Registration for Appalachian Studies Association Conference Now Open

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

image of 2020 ASA graphic "Appalachian Understories"

The conference will take place March 12-15 in the UK Gatton Student Center. In collaboration with the ASA, the conference is being presented by UK's Appalachian Center, College of Arts and Sciences and Graduate Appalachian Research Community (GARC).

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 7, 2020) — Next month, the University of Kentucky will host, for the first time, the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) conference on its campus. Registration for the conference is now open, and UK students (who are not presenting) are invited to attend the conference free of charge.

"We are delighted to bring the vibrant Appalachian Studies Association conference to the University of Kentucky for the first time in its 43-year history," said Kathy Newfront, UK associate professor of history and ASA 2020 conference chair. "UK has a well-earned international reputation for excellence in Appalachian Studies. This conference is a great opportunity to share that excellence and continue strengthening it. We are especially excited that so many UK students can attend the conference on their home campus at no cost.” 

The conference will take place March 12-15 in the UK Gatton Student Center. In collaboration with the ASA, the conference is being presented by students and faculty affiliated with UK's Appalachian CenterCollege of Arts and Sciences and Graduate Appalachian Research Community (GARC).

The theme of the conference is “Appalachian Understories: Growing Hope and Resilience from Commonwealth to Global Commons.” In forestry, the understory comprises plant life growing beneath the forest's canopy. Recognizing that forest understories are places of beauty and strength, the ASA conference will bring to light the many voices of Appalachia that are often obscured. In these "understories," people confront stereotypes, myths, marginalization and violence, and meet them with resilience and hope. 

Participants will engage in conversations about Appalachian forests, black Appalachians, women, gender and sexuality, health and healing, and hope spots. Oral history, filmmaking, literature, music, photography and other art forms will be among the featured “understories” exploration methods.

The opening ceremonies for the conference will kick off at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 12, at the Social Staircase in the Gatton Student Center. Four plenary sessions over the next two days will cover the following topics:

  • Mixed Mesophytic Nation: Pathways to Citizenship
  • Black Appalachian Women: Testimonies, Environmental Justice, Health Disparities, and Historical Reparations
  • Hope Spots
  • Health and Healing: What’s hurting us and understories of recuperation

The conference will also offer a variety of educational entertainment, such as a cooking class, square dance, art exhibits, musical performances, a book signing and a drag show. Field trips to places like Buffalo Trace Distillery and Robinson Forest are also available to those who register in advance. Contact Chris Barton at for more information on the field trips.

A full list of these events and a conference schedule can be found in a preliminary program available at​

"The local planning committee has done an outstanding job putting together this program and bringing this premiere conference to campus," said Kathryn Engle, associate director of UK's Appalachian Center. "We are excited to host scholars, activists, artists, students and practitioners from around the region, country and world. For decades, UK has been the center for Appalachian scholarship and teaching and this conference will highlight all the university and the Commonwealth have to offer."

ASA, the premier Appalachian studies nonprofit professional organization in the world, promotes and engages dialogue, research, scholarship, education, creative expression and action among a diverse and inclusive group of scholars, educators, practitioners, grassroots activists, students, individuals, groups and institutions. ASA's mission is driven by its commitment to foster quality of life, democratic participation and appreciation of Appalachian experiences regionally, nationally and internationally.

The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center contributes to the land grant mission of UK by fostering community-university partnerships in research, learning and engagement in Appalachia, a region faced with unique opportunities and challenges toward sustainable development in a globalized context.

"The Appalachian Studies Program and the Appalachian Center at UK have long and impressive histories; when I came to UK, I felt at home with this phenomenal group of scholars," said Jennifer Cramer, associate professor and chair of UK's linguistics department and program chair for the ASA conference. "Hosting this conference both highlights the high-level, engaged work happening at UK and brings the world of Appalachian Studies to Lexington for our faculty, staff and students to explore."

For more information about the conference and registration, visit

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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