Shepherd Professor Sylvia Shurbutt positively changing U.S. perceptions of Appalachia
Appalachia doesn’t realize how lucky it is to have an academic like Sylvia Shurbutt on its side.
Earning a doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1982, Shurbutt spent a few years teaching at Georgia Southern University, before joining Shepherd University’s English and Modern Languages Department in 1987. In 2006, Shurbutt was named West Virginia Professor of the Year for her accomplishments, teaching, excellence, classroom innovation, professional activity and service to the profession, region and state.
Shurbutt is not only a talented educator, but is also working in our community and country to break down stereotypes through her example.
Throughout her life, Shurbutt has challenged many stereotypes of women in academia. She is known for her extensive hiking adventures across foreign countries, including England, Australia and Ireland. Along with an active lifestyle, Shurbutt has also balanced maintaining a serious career and having her own family.
Shurbutt is an active community member, and can often be seen guest-hosting events like the Speak Story Series when its founder, Adam Booth, is out-of-town, and has sung with The Masterworks Chorale for many years — possibly for a longer consistent period of time than any other member of the choir.
The time she dedicates toward enriching the Shepherdstown community is commendable, and is just one of the many reasons she remains a valuable asset to Shepherdstown and West Virginia at-large.
As an educator, Shurbutt recognizes the impact informed teachers can have on the future of the United States and its citizens’ treatment of Appalachia.
Through her leading of the three-week National Endowment for the Humanities’ Summer Institute for Teachers for the last five years at Shepherd University, Shurbutt and the Appalachian artists her program highlights are re-educating our nation’s educators about Appalachian storytelling, music, literature and culture. Those educators from the NEH program, in turn, will pass on what they have experienced here in Appalachia to their students, gradually ending the circulation of negative stereotypes about this region.
Shurbutt’s efforts with this program, as the project director of the Appalachian Heritage Writers-in-Residence program and the coordinator of the Appalachian Studies program, are positively changing the nation’s perceptions of Appalachia — one student, one educator, one classroom at-a-time.