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Appalachian and Blue Ridge Parkway to partner on future projects

D06_10area43.jpgBOONE—Neva Specht, an associate professor in the Department of History at Appalachian State University, has been named the liaison between the university and the Blue Ridge Parkway by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Stan Aeschleman.

The new position will provide a central contact for research and project partnerships between the two organizations.

“The overall goal is to find mutually beneficial projects on which we can collaborate,” Aeschleman said. “We bring faculty expertise and students who are eager to work on such joint projects.”

Aeschleman also hopes the partnership will lead to federally funded support of research and programs related to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“We have talked in the past about partnering more with Appalachian because of the university’s close proximity to the park, and because of the historical partnership we have had over the years,” said Martha Bogle, deputy superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Bogle knows the benefits of cooperative work between educational institutions and organizations like the parkway. In 2005, she was recognized by the National Park Service for her successes in developing community support and partnerships at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, where she was superintendent for 10 years.

The proximity of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Appalachian campus means it’s an easily accessible “lab” for faculty and student research.

“A lot of people at the university have worked with the parkway in the past, but neither agency had a central contact for projects,” Specht explained. “My position will try to match people and projects, keep in contact with the parkway, find out what people are doing here at Appalachian, and help develop joint projects related to the parkway’s needs.”

In the past, projects have been conducted by faculty in marketing, management, biology, anthropology, geography and planning, and history.

“We have had all these units working with the parkway before, but this will allow for a more systematic approach as we develop future projects,” Specht said. “The parkway has a long list of projects that they don’t have the funding or manpower for, and we have all these faculty resources and students who need hands-on practical experience, so it seems like a good match.”

“Having another institution looking at the parkway from a different perspective will generate new ideas for us,” said Bambi Teague, chief of resource management and science with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Teague said Specht understands the parkway’s needs regarding research. “I have always been an advocate of application-oriented science and application-oriented research – activities that directly benefit what we do,” Teague said. “Neva Specht understands that and recognizes the need for projects to focus on the types of programs and activities that we want to accomplish.”

Specht is among those who have conducted research regarding the Blue Ridge Parkway. She recently taught a graduate class in public history that focused on the Moses Cone Estate, located along the parkway outside Blowing Rock. “We researched different ways to interpret the history of the house,” she said. As a result, the students created a notebook with information about Cone Manor, completed in 1901, and Moses Cone, a wealthy textile manufacturer, his wife, Bertha, as well as other family members, for park rangers to use for their programs about the family and property.

An interior design graduate student is creating renderings showing how the rooms in the estate may have looked during the time the Cones lived there.

“It’s sort of unlimited what people can do,” Specht said of the partnership.

Specht and members of the Blowing Rock Historical Society and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation will present an event in April 2007 that will focus on the Cone Estate and its history. Specht also will help organize a symposium on parkway-related projects and research being conducted by Appalachian faculty, and develop a Web site with information about past and current collaborative projects.

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CONTACT: Neva Specht (828) 262-6879 or spechtnj@appstate.edu