SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Tom Hansell

Tom Hansell, Professor of Appalachian Studies, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund Recipient: Spring 2022

Project: “New River Symposium Student Support"

College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) grant funding enabled five undergraduate and three graduate students from Appalachian State University to present their research to a professional audience at the 2022 New River Symposium, held at Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia from April 10-12, 2022. While funds from the SAFE grant did not directly support Hansell’s scholarship goals, they did provide the opportunity to introduce students to nonprofit and civic organizations working along the New River.  

“The students represented Appalachian State University well, and this strengthened the network that supports my research and creative activities,” said Hansell.

Students participated in plenary sessions, breakout sessions and poster presentations to an interdisciplinary group of academics, community members and government officials. Interacting with this diverse group of stakeholders allowed the students to develop their professional networks.  

The student presentations ranged from speaking at a plenary session and posters to a documentary film about a unique trash collection device along the New River called “The Trash Trout.” This student produced documentary helped deepen partnerships between Appalachian State University, the Town of Boone and the Watauga Riverkeeper. These partnerships continued into the fall semester when Appalachian studies graduate students collaborated with the New River Conservancy and the Watauga Riverkeeper to create projects that educated the public about microplastic pollution. This project was funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Appalachian Teaching Project.


About the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in four program areas: Appalachian studies; gender, women’s and sexuality studies; global studies; and interdisciplinary studies. The department is also home to Watauga Residential College, an interdisciplinary, alternative general education program. The department promotes creative and imaginative engagement through a cross-disciplinary investigation of complex systems and problems. Learn more at

About the SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at:

SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Tom Hansell
Published: Feb 28, 2023 10:05am