Student News

Appalachian Center honors 11 students with research awards

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 12, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center is honoring 11 students with its annual research awards.

Eight graduate students received the James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research on Appalachia, and one graduate student and two undergraduate students received the center's Eller and Billings Student Research Award.

"The Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program are thrilled to support these students and their summer work,” said Kathryn Engle, director of the center. “This group of students represents a range of disciplines and research interests. Thank you to the research mentors and advisors from across the university that are helping train the next generation of Appalachian scholars." 

The James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research on Appalachia is given to honor the memory of James S. Brown, a sociology professor at UK from 1946 to 1982, whose pioneering studies of society, demography and migration in Appalachia (including his ethnography of "Beech Creek") helped to establish the field of Appalachian studies at UK and beyond.

To be eligible, students must be actively enrolled in a master's or doctoral degree program at UK. The award must be used to meet the costs of doing research relevant to social life in Appalachia including travel, lodging, copying, interviewing, ethnography, data collection, archival research, transcribing and other legitimate research expenses. Up to $1,000 is awarded to each recipient.

The recipients will present their research at Sharing Work on Appalachia in Progress (SWAP) with Appalachian Studies Program faculty and students during the 2023-2024 academic year.

The 2023 James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research recipients and their projects are:

  • Bradley Firchow, Rural Physician Leadership Program in the UK College of Medicine: “Emerging Health Trends in Accredited and Unaccredited Local Health Departments in Kentucky: Community Health Needs Assessments in Aggregate”
  • Allen Fletcher, Department of History in the UK College of Arts and Sciences: “Women and the Politics of Education in Twentieth Century Appalachia”
  • Arshiya Jeelani, Department of History in the UK College of Arts and Sciences: “Mary Jane in the Mountains: ‘The Social, Political, and Environmental Effects of Marijuana Growth in Appalachia’”
  • Courtney Martin, Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion in the UK College of Education: “Identifying Changes in Support of ICU Survivors after Hospital Discharge based on Geographic Location”
  • Ryley Butler Modaff, College of Social Work: “The Impact of Stigma in Community Implementation of Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)”
  • London Orzolek, Department of Anthropology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences: “Higher Education in Appalachia: Examining Engagement, Success, and Inclusion for First-Generation and Low-SES Students”
  • Jimmy Robinson, Department of Sociology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences: “Taking the Rural with You: Rural Artists in the City”
  • Kopana Terry, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in UK Libraries: “Place, Identity and Natural Disaster: The Storm That Changed A Town and Its People”

In the spirit of collaboration across units, colleges and academic and community boundaries, the Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program established the UK Appalachian Center Eller and Billings Student Research Award for research by UK students focused in and on the Appalachian region, especially toward furthering the conversation on sustainable futures in the region. Named after longtime UK historian Ronald D. Eller and longtime UK sociologist Dwight B. Billings, the award seeks to encourage and promote cutting-edge research across disciplines.

To be eligible for this award of up to $1,000, students must be actively enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program at UK. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Recipients of this award will also present their findings during the 2023-24 academic year. 

The 2023 Eller and Billings Student Research Award recipients are:

  • Peyton Coburn (undergraduate), Department of Biology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, and Agricultural and Medical Biotechnology program in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: “Characterization of Chemotherapy-Induced Heart Disease Utilizing Human Induced Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes as a Model”
  • Madeline Duff (undergraduate), Neuroscience Program in the UK College of Arts and Sciences: “Cardio-otolaryngology in Floyd County, Kentucky”
  • Rachel Sneed, Department of Plant Pathology in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: “Assessing Endophyte Frequency Distributions in Kentucky Appalachia and the Effect of Epichloë brachyelytri in the Chemotypic Diversity of Brachyelytrum erectum”

The winners were honored at a celebration ceremony on campus April 27.

For more information about awards and funding opportunities through the UK Appalachian Center, visit

The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center contributes to the land-grant mission of the University of Kentucky by fostering community-university partnerships in research, learning and engagement in Appalachia, a region faced with unique opportunities and challenges toward sustainable development in a globalized context.

The Appalachian Studies Program, like the Appalachian Center, has an active 40-year history at the University of Kentucky. It is an interdisciplinary program based in the College of Arts and Sciences with participation by faculty and students from across the colleges at UK.


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