Appalachian Social Justice Project Honors Memory of Rob Welch

A new project at Eastern Kentucky University honors the memory of a former EKU professor by seeking to promote and enhance economic and social justice in Appalachia.

The Welch Appalachian Social Justice Project was made possible by money bequeathed to the University by the estate of Rob Welch, a Fulbright Scholar who taught social work courses at Eastern from 1979 until his death in 2006. It involves:

·         original scholarly research by EKU faculty/student or alumni teams with a focus on social and economic justice in Appalachia.

·         a series of at least five lectures over the course of five years by local and regional experts.

·         a book to be collaboratively edited by Social Work, Anthropology and Sociology professors to capture the multidisciplinary nature of social justice work.

“This is an exciting opportunity for faculty, alumni and students to get involved in hands-on research,” said Dr. Caroline Reid, assistant professor of social work at EKU, who is coordinating the project.

Exceptionally committed to economic and social justice in Appalachia, Welch was one of the founding members of the Appalachian Studies Program at EKU. “He was a strong-willed and ambitious man, but also a humble one who lived an adventure each day of his life,” said Dr. Kelli Carmean, chair of EKU’s Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work.

Welch was “a respected teacher and much beloved by his students,” Reid said. “All who knew him felt enriched by his presence. Now, even in his absence, funds bequeathed by him will help create a more just society in Appalachia.”

Dr. Stephanie McSpirit worked closely with Welch on a project in Martin County after that region suffered a disastrous coal slurry spill in 2000 and fondly remembers his “sheer enthusiasm and commitment to students, EKU and the region. Rob was one of the key faculty members involved in working with students and community residents on several community recovery initiatives in that particular Appalachian community. We couldn’t have done that research project without Rob from start to finish.”

The Welch Appalachian Social Justice Committee invites proposals to conduct scholarly research or service projects (with a research focus) related to economic and social justice in Appalachia. Through this research, alumni, faculty and students will have an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to help individuals and communities arrive at solutions to economic and social injustices at all societal levels. Proposals should raise awareness of political, environmental, cultural, economic, and social justice in Appalachia. All faculty, students, and alumni from EKU’s College of Arts and Sciences are eligible, with preference given to those in the Social and Behavioral Science fields (Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Government, History, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology). Alumni and students must collaborate with a current faculty member in one of these disciplines.

Two applications will be awarded for Fall 2011, two in Fall 2012 and one in Fall 2013.  Each funded proposal will culminate in a scholarly manuscript that will form the basis for a book chapter on Social Justice in Appalachia.  Alumni, Faculty or Faculty/Student research teams will have one year to complete their research and submit a final manuscript to the Committee.  Alumni, Faculty or Faculty/Student Collaborative teams who apply for and receive funding will be expected to showcase their research at the annual Welch Appalachian Social Justice Lecture Series, held each March.

For selection criteria, a detailed timeline and additional information, visit

Published on September 07, 2011

Quick Links