Anthropology Students Present “COVID and Rural Appalachia” Project at Symposium on Regional Economic Development

Posted on 12/1/21 1:41 PM

Seven students participated in the twenty-first annual Appalachian Teaching Project Symposium, a regional economic development conference sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission. IUP is one of 16 Appalachian colleges and universities participating in this year’s Appalachian Teaching Project.

The Rural Resiliency and Vulnerability Project is an ethnographic research project that engages qualitative data collection to better understand the landscape of the COVID pandemic in rural Western Pennsylvania. This qualitative investigation analyzes the ways in which the health disaster of COVID has impacted people’s economic participation, food security, social distancing practices, vaccine willingness, and social integration.

To prepare for the ATP Symposium, students enrolled in Medical Anthropology (ANTH 444) and Applied Anthropology (ANTH 457), taught by Abigail Adams and Amanda Poole, respectively. Select students researched the impact of COVID-19 in rural Northern Appalachia.

Each ATP project reflects one of four themes that connect back to the ARC strategic plan: addressing community needs and challenges; economic development; tourism; and capacity building. As a capstone to this work, students normally travel to Washington, DC to present their work to other student delegations from other ATP participating institutions, ARC leadership, and community leaders in a formal peer-to-peer conference setting hosted by ARC. This year, due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the ATP Symposium was held online.

Since 2001, over 2,650 college and graduate students from across Appalachia have participated in the Appalachian Teaching Project. This is the eighth year a student delegation from IUP has participated in ATP. Many ATP alumnae have gone on to careers in public service, community development, and other related fields across the Region. Summaries of each research project are available at on the ATP website. ATP is one of four academies and institutes sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Through these experiential learning opportunities, participants build networks, hone skills, and cultivate an enduring commitment to Appalachia’s future.

“Appalachia needs young leaders, like those participating in the Appalachian Teaching Project, to bring forward-thinking economic development plans to life,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “This group of change-makers is capable of creating positive impacts in our communities, and I am excited to see the lasting effects these innovative projects will have on our region long-term.”

Supported by ARC and organized by the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University, students receive college credit for participating in ATP, and schools participating in ATP offer a directed seminar guiding students in developing and executing field-based research projects specific to the needs of their surrounding communities and in alignment with one of ARC’s strategic investment priorities.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

IUP Department of Anthropology