What You’ll Study

Warren Wilson sits above the fertile bottomlands of the Swannanoa River. The land is beautiful, with a rich and diverse ecology, and it has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Appalachian Studies minor draws upon the landscape and surrounding communities to connect the threads of history, economics, culture, and ecology.

This is serious work. Digging into the deep roots of this region takes broad knowledge and skill — you’ll be exposed to many of the academic disciplines we have to offer. Whether you’re a biochemist interested in stream pollutants and their connection to industrial development, or maybe you’re an archaeologist curious about the Mississippian culture that once lived on the land where our farm is now, or you could be a pre-med student studying the impact of healthcare availability on rural communities. Our Appalachian studies minor is the glue that connects your passions and your studies with the world around you.

You’ll have several opportunities to participate in expeditionary learning and service projects within communities around the region. This includes the chance to participate in the College’s summer Archaeology Field School.

Explore Classes in This Program

GBL 3790

Politics of Identity in the Appalachian Mountains

This course’s title conveys at least two significant meanings: 1) people who self-identify as Appalachian people are identifying as Appalachian to distinguish themselves from others, and 2) those who present Appalachian people to the broader public through various media are identifying Appalachian society as exceptional in some way. We will analyze many of the ways people understand “Appalachian exceptionalism” by discussing the importance of place to identity formation, scrutinizing popular representations of mountaineers, examining the role of identity in the politics of regional development, and studying the sociological and historical roots for Appalachia’s image as “the other America.”

GBL 3810

Documenting Appalachia

Documenting Appalachia is a semester-long exploration of feature films and documentaries about the southern mountains. You will watch movies over the course of this class, but you will also read books, articles, and historical documents related to filmmaking in the mountains. In addition, you get to go on a weekend-long field trip to Whitesburg, Kentucky, where you’ll participate in a service project for Appalshop — an organization that uses media to provide Appalachian people with the resources and expertise to tell their stories to a broad audience. Finally, you’ll work with a small group to conceptualize, design, storyboard, and film your own documentary about some element of Appalachia. These films will be shown at a year-end film festival that will be open to the entire campus community.

MUS 3890

Traditions of Work & Music in the Southern Mountains

What’s a gandy dancer? Which side are you on? And why did Gastonia Gallop? Such questions beg an examination of the ways work and music are bound together in modern Appalachian culture, and this course examines those connections while investigating intersections of musical and social history in this region. You’ll focus on three main themes: work music, music about work, and music as work. The entire class also completes service-learning components at area music events.

Meet Our Faculty

I believe curiosity is the seed of hope. I approach education as a way to cultivate my students' curiosities about the world and how they can engage with it.

Jeffrey A. Keith, Ph.D.
Jeffrey A. Keith, Ph.D.
Faculty Member Kevin Kehrberg sits behind a instrument outside of Kitteridge.

As a professor, I love that Warren Wilson students are unafraid to take risks, to challenge themselves, and to engage a topic or a work of art despite whether it aligns with their opinions or preferences.

Kevin Kehrberg, Ph.D.
Faculty Member Kevin Kehrberg sits behind a instrument outside of Kitteridge.
Kevin Kehrberg, Ph.D.

I love how music constantly fills the air at Warren Wilson College, whether it’s a songwriting class in the amphitheater, a marimba outside of the percussion studio, the full voices of the choir down at the pavilion, or the rhythms of the West African Drum ensemble.

Natalya Weinstein Miller
Natalya Weinstein Miller, MA
Fieldwork Profile

Recovering the Past with Technology & Oral History

In 2014, Warren Wilson hosted “The Appalachian Semester” — a series of interdisciplinary courses and service projects that examined competing narratives of Appalachian identity and the forested landscapes of the region. One of the projects combined GIS mapping technology with archeology and oral history. A team of Warren Wilson students and alumni came together to create a tool for learning about the historic South Asheville Cemetery, the final resting place for at least two thousand African-Americans — many of whom were slaves. You can view the website documenting the project, and also listen to Professor Jeff Keith interviewed on NPR’s ‘Tell Me More.’