Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 26 top high school juniors and seniors from across the state were able to participate virtually in the 33rd annual Governor’s School for the Scientific Exploration of Tennessee Heritage offered this month by the Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University.
In 1987, the Appalachian Studies Governor’s School was the fifth Governor’s School to be chartered and is now one of 11 in the state. The only year the School was not held was 2002, when statewide budget cuts forced the cancellation of all Governor’s Schools that year. This year’s program was also in doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Governor’s School leaders were able to transition this summer’s School to online delivery, thanks to the support of the Tennessee Department of Education.
The Tennessee Governor’s Schools provide challenging and high-intensity programs for rising 11th and 12th grade students nominated by high school faculty. The ETSU Appalachian Studies School is the only Governor’s School dedicated to studying the history of Tennessee, and the only one focused on the Appalachian mountain region. Students participate in a wide range of learning experiences, including paleontology, environmental studies, traditional music and dance, and the history of the diverse cultures and peoples who have inhabited this region for thousands of years.
In order to accomplish this, the Appalachian Studies program collaborates with several other departments, as well as with state parks and historic sites, including The ETSU Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site, ETSU College of Public Health, Roan Mountain State Park, Rocky Mount State Historic Site, Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park and Fort Loudon State Park.
“We are so pleased to be able to offer this important program once again,” said Dr. Ron Roach, chair of the Department of Appalachian Studies and director of the Center of Excellence. “ETSU and the Department of Appalachian Studies are dedicated to serving this region and its communities, and Governor’s School is an outstanding opportunity for our high school students. These students get to experience college life, be challenged academically and also learn about the beauty and history of the Appalachian region.”
Dr. Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, assistant professor in Appalachian Studies, is directing this year’s Governor’s School, assisted by Dr. Scott Honeycutt from the Department of Literature and Language. All students in the School will earn three college credits in the History of Tennessee, taught by Senior Lecturer Melanie Storie, of the ETSU History Department.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor’s School has undergone some significant format changes this year,” Fletcher said. “However, we are retaining the spirit of the program through creative activities, online technologies, and the unwavering support of our ETSU campus and community partners.”
The Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services, founded in 1984, part of the Department of Appalachian Studies, includes the Regional Resources Institute, the Archives of Appalachia and the Reece Museum. The Department offers a number of academic programs, including minors in Appalachian Studies, Environmental Studies, Heritage Tourism/Museum Studies, Old-Time Music, and Scottish and Irish Music; a bachelor’s degree in Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies; and graduate programs in Heritage Tourism/Museum Studies and in Appalachian Studies. Online courses are available.
Students interested in participating in a Governor’s Schools program should contact a high school administrator, school counselor or other faculty member. The Department of Appalachian Studies welcomes applications from all interested and qualified students. More information is available at the Tennessee Governor’s Schools website: https://www.tn.gov/education/instruction/tdoe-governors-schools.html.