For the first time in its 32 year history the Appalachian Studies Association Conference will be held in Ohio. I am pleased in general that Appalachian Ohio is finally getting recognition and additionally excited that the conference will be held at Shawnee State University in my home county of Scioto. It is not particularly surprising that Shawnee State was chosen as it is probably more accessible than the larger and more prestigious Ohio University in Athens. As far as I know Shawnee State and Ohio University are the only large state schools in the heart of Appalachian Ohio and there are probably few non-educational facilities if any in the area that could accommodate the conference. Shawnee State is also the home of the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education which endeavors to increase college attendance rates in Appalachian Ohio.
Even though Shawnee State is not my alma mater, I have a personal connection to the school. As a staffer for former Ohio House Speaker Vern Riffe, I was with the Speaker when his HB 739 was signed into law at Portsmouth on July 2, 1986 creating the university. I have had many family members since graduate from SSU including my dad. Of course my uncle Ted and aunt Frances have been faculty members of the institution. Shawnee State was also the back drop for my first in person view of President Obama on October 8, 2008. You will recall that this was the rally where Obama's now famous pie story was first told.
If you have a free weekend and $155 to spare you might want to head over to Portsmouth this weekend and attend a few sessions. Unfortunately this is past the registration date so the banquet and luncheons won't be open to anyone who is a late/ on-site attendee.
It is always good meet folks who are interested in Appalachian but I will warn you that much of what is offered at this ( or any ) conference is the type of garbage typical of modern academia. In an effort to come up with something fresh and new the “researcher” latches on to some obscure and atypical element found in Appalachia and magnifies it and “talks” it until it has the appearance of being bigger than it is. A paper is then written by cobbling together a bunch of fifty-cent words with a syntax so convoluted that even Jacques Derrida would want to slap the author. An equally stupid title complete with a superfluous colon is added to the mess and submitted to half a dozen symposiums in hope that one will accept it.
But I will leave it up to the individual to separate out the grain from the chaff.