Students and geology professor research ancient marine animal

March 31, 2015

Dr. Johnny Waters, of Appalachian State University’s Department of Geology, is working with former student Bonnie Nguyen and senior Lyndsie White to better understand blastoids. Through the use of technology, Nguyen and White have created 3D models of the ancient marine animal, as well as computer simulations showing how water flowed through the animal’s gill-like structures. 

Burris honored by UNC Board of Governors for teaching excellence

March 30, 2015

Jennifer Burris, an associate professor of physics at Appalachian State and director of the engineering physics graduate program, is one of 17 professors from across the UNC system who will receive a UNC Board of Governors 2015 Award for Teaching Excellence.

Interdisciplinary Studies Student Co-Writes Professionally Produced Play

March 26, 2015 

Few students can say that they have studied abroad three times in three different countries, learned two foreign languages in college, and co-written a play that has been produced by professional actors in New York City. And yet, that’s precisely what Dara Epstein has done during her time at Appalachian.

Dara, a senior interdisciplinary studies student, co-wrote the play “By Wheel and By Wing”, which is based on the true story of the Parnes family, who survived the Holocaust and eventually immigrated to America. “Writing is an essential form of creative expression for me,” says Dara. “I like to communicate stories and explore issues through playwriting.”

Dara learned about the story through a call for submissions by the theater Act 3 Productions in Sandy Springs, Georgia. “They were seeking young writers to participate in a playwriting endeavor to bring the story of the Parnes family to life,” Dara says. She was one of seven student co-writers from across the Atlanta metro area. “We each brought something to the writing process,” Dara shares.

For a 10 month period, the group convened once every three weeks, and wrote scenes individually after participating in collaborative sessions in which they brainstormed how to tell the story. Eventually, the group met with the last two living members of the Parnes family, and discussed their stories in person.

Several staged readings of the play took place, beginning in Summer 2011 and ending with a final reading on a New York City stage on November 3, 2014. Additionally, the play premiered for the first time as a full-staged production in Summer 2012.

Dara hopes the story will unite and inspire its audience. “What I really hope is that the play will continue to bring people together, maybe from diverse backgrounds, to experience it and to bring it to life on stage,” Dara explains. “It is a story of a Jewish family, but it’s not a uniquely Jewish story.”

Dara will graduate in May 2015 with a self-designed degree and concentration in applied sustainability, and a minor in English with a focus on creative writing. “Students with such diverse interests and restless creativity need a place to pursue what fascinates them, and Interdisciplinary Studies is that kind of place,” says Dr. Joseph Gonzalez, Dara’s advisor. “Without the option to design her own major, I am convinced that Appalachian would have lost Dara to some other school, and she would now be a credit to some other university.”

For more information on “By Wheel and By Wing”, please visit



Ray Russell: The Internet’s Ray of Sunshine

March 23, 2015

Department of Computer Science faculty member and local weatherman Ray Russell is featured on, where he discusses his extensive career experience and weather center. 

“Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men”: Lecture by Dr. Michael Kimmel

March 20, 2015

On Tuesday, April 14, Appalachian State University will host an evening lecture by Dr. Michael Kimmel for the Fifth Annual Dean’s Advisory Council Interdisciplinary Lecture.  The event will take place in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts at 7pm.

Michael Kimmel is among the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity in the world today. He is Distinguished professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University, where he directs the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. Dr. Kimmel is the author of more than 20 books, including Manhood in America: A Cultural History (1996), Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (2008), and Angry White Men (2013).  He has lectured at over 300 colleges and universities, and offered presentations at many of the world’s leading corporations on engaging men in support of gender equality.

Sponsors of his visit to Appalachian include the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Sociology, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Compliance, Greek Life, Athletics, the Department of Military Science, the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Interpersonal Violence Council, and the Red Flag Educators.

Dr. Kimmel’s lecture is free and open to the public.  A book signing will follow the lecture.

Appalachian Geology Professors and Student Conduct Groundbreaking Climate Research in Mongolia

March 2, 2015 

Although the words “climate change” have become a commonly used phrase, few people know the science behind the term. Appalachian State geology professors Johnny Waters and Sarah Carmichael are out to change that.

For the past five years, Waters and Carmichael have been part of a United Nations-funded international group called the International Geologic Cooperation Program (IGCP), which was assembled to improve and build scientific capacity in third-world countries.

“Our specific project is to look at climate change and extinction in the middle Paleozoic era, which was 300 to 400 million years ago,” Waters says. “It was an interesting time in earth history, and happens to be very similar to what we’re seeing today. There was a lot of climatic instability, as well as a massive change in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This was a period of really dramatic change.”

