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Muskingum University Selected to Participate in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Appalachian Teaching Project
Students at ARC Symposium

On Dec. 2 and 3, students from Muskingum University participated in the 22nd annual Appalachian Teaching Project symposium. The conference, supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission and organized by the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, is the capstone for the ATP program, which includes a for-credit fall course where students design and lead their own applied research projects to help address a community or economic need in their region. 

As one of 16 Appalachian institutions selected to participate, Muskingum students presented their work with the Zanesville City Council to develop a five-year strategic plan for downtown development, including a plan for destination branding, and a GIS Interactive Mapping Application. The following students presented at the symposium:

  • Josh Berk, Senior (graduating Fall 2022), History major from Westerville, OH
  • Emma Cepek, Junior, History major from New Albany, OH
  • Ryan Hockenberry, Senior (graduating Spring 2023), Criminal Justice and Political Science major from Cambridge, OH
  • Hunter Loy, Junior, Political Science major from Pleasant City, OH
  • Katerina Nichols, Sophomore, Political Science major from Newbury, OH
  • Casey Smith, Senior (graduating Spring 2023), Public Administration and Political Science major from Beachwood, OH

“The Appalachian Teaching Project was a tremendous opportunity for students to collaborate with community stakeholders and partners on planning and development issues, as well as share their research and findings with peers from other institutions across the region,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science William Toombs.

Geology Department Chairperson Dr. Stephen Van Horn and Toombs accompanied the students to the symposium. The students, enrolled in Toombs Regional Planning course, have been working with Zanesville’s Community Development Director Matt Schley on the project.

“The trip to DC to present in the Teaching Project forum was an invigorating experience because I had the opportunity to meet many other students studying similar majors to me and I learned so much about the hidden struggles of Appalachia,” said Junior Emma Cepek. “My team worked all semester creating this strategic plan, and it was very rewarding getting to present our work to other students, professors, and professionals.

“The small class I got to work with at Muskingum was exceptional because I received many hands-on opportunities, personalized learning moments, and I got to know my peers on a level that I never would have been able to outside of the classroom. As a public administration major, this experience advanced my studies and will be a unique event that will stand out in my future endeavors.”

Muskingum’s students join the 2,800 college and graduate students from 22 colleges and universities across Appalachia that have participated in the Appalachian Teaching Project since it was established in 2001. The program has helped Appalachian educational institutions identify and address a wide range of community challenges, including downtown revitalization, outdoor recreation development, education, food insecurity, access to healthcare, and more. These projects, which are aligned with ARC’s investment priorities, have resulted in new development strategies that help fill community gaps and strengthen economic growth across the region.

“Young leaders, such as the Muskingum University students who participated in this year’s Appalachian Teaching Project are integral to shaping the future of economic development throughout Appalachia,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “I’m impressed by the hard work they put into their research projects and look forward to following their journeys as they continue to positively impact their communities, and communities across our region.”

To learn more about this year’s ATP research projects, visit:

ARC Symposium Presentation

ARC Symposium Presentation

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