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by Jerri Whitner, Student Contributor

On September 30th two ALC students, Keaton Morton, a Senior Accounting major, and Madison Carpenter, a Junior Education major, were honored as Ledford Scholars at the 2017 Appalachian College Association’s (ACA) Fall Summit. Under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Patrick Greene, ALC Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Physic, and Dr. Devorah Kennedy, ALC Assistant Professor of Education, Keaton and Madison travelled to Kingsport, Tennessee for the annual summit.

The Appalachia College Association (ACA) is a non-profit organization of 35 private four year liberal arts colleges spread across the Central Appalachian Mountains. One of ACA’s main goals is encouraging each institution to reach out in service to their perspective communities and regions through a variety of programs. The Ledford Scholarship offers financial assistance for students enrolled at ACA member institutions. The scholarship pays each scholar $8.50 an hour for their research and a total of $1,000 for equipment and travel. In addition to graduating from a high school in an Appalachian county and maintaining a 2.0 GPA, applicants are required to have the support of a faculty mentor throughout the course of the research project. Mentors not only offer guidance and input throughout the project, but do so voluntarily without financial assistance.

At the conference, Keaton and Madison presented the findings of their individual research conducted over the summer of 2016 as well as several other students from across the nation. Keaton performed research on interrupted time series analysis using a free, very powerful statistics coding program known as R. He worked 40 hours a week with Dr. Greene and not only learned more about his project but also expanded his understanding of himself. Several times Keaton felt like his research was not efficiently progressing, but he said, “Being able to persevere through those times is important and very beneficial in other areas of an individual’s life.” This was Keaton’s second year presenting at ACA and he is thankful for the opportunity, as well as the support from his family and friends.

Madison’s research focused on how first generation college students are received when they return to their hometowns upon completion of their degrees. Her research was a pilot study with the majority of Madison’s research being conducted through literature reviews and interviews. Madison had first hand interviews with three first generation college students, each offering insight into their individual journeys to entry in different four year college programs. Madison hopes to expand her research next year and present her new findings at ACA. Although the experience was challenging, Madison says, “It has sincerely been a beneficial one since it’s given me a chance to not only do some original research, it’s given me something that I can continue to work with.” At the conference Madison discovered that there was not a lot of research done in the field of humanities and social science, and she believed that because of her particular research she was able to stand out and contribute to the overall conversation at ACA.

The opportunity to research and learn more about their desired fields of study has been a valuable experience for Keaton and Madison. The Ledford Scholarship creates an opportunity for students to research content related to their desired fields of study, while receiving additional guidance from ALC’s experienced faculty. To keep the mission of ALC healthy, ALC faculty strive to nurture each student toward fulfilling their purpose in life and service to Appalachia.