NEH Challenge Grant

Marshall University, in collaboration with the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA), was awarded a $500,000 Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to advance the study of ethnicity and gender in Appalachia. The NEH Challenge Grant award is a singular honor for Marshall University. This grant builds on the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation for the Humanities Scholar-in-Residence award, twice granted to Marshall’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Gender in Appalachia.Marshall University must raise a $1.5 million match in order to build a $2 million endowment to support this program in perpetuity. The principal of the endowment will be preserved, using only a portion of the interest and the earnings for the purpose of this grant.

The Appalachian Studies Association is a fund-raising partner. Both MU and the ASA are working to ensure that the wider community understands and appreciates the complexity of Appalachia’s people. Sustainable development in Appalachia is only possible if there is full awareness of every citizen’s potential — women, ethnic minorities and religious minorities. A multicultural approach assumes that all segments of society have their own histories, have made their own cultural contributions and have their own specific needs.

The grant will sustain multiple levels of work — from scholarly research and graduate level teaching, to support of young Appalachian Ph.D.s, to continue education of K-12 school teachers.

The challenge is to raise $1.5 million to match the NEH contribution of $500,000.  The goal is to endow four components of the program:

a distinguished chair in “Appalachian Ethnicity and Gender”;;
a summer post-doctoral fellowships in the same area of emphasis;
a summer conference on “Diversity in Appalachia” for K-12 humanities teachers;
permanent support for the ASA office.
(1) Distinguished Chair in Ethnicity and Gender in Appalachia
The endowed distinguished chair will be a new position located in the College of Liberal Arts at Marshall University and appointments will be made on a rotating basis. Appointments will be from one semester to one year in order for scholars to pursue original research on ethnicity and/or gender in Appalachia. A fully endowed chair will provide $50,000 annually. The presence of such a chair will support the College of Liberal Arts’ mission to ensure multicultural awareness and growing recognition of our Appalachian heritage. The chair will attract well-known scholars to Marshall, presenting humanities work in Appalachian studies in innovative and critical ways. Selection of the scholar will be done on a competitive basis. Preference will be given to proposals involving a final analysis or writing phase of an ongoing project but new projects also will be considered.

  • $1 Million Endowment;
  • Need to raise $750,000 to match NEH $250,000;
  • Naming opportunity for a gift of $1 million;

(2) Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Appalachian Ethnicity and Gender
These annual fellowships will provide opportunities for three post-doctoral individuals to pursue humanities scholarship at any ASA-affiliated institution. Summer fellows may conduct their research, taking advantage of the particular strengths of archives, collections and fieldwork throughout the region. Each fully endowed fellowship will provide $5,000 annually. Newer scholars will be able to take advantage of the expertise of senior scholars whose work overlaps their own areas of interest. For example, a scholar from a community college in northern Appalachia could spend a summer at East Tennessee State University working in their Appalachian archives, and work with Dr. Marie Tedesco in her studies of women’s historical roles in a community in Eastern Tennessee. Or a scholar from a small college in Appalachian Alabama might choose to study with Dr. Dwight Billings at the University of Kentucky, conducting research on the negative stereotypes of Appalachian black women.

  • $300,000 Endowment;
  • Need to raise $225,000 to match NEH $75,000;
  • Naming opportunities for three endowed fellowships for gifts of $100,000 each.


(3) Summer Conference on Diversity in Appalachia for K-12 School Teachers
An annual summer conference on Diversity in Appalachia will disseminate studies generated by the distinguished chair and the summer research fellows, as well as by other regional scholars, to K-12 humanities teachers. The conference, coordinated by the ASA office, will rotate among ASA member institutions. Participating teachers will receive a stipend toward expenses and receive credit toward professional requirements for diversity training. The target audiences will be teachers in such areas as social studies, history, language (both English and foreign), sociology, geography and other humanities-related fields. Each fully endowed scholarship will provide $500 annually.

  • $300,000 Endowment
  • Need to raise $225,000 to match NEH $75,000;
  • Naming opportunities for 20 endowed scholarships for gifts of $10,000 each, and for one-time conference sponsorship for a gift of $5,000 or for permanent conference naming for a gift of $100,000

(4) ASA Regional Office
A fully funded endowment will support the regional ASA office, now located in the Morrow Library, Marshall University. It will provide $20,000 annually for the salary and benefits of a half-time coordinator of research and dissemination.

  • $400,000 Endowment
  • Need to raise $300,000 to match NEH $100,000

Appalachia Studies Association
Mary K. Thomas, Executive Director
307A Morrow Library
Marshall University
Huntington, WV 25755
Email: Mary K. Thomas

For contributions to this grant, please contact:

Office of Development
Marshall University
One John Marshall Drive
Huntington, WV 25755-6002
304. 696.6440
Email: Office of Development