforce development, low income housing weatherization, development of capacity of local food banks, economic development, health education, readiness for school, among others. For more information on these programs and for contacts with local partners, contact Director of OCE, Jim Peterman:, Associate Director Nicky Hamilton:, or Robin Hille Michaels: OCE is charged with overseeing and coordinating community engagement programs, so It will be important to consult with the OCE directly or through the Collaborative should your ideas involve University-community collaborations.

More generally, please feel free to contact either of us (Karen:; Linda: or the Collaborative’s Coordinator (Sabeth Jackson: or Community Liaison (Emily Partin: if we can be of assistance as ideas emerge and develop.

We have attached the slides from Thursday’s session in case they are useful to you. We’ll also be posting these on the Collaborative’s website, which is also where you can find a list of Collaborative Committee members and staff and more detailed information about funding opportunities. This is also where we’ll post information about upcoming Collaborative events and examples in addition to the one below. The website URL is:

We look forward to this collaborative process and to seeing what emerges from it.


Karen and Linda

AN EXAMPLE: Tobacco Use in the Region

Imagine a collaborative effort in which the following collaborations together yield a richer understanding of and local action regarding tobacco use in the region. All or subsets of the efforts below might gather together to collaborate as a larger team and to share their progress and discoveries. Some or all might extend over multiple semesters, perhaps being “handed off” as needed to maintain progress and continuity. And note that one certainly might vary the recipe to yield a different version of the same dish or perhaps a different dish entirely, depending on the ingredients (the particular disciplines, courses, institutions, community initiatives, people) and how and in what order they come together. Other potentially useful metaphors for this process that come to mind are different atoms and molecules combining to yield different compounds and reactions, and the notion that there are different ways to connect the dots yielding different patterns and constellations.

  • A local high school health teacher and local physician wishing to know more about local students’ perceptions of tobacco and tobacco use partner with one or more Sewanee students and faculty on a course project, independent study project, or extended research effort to better understand students’ perceptions. These might be faculty and/or students from any of a number of disciplines: Psychology, Anthropology, HIstory, Philosophy,…They might use a variety of approaches including focus groups and ethnographic and/or oral history approaches.
  • Students and Faculty in a Sewanee English course partner with Students in an Art course around a project examining portrayals of tobacco and tobacco use in the region in literature and in art.
  • An independent study student in Anthropology at Sewanee examines the local cultural views about tobacco and tobacco use and compares those to views in some other culture where the rates of use are much lower.
  • Students and faculty in Anthropology, Art, Theatre, Art, English/Literature and History come together to examine the cultural themes around tobacco and tobacco use in this region as told through a variety of stories of different forms emerging from a variety of approaches.
  • Students in a Sewanee Economics course partner with Students in a Yale Economics course around a project comparing the economics of tobacco and tobacco use in Grundy County vs. New Haven.
  • A History student and a history faculty member undertake a summer research project examining the history of tobacco and tobacco use in the region.They might include oral histories in their approaches and as a step in their own work they might help to convene a workshop on conducting oral histories that could be attended by students, faculty, and community partners with an array of interests and projects who could then potentially apply this approach.
  • Local merchants, local government officials, and local health educators co-teach part of a Politics course to address the politics of tobacco and tobacco use in this region.
  • A mathematics class undertakes as a class project statistical analysis and mathematical modeling of tobacco use in the region, informed by data collected by one or more Psychology, Economics, and Politics courses.
  • Faculty and students in a journalism course examine how tobacco and tobacco use are framed in the press, perhaps bringing in local journalists and community partners to consider alternative frames.
  • A upper-level “Place-Based Issues” course, collaboratively taught by faculty from multiple disciplines and community partners, focuses on a specific local/regional issue (perhaps a different issue in each offering, or with the work of each iteration building on that which came before) from a variety of perspectives and lenses.
  • A Psychology course project or course thread examining various approaches to changing people’s thinking and behavior around tobacco meets regularly with a Philosophy course examining the morality and ethics of trying to change the thoughts and behaviors of others, not only in the context of an intervention regarding tobacco use but also in the context of the philosophical issues raised by the tobacco industry’s messaging and actions especially as relevant to the local region.
  • Informed by some or all of the above, staff in Student Life and/or at the Wellness Center partner with a Sewanee Psychology class and researchers at Yale’s Tobacco Research in Youth program, and the local health councils and high schools to design and pilot interventions (perhaps distinct but compared) in the local high schools and on Sewanee’s campus over several semesters. These interventions might include messaging campaigns and public service announcements that not only draw from knowledge of cultural models and decision making from disciplines such as Anthropology and Psychology, but perhaps also tap the talents of students in other disciplines (e.g., Art, Theatre, Music, English, to name a few).