Dr. Roberta Teague Herrin - 2003 Award of Honor
Dr. Roberta T. Herrin has come a
long way from her modest roots as a student in a one-room schoolhouse in
Roan Mountain, Tenn. However, it is perhaps this rural aspect in her
background that has given her such perspective as to how to bring the
Appalachian culture to life at ETSU.
Herrin earned both her B.S. and M.A. in English at ETSU
in 1970 and 1972, respectively. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in English
from the University of Tennessee. In 1976, Herrin returned to ETSU as a
professor of English.
True to her roots, Appalachia has been a major focus of
her teaching and research. She has taught courses in Appalachian
literature, Appalachian women authors and Appalachian children's
literature -- a field in which she is currently working on a
bibliography to be published by McFarland Press. In addition, she has
given presentations for professional and community organizations and
various other groups, and she has authored writings in several different
She recently completed nine years of service as associate
dean of the School of Graduate Studies, but her passion for Appalachia
eventually led her to take on the role of director of ETSU's Center for
Appalachian Studies and Services (CASS), a Tennessee Center of
Excellence. CASS is comprised of the Regional Resources Institute (RRI),
the Carroll Reece Museum and the Archives of Appalachia. Within the RRI
are the Appalachian, Scottish and Irish Studies (ASIS) Program; the
Encyclopedia of Appalachia project; the Governor's School for Tennessee
Heritage; the Appalachian Studies minor; the Bluegrass, Old-Time and
Country Music Program; and Now & Then magazine.
Herrin finds working with the Center, its staff and its
many components very attractive. In fact, she is the first native
Appalachian to lead the Center, which marks its 20th anniversary in
2004. Prior to becoming the director, she chaired the CASS Board of
Directors from 1985-1993, and says that allowed her to learn about the
Center through the years. "I've seen it grow to the point where it's
done what it was intended to do – raise the profile of Appalachian
scholarship and culture and of ETSU," she said.
However, Herrin has no intentions of resting easy on her
laurels. She has several goals for the Center as well as ETSU. One of
her goals is to expand the Appalachian Studies curriculum from a minor
to a major, and perhaps offer a graduate certificate through the Master
of Arts in Liberal Studies degree program.
Also, Herrin plans to
foster a continual relationship with the School of Scottish Studies at
the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, which is a major component of the
ASIS Program. The ASIS Program makes connections between Appalachia and
the region's major cultural progenitors, Scotland and Ireland, through
formal study, cultural events, and field experiences.
Herrin also hopes to further the growth and success of
the Reece Museum, the Archives of Appalachia, and the Bluegrass,
Old-Time and Country Music Program, and to raise the level of external
financial support for the Center.
"Our Archives of Appalachia is nationally known," she
said. "Over the past years, the collections have grown exponentially.
The potential there for scholarship, research, service and visibility
for the university is rich," and adding, "A museum is a core element of
any university; for us to have an accredited museum is such a plus for
ETSU. And the potential is unlimited for the Bluegrass Program."
Furthermore, Herrin would like to establish a
collaborative relationship between CASS and the History of Medicine
Museum, which is operated cooperatively by the ETSU James H. Quillen
College of Medicine and the Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Herrin is also involved in the massive Encyclopedia of
Appalachia project, which is winding down and should be in print in 2005
(University of Tennessee Press). "Once the Encyclopedia is published,
that puts us on a whole new stage," she said. "Nothing like that exists
for this region. That will spark conversation about the Appalachian
region. It's a seminal work that will generate interest and direct
scholarship and research in new ways."
Another area of publication that Herrin hopes to
revitalize is the Center's magazine, Now & Then, which just
published its last issue due to state budget cuts."The magazine has been
a prominent part of CASS for years," she pointed out. "Now we have to
decide if we want to rebirth the magazine or come up with some other
type of publication. I see that as a central part of CASS – to be
involved in publication, to have a venue for research, scholarship and
issues about the region."
Excited about the opportunity to lead the Center, Herrin
said, "I've watched it grow all these years, and there's so much more to
do. That's intellectually exciting, and I think it will be personally