New Chair of Department of Philosophy and Religion Promotes Engaged Education

October 23, 2014

The College of Arts and Sciences welcomes Dr. Kevin Schilbrack as the new Chair for the Department of Philosophy and Religion.

Schilbrack received his Ph.D. from University of Chicago Divinity School.  A scholar interested in comparing religious philosophies around the world, Schilbrack recently published Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto with Wiley-Blackwell Press and he has debated the ideas in that book at Furman University, University of Virginia, and Oxford University.

“When I was studying at Chicago, my professors told me that this was not only a career, but a calling, and that you have to perform at a level of excellence or go home,” Schilbrack says. “I was really inspired by that.”

Schilbrack says that Philosophy and Religion students are at an advantage in the job market because they are prepared to think and write clearly, and they have a reputation for being reflective. “We want students to know that the study of philosophy and religion helps prepare them for careers in law, counseling, business, and many other fields,” Schilbrack says. “The faculty members in this department gear our classes to thinking about everyday life.”

Many students from Appalachian State’s Department of Philosophy and Religion pursue post-graduate studies, and several have gone on to prestigious graduate schools like Harvard, Duke, the University of Chicago, and the University of Toronto. Other graduates have been accepted into the Peace Corps, ministry, politics, or are seeking graduate degrees in law or medicine.

Schilbrack’s vision for the department includes raising the amount of student/faculty research and increasing alumni presence in activities within the department. “The spirit of our department is engaged education,” Schilbrack said. “Our students are taking initiative to create events and movements within the department, and we want both them and our alumni to feel welcome here as part of a community.”

To learn more about the opportunities available for students in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, please visit

Watauga Global Community Changes Name to Watauga Residential College

October 22, 2014

One of the first official actions of our new Chancellor, Sheri Everts, was approving changing the name of Watauga Global Community to Watauga Residential College.  The faculty of Watauga and the College of Arts and Sciences recommended this change so that Watauga could occupy its rightful place as one of the signature—and storied—programs of Appalachian State University.

Watauga has gone through several name changes since its inception in 1972, most recently operating as “Watauga Global Community.”  The faculty and staff of Watauga were convinced that returning to the designation of college was both more accurate and more appropriate.  Along with this move back to identifying Watauga as a college, we are working to better recruit high ability creative students.  Henceforth, the University will advertise Watauga as parallel with the Honors College, so that prospective students and parents see Watauga as not only a distinctive program on campus, but a valuable and significant offering of Appalachian State University.

Currently, students who enroll in Watauga take two “core” classes in the program during their first year. These classes meet first year seminar, first semester writing, and other general education requirements.  Students who complete 21 hours in Watauga courses can receive the Experiential, Interdisciplinary Education Academic Certificate.

The core traditions and values of Watauga continue:  students and faculty still share meals, and faculty and students work together both in the classroom and outside of it.  Student leadership is still a primary principle of Watauga, as is integrated living and learning.

Visiting Professor Participates in National Civil Engagement Summit

Oct. 15, 2014

Dr. Robert Bringle, the Kulynych/Cline Visiting Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology, has been invited to participate in the Civic Learning and National Service Summit on Thursday, October 16th. On September 12, President Obama hosted a ceremony at the White House to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps and recognize the 900,000 Americans who have served through AmeriCorps over the last two decades. The President also announced new efforts to expand national service and a desire to encourage civic learning and national service on the college campus.  In addition to the White House Office of Innovation and Civic Participation, the Summit is also being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.  The Summit will bring together leaders in education, civic learning, national service and civic engagement to explore how an increased emphasis on civic learning and expanded focus on service can play a central role in educating young people. Hosted on the Tufts University campus, this summit will address two key topics facing higher education– the value of civic engagement and how to measure and communicate civic engagement commitment and outcomes.

Faculty Member Publishes First Book

Leigh Ann Henion, a lecturer in Appalachian State University’s Department of English and Watauga Residential College’s Writing in the Field Program, has chased eclipses, migrations, and other phenomena around the world to rekindle her sense of wonder. Henion’s first book, Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World, details the pilgrimage. 

Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things says of Henion’s debut:  “What a cool and fascinating ride. Leigh Ann Henion has tackled one of the great questions of contemporary, intelligent, adventurous women. Is it possible to be a wife and mother and still explore the world? Her answer seems to be that this is not only possible, but essential. This story shows how.  I think it will open doors for many.” 

Phenomenal is available for pre-order at The Scholars Bookshop in the Plemmons Student Union. It will be released by Penguin Press on March 24, 2015. You can read a synopsis on the Penguin website, and you’re invited to follow Henion’s journey to publication via Facebook and Twitter.

Department of Sociology Welcomes New Director Amy Dellinger Page

The College of Arts and Sciences welcomes Dr. Amy Dellinger Page, the new Chairperson of the Department of Sociology, following a national search.  Page served last year as the Department’s Interim Chair.

In her new role, Page plans to focus her attention on increasing awareness of the department, its potential for meaningful growth, and the wide variety of career opportunities that Sociology offers students.

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UNC Wilmington, Page went on to receive a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Radford.  Next, she earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with specializations in Criminology and Gender and Sexuality.

Page was initially attracted to Appalachian State’s Sociology Department as a faculty member because it offered several innovative courses that she could contribute to, including Constructions of Gender, and Sexual Deviance and Violence.

Currently, Page serves the campus in several capacities, including the Chancellor’s Interpersonal Violence Council, which works to raise awareness and prevention of interpersonal violence by educating students and training campus personnel.  She also serves on the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity and the Social Justice Collaborative.

As Chairperson of the Department, Page hopes to encourage students to make the most of their time at Appalachian.  Specifically, she would like to continue to encourage internships and other experiential learning opportunities.

“Internships are important because they help students determine what they enjoy, what they don’t like, and what motivates them,” Page said. “Many of our students receive job offers as a result of their internship experiences."

The Sociology Department emphasizes the idea that a student’s educational experience should go beyond the classroom through opportunities such as service learning and community projects. These experiences are available to all students, and take place in the community with the help of local partners and nonprofit agencies. “Our department has great relationships with local non-profits like Oasis and the Hospitality House,” Page says.  

For more information about the Sociology department, please visit   

Appalachian State University Government and Justice Studies Faculty Member Quoted in New York Times

Appalachian State University faculty member Curtis Ryan was quoted as an expert on Jordanian politics in the New York Times on September 17. Dr. Ryan is a professor of Government and Justice Studies, who specializes in International Relations and Comparative Politics, with particular interests in Middle East Politics, Islam and Politics, and International Terrorism.

Nominations now open for the 2014 College of Arts and Sciences faculty and staff awards

The College of Arts and Sciences is now accepting nominations for the 2014 faculty and staff awards. The awards recognize faculty for outstanding service, teaching or scholarly work. In addition, the College has now established an Outstanding Staff Award to recognize the importance of services provided by staff members. Newly revised guidelines are available here and fillable nomination forms for each award are posted here

The awards include: 

  • William C. Strickland Outstanding Junior Faculty Award 
  • Donald W. Sink Family Outstanding Scholar Award
  • Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award
  • Jimmy Smith Outstanding Service Award
  • Academy of Outstanding Teachers Award
  • Outstanding Staff Award

Deadline for submission is July 25

Professor in Department of Geography receives $494,000 grant from NSF

Assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Planning Dr. Baker Perry received a five-year $494,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will support Perry’s research on precipitation and climate change in the Andes Mountains in South America. 

Perry has been conducting research in the Andes Mountains for over fifteen years. He said, “I grew up in some of these areas and that really instilled a curiosity and fascination as to what was happening in the mountains and the broader significance related to water resources, human health and societal impact.”

The grant will assist his study of meteorology and climatology of precipitation as well as install new monitoring stations at the Quelccata Ice Cap outside Cusco, Peru, and Chacaltaya, a mountain peak near La Paz, Bolivia. Chacaltaya is the site of a former glacier that disappeared in 2009.

