Acclaimed novelist headlines Clemson University’s Upstate Symposium, exploring the University’s connection to the region

March 18, 2024

Acclaimed Appalachian novelist and Clemson alumnus Ron Rash will keynote Clemson University’s Upstate Symposium on April 4-5 at the Barnes Center.

Through a series of round table discussions by cross-disciplinary panels of Clemson staff, faculty and students, the event will explore how Clemson’s location in the Upstate of South Carolina can and should influence its research and student experience.

Timothy Brown, associate professor in the School of Architecture, organized the symposium.

“Every great piece of architecture I know is deeply connected to the concept of place,” Brown explained. “I started asking myself, ‘Is the Upstate a distinctive place? If so, what qualities does it have?’”

To begin a conversation about the cultural, historical and geographic features that define the region, he reached out to the College of Arts and Humanities, which will host and be the event’s primary sponsor.

“This symposium is an example of how the humanities strengthen the University’s academic culture,” said Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “Uniting scholars from multiple disciplines to generate new ideas for inquiry and research is at the heart of what we do.”

Keynote connection

Brown said he selected Rash as the keynote speaker specifically because many of his stories are deeply connected to the region and to the author’s own experiences growing up in Appalachia. Rash holds an M.A. in English from Clemson University, is the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, and is the winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is well-known for his novels, including “One Foot in Eden,” “The World Made Straight,” and “Serena,” which was adapted into a feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in 2014.

Rash will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, April 4, at 3:00 p.m.

“I don’t think any contemporary writer is writing about place as deeply as Ron Rash right now,” Brown noted.

Interdisciplinary partnership

The College of Architecture, Art and Construction and the School of Architecture are also sponsoring the symposium. A series of panel discussions will be moderated by Brown, School of Architecture Director Jim Stevens, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Paul Russell, Judge Matthew J. Perry Distinguished Professor of History Vernon Burton, Art Department Chair Valerie Zimany and College of Architecture, Art and Construction Interim Dean George Petersen.

“As a land-grant institution, it’s integral to our mission to bridge the gap between research and the communities we serve,” emphasized Petersen. “I take pride in witnessing our faculty’s commitment, both within and beyond our College, to foster collaboration and ensure our scholarly endeavors resonate with the Upstate region.”

Home to more than 1.5 million South Carolinians, the Upstate includes 10 diverse counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union.  The keynote address and panel discussions are open to students and the public.