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Phone: (740) 351-3810
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April 12, 2018

Shawnee State University will be hosting the Visualizing Appalachia Symposium starting at 8 a.m. on Thurs., Apr. 12 through Apr. 13 in the Morris University Center.

The symposium is a two-day conference featuring sessions, workshops, speakers, exhibits and documentary screening exploring the theme of “Visualizing Appalachia.” The symposium’s mixed-genre, interdisciplinary sessions will draw on everything from history and literature to music and storytelling. The conference will feature an array of individual and group presentations including academic papers, panels, workshops, readings, films, performances and art installations, and a historic tour of Shawnee State Forest.

This year’s keynote speaker is Roger May, an Appalachian photographer and writer based in Charleston, West Virginia. He was born in the Tug River Valley, located on the WV and Kentucky state line, in the heart of the Hatfield and McCoy country. His photographs, essays and interviews have been published by the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, National Geographic, Quartz, the Oxford American and many others. In 2014, May started the crowdsourced “Looking at Appalachia” project. To check out his work, visit May’s website: The keynote address is free and open to the public, and is scheduled for 7 p.m., April 13 in the Flohr Lecture Hall of the Clark Memorial Library (CML).

Other guest speakers invited to Visualizing Appalachia are Jack Shuler and Doug Swift, who are producing and directing a new documentary on Portsmouth. Shuler is an author, independent journalist and essayist. He’s the editor of Between Coasts and is an associate professor of English at Denison University where he teaches American Literature, Black Studies, and chairs the concentration in Narrative Nonfiction Writing. To learn more about Shuler, go online to Swift is a documentary filmmaker with Wild Iris Video and has taught at Muskingum University and Ohio University-Zanesville. He completed his graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Swift’s films include “Breathe Free,” on the Columbus Crossing Borders Project and “Duet.” For more information, go to

Shuler and Swift will join May and Andrew Feight, Professor of American History in SSU’s Department of Social Sciences and Program Director of Visualizing Appalachia Symposium, for a public panel discussion about media depictions of Portsmouth and Appalachia at 4 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 13 in the Flohr Lecture Hall in CML.

The conference will also feature a free, public screening of Elaine Sheldon’s Oscar-nominated Netflix Original documentary, “Heroin(e),” a story about the opioid crisis in Huntington, WV. The screening will be held at 7 p.m., Apr. 12 in the Flohr Lecture Hall in the CML.

A full listing of the sessions, events, and speakers is available online at

“The symposium is a great opportunity for people in the Portsmouth community to come to campus and learn about the latest research on our local community and the larger Appalachian region. It’s an opportunity to hear and see how scholars, photographers, students and educators are engaging the issues facing our city and region,” said Janet Feight, Program Coordinator of Visualizing Appalachia Symposium. “Additionally, the symposium attracts participants from outside the area who will be visiting the city, exploring its streets, restaurants and shops, while sharing their scholarship and creative works on this region we call home.”

During the conference, SSU will be celebrating the launch of a new 15-credit hour Certificate in Digital Appalachian Studies. Beginning fall 2018, SSU will offer courses for a new digital humanities certificate program that focuses on the region of Appalachia.

Professor Andrew Feight is directing the symposium and is assisted by a program committee of local residents and faculty from SSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, which include: Michael Barnhart, Thomas Bunting, Janet Feight, Whitney Folsom-Lecouffe and Mich Nyawalo. The Visualizing Appalachia Symposium is made possible through a grant from the Steven A. Hunter Appalachian Legacy Project of the SSU Development Foundation. Additional support was provided by Dr. Jeff Bauer, Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs at SSU, Roberta Milliken, Dean of College of Arts and Sciences at SSU, the Jane M.G. Foster Distinguished Lecture Series, and a donation from George White, M.D., Portsmouth, Ohio.

Registration for the symposium and additional information can be found online at

For more information about the new certificate program in Digital Appalachian Studies or about the symposium, contact Andrew Feight, at