As we celebrate the completion of the inaugural cohort of the 2014-15 Appalachian Transition Fellowship and work steadily toward a second cycle, we are excited to provide an update and share the successes and impacts of the program, the accomplishments and leadership development of each fellow, the commitment and support of host community partners and funders, and the implications of the program on advancing a just economic transition in Central Appalachia.

 The inaugural year of the fellowship welcomed 12 emerging leaders in 12 host communities made up of 33 cross-sector partners throughout the region. Fellows supported, initiated, and implemented work in central Appalachian counties of Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, and regionally that fostered new or strengthened existing collaboration among organizations and entities, boosting networks and connectivity within states and across the region and providing increased capacity in fields that are instrumental to a just transition, including:

·         Green, sustainable and renewable energy initiatives in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio;

·         Local food production and distribution efforts in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, and throughout Appalachia;

·         Worker-owned cooperatives and Appalachian media strategies in North Carolina and West Virginia;

·         Policy and community advocacy to support communities throughout Appalachia in reclaiming abandoned mine lands;

·         Statewide strategic development lifting up grassroots, community voices in West Virginia; and

·         Job creation and resources through repurposed materials and the establishment of a Tool Lending Library in Athens, Ohio.

We celebrated the accomplishments of the inaugural cohort with a Closing Gathering in Knoxville on May 18-19, 2015, including a reception, discussions, and presentations.  Fellows each presented a 10 minute ‘TED-type’ talk highlighting the personal and professional development they experienced. Their talks demonstrated impact, sparked dialogue about replicable models, looked toward regional communications and branding strategies for transition efforts, and further opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and connectivity across Central Appalachia. These presentations and the resources and materials created by each fellow are being collated and will be shared widely and available here when they are completed. 

 The Closing Gathering culminated in a day of reflection and evaluation with hosts and fellows facilitated by Rural Support Partners. As an innovative new program that spans states, sectors, and issues, the Appalachian Transition Fellowship was designed to meet stated goals and needs in the region: to support the next generation of emerging leaders in Appalachia through hands-on skill-building, real-world experience, and strong peer and mentor support; to increase connectivity and capacity of organizations and stakeholders working to accelerate transition in the region; and to foster a deep understanding of the complexities and opportunities needed to create a just and sustainable Appalachian economy. The fellowship met each of those goals, with tangible outcomes and impacts.

 The fellowship is also a brand new concept and an experiment that provided many opportunities for lessons learned and improvements moving forward, and we are being diligent about gleaning those lessons. Feedback gathered throughout the fellowship, in monthly meetings with hosts and fellows, in regional gatherings with a broader audience, at the Closing Gathering, and in the final evaluation sessions with hosts and fellows, is being synthesized and analyzed with support from Rural Support Partners. Highlander Center staff, the AppFellows management team and the AppFellows Resource Team are currently delving into this information  to inform the next fellowship cycle and to develop resources and replicable models for use in the region.

 We look forward to sharing these outputs with you, and will be sharing the latest information, detailed timelines, and resources and materials like the fellows’ multimedia presentations here when production is complete. In the meantime, please continue to visit this website for updates.

If you have questions or would like to talk with us, please email appfellows@highlandercenter.org or call 865-850-3333 or 865-356-1655. 

 Thank you for your support. 

Eric Dixon

Eric Dixon

What are your plans after you graduate?

I can’t tell you how many times that question was asked of me over the past 12 months. This time last year, I was toying with the idea of pursuing a master’s in economics or policy, either in the US or UK. There was also an outer realm chance I might masochize myself through law school.

The question was where and what to study. Not ‘should I go to school at all?’ And just as I was beginning to have a response for those wondering what I was doing with my life, my graduate school plans spontaneously combusted.

Now, if you’ve ever witnessed spontaneous combustion, you know it’s second only to stuffing a 20-pound watermelon with mortar-shell fireworks (not that I’ve ever done that). In terms of obliteration, it’s so stunning a rainbow should appear afterwards.