In addition to weather balloons and new monitoring stations, Perry will relocate a Micro Rain Radar from Avery County in North Carolina to Peru for two years and then Bolivia.

Perry will collaborate with an international team of scientists including fellow researchers from N.C. State University. Over the five-year period Perry will take a Watauga County teacher and an employee from Grandfather Mountain to assist with his work. Perry also aims to take undergraduate and graduate students to assist with fieldwork and research at various points in the study.

The full story is available here. More information about the Department of Geography and Planning is available here

Senior chemistry major wins National Goldwater Scholarship

BOONE- 2013 and 2014 have proven to be very busy years for senior chemistry major Corbin Daniel Ester.

In addition to exceling in a rigorous discipline, conducting research with faculty, and being an active member of several campus organizations during the academic year, Ester spends his summers in research internships. While others are winding down and preparing for a break, Ester is gearing up to work with world-class scientists at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

However, his hard work is paying off. 

Ester was announced as a 2014 recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship from the Excellence in Education Foundation. The $7,500 scholarship is extremely competitive and students must be nominated by faculty members and have a minimum 3.6 GPA. Less than 300 scholarships were awarded for 2014. Ester is only the second student from Appalachian State University to receive the award.

The scholarship honors Senator Barry Goldwater and seeks to support students in mathematics or the sciences displaying intellectual curiosity and intensity who possess potential for significant future contributions in their chosen field.

Ester said, “I’m extremely honored and excited to be a Barry Goldwater scholar. It is not just a reward for my personal efforts during my undergraduate career, but also is indicative of the abundant support provided by my ASU family, my mentors, Dr. Dale Wheeler and Dr. Leslie Jones, and the Honors College.”

Ester spent the summer of 2013 in a research-training program through the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Ester was also the first student from Appalachian State University to receive the George T. Barthalmus Undergraduate Research Grant in 2012-2013.  The grant supported his research on hydrogen production from newly synthesized catalysts with Department of Chemistry professor Dr. Dale Wheeler. 

Prior to participating in the program at the University of Texas, Ester said, “This would not be possible if not for the strong support I receive from both my family and my Appalachian family.”

Summer 2014 Ester will participate in the NIH Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. He will have the incredible opportunity to work closely with Dr. Mariam Poirier, a pioneer in many areas of cancer research, and many other scientists conducting cutting edge biomedical research. Interns are hand selected from the applicant pool by the research scientists working at the NIH. 

Ester has demanding career aspirations and plans after completing his undergraduate degree: “I plan to enter a M.D./Ph.D. program after my undergraduate education with the long-term goal of obtaining dual-appointments at a research university and hospital.”

“I truly believe that without Appalachian State University, I would not have been as blessed.”

New Sociology professor to offer course on punishment in the US

Dr. Kenneth Sanchagrin will be joining the Appalachian State University Department of Sociology this fall and will instruct a course titled “Punishment in American Society (SOC 4340:101).” The course will meet during the Fall 2014 semester on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 p.m.-4:45 p.m. 

SOC 4340 offers a detailed examination of punishment in the United States with a focus on methods of social control found outside of the criminal justice system. It will cover topics such as deterrence, conflict, and retribution theories, and students will read theory from Michel Foucault and Emile Durkheim.

The course will begin by giving students an introduction to theories examining why and how the United States punishes. The remainder of the course will critically analyze different types of social control and reactions to crime in everyday life. There will be a prominent focus on the topic of technology and surveillance as a means of control.

Sanchagrin received a PhD from the University of Iowa and a JD from the Michigan State University College of Law. Before returning for his PhD, he worked as an attorney practicing both criminal and civil law. He has expertise in the criminal justice system, the etiology of crime, and the careers of lawyers.

For more information, contact Dr. Sanchagrin at sanchagrinkj [at] appstate [dot] edu or see the attached PDF.