Muskingum News


Muskingum University Participates in the Appalachian Regional Commission's Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative
Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative Students

On Dec. 1 and 2, students from Muskingum University participated in the 23rd annual Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative symposium. The symposium, supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission and organized by the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, is a capstone for the 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 13 Appalachian institutions selected to participate, Muskingum students presented their work with the Village of New Concord, which was a community assessment focused on place-based applied research for enhancing cultural tourism and walkability for economic revitalization. The following students presented at the symposium:

  • Emma Cepek – Senior, History/Public Administration, New Albany (Ohio)
  • Abigail Dickson – Senior, Political Science/Sociology, New Concord (Ohio)
  • Chase Kesler – Senior, Criminal Justice/Political Science, Dayton (Ohio)
  • Kyra Kiessling – Junior, Public Administration, Willowick (Ohio)
  • Anthony Mazzagatti – Senior, Criminal Justice, Uniontown (Ohio)
  • Grace Nees – Junior, Political Science, Plain City (Ohio)
  • Travis Reynolds – Junior, Business Management, Van Wert (Ohio)
  • Christoph Silberbauer – Senior, Education, Exchange Student from Germany
  • Dominic Tavella – Sophomore, Political Science, Columbus (Ohio)
  • Jack Watts – Senior, Criminal Justice/Political Science, Louisville (KY)
  • Aidan West – Sophomore, Political Science/History, Zanesville (Ohio)

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

Geology Department Chairperson Dr. Stephen Van Horn and Dr. Toombs accompanied the students to the symposium. The students, enrolled in Toombs’ Regional Planning course and Van Horn’s Introduction to Geographic Information course, have been working with New Concord’s Mayor Jennifer Lyle.

The students worked with the Village to conduct a community needs assessment for improving walkability and access to the downtown business district. The project will highlight local historic landmarks, enhance wellness and eco-tourism through new linkages to outdoor trails and natural resources, improve signage, and create a digital story map of various points of interest around the community, helping to build economic stability for the downtown area.

“Muskingum University is committed to providing every student with a high-impact learning experience,” Dr. Van Horn said. “The ACRI initiative is a perfect example as our students can apply what they are learning in the classroom directly to these projects. And, these projects have a direct impact on our community and region, giving our students an opportunity to see how they can make a difference with their Muskingum education.”

Muskingum’s students join the nearly 3,000 college and graduate students from 31 colleges and universities across Appalachia that have participated in the Appalachian Collegiate Research Initiative 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.

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

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