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Lee University student Kelly Wnuk, a senior anthropology major from Chattanooga, recently presented at the Appalachian College Association Annual Summit, held in Kingsport. 

Wnuk was invited to present her findings after she was awarded a Ledford Scholarship from the ACA to conduct original research during the summer of 2018, under the supervision of Dr. Arlie Tagayuna, associate professor of sociology. 

Wnuk’s research presentation, titled “Leave History Alone: Renegotiating Collective Memory among Confederate Historical Preservationists in the Southeast,” examined recent controversies surrounding Confederate monuments and the changing meanings that these symbols represent. In particular, she studied the role that historical preservationist groups play in shaping the collective memory of the country. 

“I am proud that Kelly’s research is recognized as one of the few social science research projects at the ACA conference,” Tagayuna said. “By looking at the perspectives of many historical preservationists, Kelly was able to bring to light the tensions and concerns about how collective memories need to be contextualized and negotiated, especially here in the South. She was able to put a face to Confederate preservationists as active agents in keeping the past.” 

Her research involved ethnographic interviews and document analysis in order to understand how historical preservationists are working to redefine the emotions and meanings attached to Confederate objects, how much of an influence they have on their community, and how they believe recent controversies should be handled. 

Wnuk is also a McNair Scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Murl Dirksen, professor of anthropology and sociology at Lee, and will present at the Society for Applied Anthropology’s international conference in Portland in March. 

“Kelly is an exceptionally intelligent student,” Dirksen said. “Although she had a difficult time with her research due to the highly volatile and political nature of her topic, she was able to adjust and find creative ways to get at the information.” 

The ACA is an association of 35 private four-year liberal arts institutions from the central Appalachian Mountains including Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. 

For more information about the Appalachian College Association, visit https://acaweb.org. 
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