In 2012-13, Just Connections is an active network with memberships from colleges, nonprofit organizations, faculty/staff and community organizers.

You may browse historical information about Just Connections at http://www.justconnections.info.   The following excerpt is from the article, “How Just Connections was first organized,” written by founding member, Susan Ambler.

Just Connections is an established group of activists and academics intent on bringing social justice to Central Appalachia.  Our mission is to invigorate grassroots democracy among residents of distressed mountain communities by creating and using models for participatory research and service.  We participate in projects that promote the development of self-sustaining communities that offer equitable access to resources for local citizens.

The idea for Just Connections came from a faculty conference on service learning sponsored by the Appalachian College Association (ACA) in June, 1995 and held at Carson-Newman College.  Several participants expressed strong interest in sustainable development, grassroots democracy, and social justice.  Energized by the conference, they enlisted the help of local citizens and formed a task force to create service learning opportunities and participatory research projects for the mutual benefit of communities, college faculty, and students in the mountain region.

How was Just Connections first organized?
Appalachian Residents form Just Connections (2000) by Susan Ambler,
click here.

Summary description of Just Connections in 2003
Who are We? (2003) by Frankie Patton Rutherford,
click here.

Founding Partners

Susan AmblerMaryville College
Marie CirilloClearfork Institute
Steve FisherEmory & Henry College
George LovelandFerrum College
Guy Larry OsborneCarson-Newman College
Franki Patton RutherfordBig Creek People In Action
Kathie ShibaMaryville College
Deborah ThompsonUniversity of Kentucky


 Consultant to Founding Partners:  Helen L. Lewis 

Helen Lewis, of Morganton, Georgia, is considered by many to be the progenitor of Appalachian Studies. Her interdisciplinary course in Appalachian Studies at Clinch Valley College in the fall of 1969 and her subsequent research, writing and teaching has inspired a proliferation of Appalachian Studies programs throughout the region.

For Helen Lewis, Appalachian Studies has meant much more than a sterile academic pursuit. It has meant helping Appalachians study the social and economic forces that influence their lives and seek creative ways to gain control over these forces. She developed this approach in her work at the Highlander Research and Education Center and through numerous participatory research projects with Appalachian community leaders.


An organization of independent liberal arts colleges which fosters cooperation and collaboration among its institutions for the mutual benefit of the member colleges and service to the people of Appalachia.

One of the nation’s largest privately-funded service scholarship programs and a philanthropic leader in the anti-hunger movement.

The purpose of the Foundation is to “aid and promote such religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes as may be in the furtherance of the public welfare or tend to promote the well-doing or well-being of mankind.”

“Established to support projects that focus on understanding and finding solutions to a broad array of social problems. Its primary purpose is to support research and social
action projects that build knowledge, strengthen organizations and meet the
changing needs of communities. The Foundation is especially interested in
supporting projects initiated by citizens living and working in communities
most deeply affected by social problems.”


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