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Humanities Community Affiliates

Theresa Burriss

Chair, Appalachian Studies at Radford University; Director, Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center at Radford University

Under Theresa’s leadership, Radford’s Appalachian Studies program hosts the Highland Summer Writers’ Conference and sponsors other humanities events on campus.They also coordinate visits to the Farm at Selu, a 1930s replica farmhouse and farm.Theresa is the U.S. co-chair of the 2019 Appalachian/Carpathian Mountain Conference in Brasov and Petralia, Romania.She holds a PhD from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, and her research interests include Affrilachian literature, ecofeminism, and ecocriticism.

Recent awards/grants/publications

  • “Benham, Kentucky, Coal Miner, and Wise County, Virginia, Landscape.” Appalachian Reckoning , edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll (WVU Press, 2019)
  • “Raven, Woman, Man:A/Religious Ecocritical Reading of Jim Minick’s Fire Is Your Water.” Appalachian Ecocriticism , edited by Jessica Cory and Laura White (WVU Press, 2019)
  • 2015 NEH Summer Institute Grant, Boston, MA
  • email: tburriss@RADFORD.EDU

    Denise Giardina


    Denise is an internationally known novelist who was born in Bluefield, WV, and raised in the coalfields of southern WV.Her historical novel about the WV Mine Wars, Storming Heaven , was a Discovery Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and received the 1987 W. D. Weatherford Award for the best published work about the AppalachianSouth.In the spring of 2019, Storming Heaven had its first full stage production in a musical adaptation.She received the American Book Award for The Unquiet Earth , and her 1998 novel Saints and Villains was awarded the Boston Book Review fiction prize and was semifinalist for the International Dublin Literary Award.Denise is retired from teaching at West Virginia State University.

    Recent awards/grants/publications

  • Emily’s Ghost (novel) (W.W. Norton, 2009)
  • Fallam’s Secret (novel)(W.W. Norton, 2003)
  • email:

    Emily Hilliard

    WV Humanities Council, Folklife Program

    Emily Hilliard is the West Virginia state folklorist and founding director of the West Virginia Folklife Program based at the West Virginia Humanities Council.She holds an M.A. in folklore from the University of North Carolina and currently teaches in Marshall University's Graduate Humanities Program.

    Recent awards/grants/publications

  • 55 Strong:Inside the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike , co-editor with Elizabeth Catte and Jessica Salfia (Belt Publishing, 2018)
  • Foreword. Folk Songs from the West Virginia Hills , collected and edited by Patrick Gainer (WVU Press, 2018)
  • email:

    The West Virginia Folklife Program is dedicated to the documentation, preservation, presentation, and support of West Virginia’s vibrant cultural heritage and living traditions. West Virginia Folklife is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Folk & Traditional Arts Program. Often defined as the “art of everyday life,” folklife refers to art and culture that is based in and reflective of traditional knowledge and connection to community. The mission of the West Virginia Folklife Program is to document the diverse folklife traditions of West Virginia and advance understanding and appreciation of traditional culture through the development of public programs, publications, and other media.

    Recent awards/grants/publication

  • The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress Parsons Fund Award recipient, 2018
  • The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress Henry Reed Fund Award recipient, 2016

  • Catherine Venable Moore


    Catherine is the cofounder and a volunteer for several public history projects in the state:the WV Mine Wars Museum, the Paint Creek Scenic Trail, Hawk’s Nest Names, and the Cedar Grove radio documentary.She’s currently working on a nonfiction book about the history and legacy of the West Virginia Mine Wars which will be published by Random House.She’s also helping lead efforts to commemorate the 100thanniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 2021.

    Recent publications/grants/award

  • Introduction. The Book of the Dead .(WVU Press 2018)
  • West Virginia Humanities Council Fellowships (2014, 2019)
  • Inclusion in Best American Essays 2017
  • NEH Creating Humanities Communities grant
  • Nonfiction Writing Fellowships from Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony; MacDowell Colony; and Vermont Studio Center.
  • email:

    Natalie Sypolt

    Writer, Editor, and Associate Professor of English at Pierpont Community and Technical College

    Natalie has published in national and regional journals and anthologies.She is an editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers and for the literary journal Change Seven .As an advisor of the Phi Theta Kappa honorary at Pierpont, she hopes to engage students in Appalachian service projects.She is the President Elect of the Appalachian Studies Association and will be chair in 2021-2022 when WVU hosts the association’s annual national conference.

    Recent publications/awards/grants

  • The Sound of Holding Your Breath (short story collection) (WVU Press, 2018)
  • email:

    Jessie van Eerden

    Prose Writer, Associate Professor of English, Hollins University

    A novelist and essayist, Jessie also directed the low-residency MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan for seven years. A native of Preston County, WV, Jessie holds a MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and now teaches creative writing at Hollins University.

    Recent publications/awards/grants

  • The Long Weeping:Portrait Essays (Orison Books, 2017)
  • My Radio Radio (novel) (WVU Press, 2016)
  • Glorybound (novel) (Word Farm, 2012)
  • email:

    West Virginia Wesleyan College

    Contact: Ashley Lawson

    Dr. Ashley Lawson is an associate professor of English at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she is chair of the English Department and the director of theHonors Program. Her research and teaching center on modern American literature and women writers of the twentieth century, a focus she developed while obtaining her PhD from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She specializes in women writers in creative partnerships, and she has published essays on ZeldaFitzgerald, Sarah Haardt Mencken, EstelleFaulkner, Dawn Powell, and Shirley Jackson in scholarly book collections and journals suchas The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies and The Fitzgerald Review. Lawson is an Associate Professor of English with a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska.Her research interests include women’s modernism, twentieth century American literature, and women’s studies.

    WVWC is a small liberal arts program with a thriving humanities program.Majors and minors include English (creative writing and literature), Music, Art, History, Philosophy, Religion, Theater and Dance, and Gender Studies.Wesleyan also offers their students a number of extracurricular programs in the humanities.

    Recent publications/awards/grants

  • 11 grants from the WV Humanities Council since 2009
  • NEH grant through the Humanities Connections Grant Program to explore the feasibility of creating an Appalachian Studies minor at WVWC (under the leadership of Dr. Katharine Antolini)
  • email:

    West Virginia Wesleyan MFA in Creative Writing Program

    Contact:Doug Van Gundy:

    WVWC MFA is a low-residency program that offers tracks in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry featuring summer residencies on campus and winter residencies at Blackwater Falls State Park.Located in Appalachia and founded by former WV Poet Laureate Irene McKinney, the program fosters writing about place.


  • WV Humanities Council grants, 2012-2019
  • email:

    What is the Humanities Community Affiliates program?

    The Center is at work to build and foster a network of humanities researchers, practitioners, and communicators. We aim for a diverse and well-rounded intellectual community with a rich exchange between our campus and our region, one that will make humanities knowledge accessible to the public for the common good. The Humanities Community Affiliates program brings together people doing a wide range of humanities inquiry together with WVU Faculty Affiliates to build this exchange in the service of open inquiry and dialogue.

    How do I become a Humanities Community Affiliate?

    Send us a note describing how you are actively involved with ongoing humanities work, as well as how you think being a Humanities Community Affiliate would benefit that work. Be sure to mention ways that you would be interested in participating in Humanities Center activities.

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