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47th Annual Conference

Beloved Community: Pride in Identity, Culture, and Geography

March 7-9, 2024
Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina

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Logo designed by Scott Ashley (Western Carolina University)

Beloved as a noun refers to something or someone that is precious and close to our hearts. Beloved as an adjective describes the intense feeling we may have about that adored thing or person. At this year’s conference we want to focus on our region as both; a geographical place and cultural space that is sacred as well as something that we hold dear in our hearts. Sacred as Judaculla Rock that the Cherokee engraved and as precious as the canned vegetables from our grandparents’ gardens. We also take Pride in these various identities that are and always have been a part of this dynamic region: Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ, among others. We hold close the cultures that reside here in these mountains. We find solace in the view from a good hike such as on Water Rock Knob. We also find conflict and complication in these mountains themselves as extractive industries have taken their toll. Appalachia is not a simple region and we appreciate the complications within it. We at Western Carolina University invite you to join us in celebrating the unique diversity present in our little mountain towns of Cullowhee and Sylva for this year’s conference.

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We are so excited for our logo designed by artist Scott Ashley from Western Carolina University, expressing the conference theme “Beloved Community: Pride in Identity, Culture, and Geography.”


The first symbol is the "Wi" symbol (top left of the heart): This is a character in the Cherokee syllabary. The character "wi" denotes a geographic location. The WCU campus occupies Two Sparrows Place (Tali Tsisgwayahi, ᏔᎵ ᏥᏍᏆᏯᎯ), an ancient principal town for the Cherokee people. Cullowhee, the town in which WCU is located, is Tsul’kalawi (ᏧᎳᎦᎳᏫ) or Judaculla's Place. Judaculla was a giant Great Teacher and steward of the natural world. 


The next symbol in the logo is the alumni clock tower (middle top of the heart): This is a beloved landmark on the WCU campus. It is located in the center of campus and is a fixture for our community. Superstition has it that current students must not walk underneath it, or else they will not graduate in four years!

The third symbol in the logo is the courthouse(top right of the heart): This is an iconic building in Downtown Sylva, situated atop a hill overlooking Main Street. The building is no longer used as a courthouse, rather as part of the public library.

The final symbol is the bandstand (Middle left of the heart): This is in reference to the bandstand in Bridge Park in Downtown Sylva—the site of concerts and various other performances.

Program Chair

Liz Harper is the Special and Digital Collections Librarian and an associate professor at Western Carolina University. Prior to coming to WCU in 2014, she was Curator of Collections at the Arab American National Museum. She holds a Master of Science in Information from the University of Michigan where she specialized in Archives and Records Management. Her current research projects involve expanding the definitions of community archives and the legacy of Black Appalachians in the Cullowhee Valley.

Conference Chair

Rachel Adams is an Instructor at Western Carolina University. She teaches first and second-year courses in rhetoric and composition and Latin American/Latino/a literature. She calls western North Carolina home and is passionate about travel, reading good books, and cooking good food. 

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Local Arrangements

Dr. Amber C. Albert is the new director of Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center. She is a public historian with degrees from Middle Tennessee State University, the College of Charleston, and Appalachian State University. Albert is a native of Boone, NC who enjoys audiobooks and wading in mountain creeks with her son.

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