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Reid is New Appalachian Center Director

by Jeff Worley

Photo of Herbert ReidIn 1968 Herbert Reid was a newly minted Ph.D. in political science who found himself in a bountiful job market. "Those were very different times," Reid says from his new office in the University of Kentucky's Appalachian Center. "The jobs were out there for young scholars in the arts and sciences." Reid recalls that months before he successfully defended his dissertation, he had three job offers—from a Canadian university, from San Francisco State, and from the University of Kentucky.

"One of reasons I chose to come to UK was because of the university's Appalachian connections," says Reid, who grew up in the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas. At UK, he would go on to be one of the founders of the Appalachian Center which, he says, came into being as a result of a lot of interest and hard work by several people with UK connections.

"In the early and mid-'70s, some of our students and quite a few faculty felt the time was right for such a center," Reid recalls. "One of my students and now a leading public interest lawyer in Lexington, Joe Childers, spent a lot of time trying to spark interest, as did UK sociologists Dwight Billings, John Stephenson and David Walls." In 1977, the center was created in order to link UK resources with Appalachian communities in programs of research, instruction and service.

Reid says that as the new director of the center, he hopes to build on what has already been accomplished, particularly under the leadership of former director Ron Eller, who has returned to the UK history department where he is a full professor.

Reid is especially excited by the Project for the Civic & Environmental Commons, initially designed in 1998 by Reid and his wife Betsy Taylor, an anthropologist. This project is the core program of the new center.

"Across Appalachia, there are people coming together to try to build caring communities, sustainable local economies and to preserve their natural and cultural heritage. Under the Project for the Civic & Environmental Commons, the Appalachian Center is working to make academic resources more useful and accessible to communities in their civic and economic revitalization projects," says Reid, who has spent his entire academic career at UK.

One challenging aspect of this program, he says, is to get faculty involved in models of research and teaching that are clearly place-oriented and to focus more on regional involvement and responsibility. "Any time you try to put together an academic partnership on a project, you're bringing together people with different histories, cultural experiences and orientations," Reid says. "What has to happen is the emergence of a common vision of the better world we're seeking."

The Appalachian Center also continues to be associated with the Appalachian Rural Education Network, which is composed of some of the most dynamic schools and regional professional partners in Eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia. The network began in January 1997 under a grant from the Annenberg Rural Challenge, whose goal is to discover and encourage "genuinely good, genuinely rural schools," says Reid. As a result of this project, schools in Eastern Kentucky and Western Virginia in the last three years have gotten new equipment, including computer software and calculators, and new curriculum developed by their teachers. Currently, 24 schools are participating in this project.

"Our ultimate responsibility is to the people in Appalachia, especially those who send their kids to UK," says Reid. "I can attest to ways this center and its programs have helped students deal with not only the problem of Appalachian stereotypes, but also how it continues to help recapture the history and social knowledge of Appalachian communities."

"Dr. Reid brings vast practical experience with the social dynamics of Appalachia as well as a fine academic reputation for scholarly research to this position," says Fitzgerald Bramwell, UK vice president for Research and Graduate Studies. "We are pleased that he has accepted the challenge to lead the Appalachian Center into the new century."