So you can imagine that the halt of my school plans was brought on by my discovery of something even more exciting and rainbow-worthy: a newly developed program called the Appalachian Transition Fellowship managed by the Highlander Research and Education Center. I’d heard of that place. I’d heard a lot about that place...


Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Appalachian Transition Fellowship 2015 Closing Gathering! Held May 18-19, 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the gathering celebrated the great work of fellows and hosts this year and the program's success, convening the 2014-15 fellows, host communities, and partners with people and groups from throughout Appalachia working on a just economic transition for the region.

Fellows shared the highlights of their year and project successes in multimedia presentations and discussions, and participants worked together to discuss next steps for intergenerational leadership in Appalachia and broader economic transition work to advance our collective efforts throughout the region. 

We also enjoyed local food and  entertainment provided by local musicians Black Atticus and the LoneTones

Visit this page for updates, a final report, and links to resources and the fellows' presentations that were shared at the gathering! We are working diligently to collate and share all the wonderful material produced by the fellows and hosts.

In the meantime, we extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who made this amazing inaugural year possible: the fellows who did such amazing work, the host communities and partners who opened their doors and hearts to the fellowship, the funders and supporters who made it possible, and the many groups and people throughout Appalachia building a just economic transition for our region. Thank you!!

What is the Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program?

The Appalachian Transition Fellowship is a year-long, full-time, paid program designed for 15 emerging community leaders who are committed to working in Central Appalachia for the economic transition of the region. Central Appalachia is defined as West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, Appalachian Ohio and Western North Carolina. 

This program offers the opportunity to spend a year working within host communities to help foster cross-sector (education, nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropy, and government) partnerships, provide needed capacity to regional efforts, and build personal and professional skills. Through institutional placements, independently designed projects, training, and mentoring, the program gives emerging leaders and host organizations skills and networks needed to advance economic and social change in the region.

Central Appalachia is engaged in a period of economic transition. While the decline of previously stable industries such as coal and manufacturing bring significant economic instability, it also offers Appalachia the opportunity to focus on the long-term well-being of its people and its communities. This economic transition allows regionally-based industries to prosper while also protecting and supporting the environmental and social well-being of the region. The Appalachian Transition Fellowship (AppFellows) seeks to increase the connectivity and capacity of Appalachian institutions and leaders while building a collective analysis and seeding projects to change the systemic problems in our region, leading to a just and sustainable Appalachian economy.  

2014-15 Host Communities and Fellows


Appalachian Citizen's Law Center, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), and Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) / Fellow: Eric Dixon - Whitesburg, KY 

Community Farm Alliance, Foundation for Appalachian KY and Foundation for a Healthy KY/ Fellow: Mae Humiston - Eastern KY

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), City of Benham and Christian Outreach with Appalachian People (COAP) / Fellow: Josh Outsey - Benham, KY

North Carolina

Carolina Textile District and Opportunity Threads / Fellow: Willa Johnson - Morganton, NC


Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet), American Electric Power, Athens City Government and Rural Action / Fellow: Carol Davey - Athens, OH

ReUse Industries, Ohio University Voinovich School and Rural Action Zero Waste Streams / Fellow: Zack Swick - Athens, OH


UT Dept of Sociology and Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED) / Fellow: Tom Torres - Knoxville, TN


Appalachian Sustainable Development and Virginia Tech / Fellow: Derrick Von Kundra - Abingdon, VA

West Virginia

Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council, Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and City of Spencer / Fellow: Adam Hall - Parkersburg, WV

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Mountain View Solar and One Foundation / Fellow: Tyler Cannon - Huntington, WV

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center (CMAC) and Corey Brothers / Fellow: Joey Aloi - Charleston, WV

WV Center for Civic Life, WV Community Development Hub and WV PBS / Fellow: Catherine Moore - Statewide West Virginia


The Alliance for Appalachia and Virginia Tech / Fellow: Kendall Bilbrey

Webinars and Community Informational Powerpoint 

Please click here for the Fellow Webinar Powerpoint

Please click here for the Host Community Webinar Powerpoint

Please click here for the Community Foundation Webinar Powerpoint