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Serving Appalachia

Tim Ezzell teaches service-learning classes and his students have helped numerous communities in the area.

For two decades, the University of Tennessee has participated in the Appalachian Teaching Project (ATP). This program, sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), engages students at Appalachian colleges and universities to help understand and address issues facing communities in the region.

In 2020, UT’s ATP class partnered with the town of Loretto, Tennessee, to examine ways infrastructure could be used to help track and mitigate epidemiological events, like the current COVID pandemic. During the class, students looked at the following areas of research:

Biosensing – Students in the class worked with UT’s Hazen lab to evaluate waste stream testing to monitor public health events. These tools can not only monitor and be used for COVID outbreaks, but could also detect and measure other health issues ranging from diabetes to substance abuse disorder.

Telemedicine – Students worked with OnMed, a telehealth innovator, to look at the potential for telehealth kiosks in rural communities. These kiosks provide access to a wide range of medical services at fairly low cost and can even dispense common prescription medications.

Broadband Access – UT ATP students conducted a virtual meeting with local high school students and learned about issues related to broadband access and education. UT students designed an outdoor study space at the Loretto town library with free 24-hour high-speed internet access. The students then used grant funds to purchase tables for the space (with help from the Lawrence County UT Extension Office). These tables, orange naturally, were installed last spring and are now a popular resource for local residents. (service4 image)

For 2021, the UT ATP class partnered with TDEC, TVA, and Drive Electric Tennessee to evaluate EV (electric vehicle) infrastructure along Tennessee’s Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) corridors – roads funded by ARC to promote access and development in Appalachia. The project is being conducted in coordination with TVA and Tennessee’s current efforts to promote EV adoption and manufacturing across the state.

Students in the class are conducting the following research tasks:

  • Conducting surveys to gauge both Appalachian perceptions of EVs and charger preferences among EV drivers.

  • Developing criteria for the placement of both Level 2 destination chargers and DC fast chargers along all three routes. These criteria include user access, access to amenities, personal safety, and economic impact.

  • Identifying potential locations for both types of chargers in communities along these routes.

  • Conducting field research by driving all three corridors (in an EV if possible) to engage local stakeholders and evaluate potential charging sites.

As stated, 2021 marks UT’s 21st year with the ATP and Ezzell’s 20th year working with an ATP class. In addition to Loretto and the communities in the current study, ATP classes have also worked with the following East Tennessee communities:

  • Cocke County (including Newport, Hartford, and Cosby)

  • The Copper Basin (Ducktown and Copperhill)

  • Morgan County/Wartburg

  • Johnson County/Mountain City

  • Pickett CCC memorial State Park (Fentress and Pickett Counties)

  • Hancock County/Sneedville

  • Meigs County/Decatur

Read more about Ezell’s teaching project serving Appalachian communities in Tennessee.


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