The IGCP researchers, a group which includes roughly 200 people from 25 different countries, study rocks from the Devonian period as a means of gauging the causes for the major mass extinction as well as the conditions in the aftermath. One of those researchers is Cameron Batchelor, a Geology student from Appalachian State, who traveled to Mongolia in August 2014 with Waters, Carmichael, and other ICGP researchers.

“There were two large extinction events in the Devonian period as evidenced by black shale deposits,” Batchelor explains. “We’ve been working on samples from China, so we went to Mongolia to see if we can find the extinction events there as well as in China. These rocks have never been studied before, so the research we’re doing there is groundbreaking. When this study is published, it will be the first detailed publication on samples in this vicinity.”

Batchelor admits that when she first learned she was going on the trip, she felt intimidated. “We went with a bunch of professional geologists and I knew they were all more qualified than me,” Batchelor says. “But they all listened to me and wanted me to help them, so the reality greatly exceeded my expectations.”

In addition to learning about geology, Batchelor got to experience a new culture. “I was living the Mongolian way, living in a yurt and trying Mongolian foods. It was awesome,” Batchelor says. “You get to study what you love, and travel the world, and there are no limits to what you can do,” she smiles.

Batchelor received the Youth Activity Fund Grant from the Explorer’s Club to fund her geologic work. “The Explorer’s Club was created in 1904 to promote exploration,” Bachelor says. On March 22, Batchelor will present her research in Mongolia in New York City at the 111th Explorer’s Club annual dinner.

“There’s a possibility of other students doing additional field work next summer,” Carmichael says. She adds, “We couldn’t do this work without our undergrads.”

Waters hopes that IGCP research helps raise awareness about the importance of climate change. “Because we’re dumping nutrients into the ocean, and have a very rapid change in carbon dioxide, we estimate that by the year 2100, we will duplicate the climate conditions we saw 375 million years ago that led to a major mass extinction,” he says. “Because of this research with IGCP, we now know what the climate will look like if we don’t change what we’re doing.”

To learn more about the research of Johnny Waters and Sarah Carmichael, please visit


Geography's site to be included in the World Meteorological Organization CryoNet's pre-operational testing phase

February 26, 2015

The Quelccaya Icecap site where Perry Baker is conducting research has been selected as one of two U.S.- supported sites to be included in the World Meteorological Organization CryoNet's pre-operational testing phase. Perry is an assistant professor of geography in Appalachian State University’s Department of Geography and Planning.

KyrgyzTUCKIAN Music as Cultural Foreign Policy

February 25, 2015

Please join the Center for Appalachian Studies in welcoming Dr. Jeffrey A. Keith, a professor of global studies at Warren Wilson College, Appalachian historian, and musician to our campus for a brown bag lecture on Friday, February 27th, from 12:30 to 1:30 in Linville Falls (PSU).

The title of Dr. Keith's lecture is Kyrgyztuckian Music as Cultural Foreign Policy: Reflections on Power, Music, and Representation in Appalachia and the Kyrgyz Republic

Jeff Keith earned his doctorate in history at the University of Kentucky, where he specialized in the history of Appalachia and U.S. foreign policy. As a graduate student, Keith began the University of Kentucky String Band, which performed across the eastern U.S. as the Red State Ramblers. The band came to the attention of the U.S. Department of State in 2012, when the Ramblers were invited to Kyrgyzstan and Ecuador as cultural emissaries for the U.S. This presentation will provide an overview of the band’s experiences in Kyrgyzstan, though it will include brief discussions of how that trip illustrated fascinating differences and connections between the mountains of Appalachia and Central Asia in terms of contemporary power dynamics, musical styles, and the politics of representation.

For more information, contact Dr. Katherine Ledford at ledfordke [at] appstate [dot] edu or 262-4087.

Appalachian Journal fall/winter issue released

February 25, 2015

Appalachian Journal has released its fall/winter 2015 issue, which features the winning essay of the Appalachian Studies Association’s 2014 Carl Ross Award. Appalachian State graduate Zachary D. Swick received the award for his article on sustainable development titled in April 2014. The award honors Carl Ross, who was a history professor and director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian at the time of his death in 1988.

Center for Appalachian Studies receives grant to develop classroom materials focused on region’s musical heritage

February 24, 2015

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership has awarded $7,000 to the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University to develop lesson plans about North Carolina’s music traditions.