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By Selena Stevens


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“The UK Appalachian Center has made a difference, particularly for students from Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and other parts of the region.”

--Herb Reid, new director of the UK Appalachian Center

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Dec. 12, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – Herb Reid, professor of political science at the University of Kentucky, was approved today by the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees as the new director of the UK Appalachian Center.

Reid replaces former director Ron Eller, who resigned in May to return to teaching in UK’s history department.

"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,” said Fitzgerald B. Bramwell, 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." 

“I’m well aware that this is a challenge and a very important job,” Reid said. “I am very enthusiastic about taking it on, especially with the help and talent of the center’s staff and faculty associates.”

Reid has been at UK since 1968 and was one of the university’s faculty members who helped launch the UK Appalachian Center in the early 1970s. He has served as an associate of the center since its creation. His teaching and research reflect many years of participant-observer experience with citizen groups in Appalachia, especially in Eastern Kentucky, Western North Carolina and West Virginia. For several years, his work has included various studies of public policy, cultural discourse and community-based sustainable development.

“The UK Appalachian Center has made a difference, particularly for students from Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and other parts of the region,” he said. “The center also has helped people in the region through research and service. Everyone at the center is very dedicated to the betterment of Appalachia.”

Reid grew up in the Ozarks of Arkansas, something that makes him feel right at home in the Appalachians.

“The Ozarks are sort of an extension of Appalachia,” he said. “There’s been a lot of migration between the two areas. They’re both part of the southern mountains.”

His interest in mountain studies developed early in his life, after his farming family made two moves from the Arkansas Ozarks, first, to the cotton and rice country of eastern Arkansas and, second, to the midwestern area of Kansas City. These experiences as a migrant, including encounters with all too familiar stereotypes of rural mountain people, raised his consciousness of the regional roots to his emerging political and social identity It also sparked within him an interest in the workings of power in American politics and society. In the 1960s, he experienced the film “The High Lonesome Sound” that featured economic conditions in Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky musician Roscoe Holcomb. The film attracted him to Appalachian and Appalachian-Ozark studies. UK’s work with and proximity to Appalachia led him to come to Kentucky.

“My years and work have been a great preparation for my new position as the center director,” Reid said. 

In the next century, Reid said Appalachian communities must begin to look within for support and development, something with which he believes the center can assist. With a largely tobacco- and coal-based economy, the already economically restricted region must begin to develop alternatives for survival.

“The key challenge facing the UK Appalachian Center is forging a new comprehensive program that engages the opportunities and issues of regionalism in a new global era dominated by the economic restructuring activities of transitional corporations,” he said. “Appalachian academic programs should be in the forefront of the rethinking of place, region, identity and professional authority that is now well under way.”

Civic involvement and environmental concerns present big issues for the Appalachian region and a focus for the center, Reid said. Many residents in the area and scholars of the field are already linking up to tackle these issues. 

“We need to get more faculty and students involved in community-based development,” he said. “We need academics working side-by-side with community people to facilitate the efforts of local people in finding local solutions to problems.”

Reid earned his bachelor’s degree in 1959 from the University of Kansas, his master’s degree in 1963 from the University of Tennessee and his doctorate in 1968 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, all in political science. In the mid-1990s, he served as a member of Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones’ Kentucky Appalachian Task Force. At UK, he also has served as director of environmental studies for the College of Arts and Sciences and co-chair for the Appalachian Center’s Committee on Global Regional Studies. He has lectured on Appalachian issues across the United States and world, including India and Italy.

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