Theresa L. Burriss

Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement and Economic Development Office of the President

Theresa L. Burriss joined Emory & Henry in August 2023 after teaching at Radford University (RU) for over 25 years. While at RU, she served as Director of Appalachian Studies and the Appalachian Regional & Rural Studies Center, Coordinator of the Ed.D. in Education Program, and Director of Academic Outreach at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.

Theresa has a BA (Philosophy) from Emory University in Atlanta, GA, an MS (English) from Radford University in Radford, VA, and a PhD (Interdisciplinary Studies) from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, OH. 

For the 2021 fall semester, Theresa was awarded a Fulbright Teaching & Research grant to Romania. She taught Appalachian literature to third-year American Studies students at Transilvania University in Brasov and conducted ethnographic research in the Jiu Valley, Romania’s coalmining region. She received a Fulbright extension for fall 2022 to conduct additional research in the Jiu Valley, with the information leading to cross-cultural coal community research between Central Appalachia and the Jiu Valley. Related to this work, she published “Fortuitous Flashpoint: How an Appalachian-Carpathian Mountain Conference Transformed My Life” in the Bulletin of Transilvania University of Brasov’s special issue on the 2022 Appalachian-Carpathian Mountain Conference Proceedings.

Theresa serves as co-editor with Dr. Erica Abrams-Locklear for Ohio University Press’s New Approaches to Appalachian Studies series. She has published literary criticism on the Affrilachian Writers, including chapters in An American Vein: Critical Readings in Appalachian Literature (Ohio UP 2005) and Appalachia in the Classroom: Teaching the Region (Ohio UP 2013), for which she served as co-editor with Patricia Gantt. Her chapter, “Ecofeminist Sensibilities and Rural Land Literacies in the Work of Contemporary Appalachian Novelist Ann Pancake,” is part of the collection, Ecofeminism and Literature: Intersectional and International Voices (Routledge 2018), edited by Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey. Her photos and contextual essay, “Benham, Kentucky, Coalminer and Wise County, Virginia, Landscape” are included in Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy (West Virginia UP 2019), edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll. “Raven, Woman, Man: A/Religious Ecocritical Reading of Jim Minick’s Fire Is Your Water” will appear in Appalachian Ecocriticism (U of Georgia P 2023), edited by Jessica Cory and Laura White. She has two co-authored chapters in the anthology, Engaging Appalachia: A Guidebook for Building Capacity and Sustainability (UP of Kentucky 2023): with former students, Kasey Campbell and Caroline Leggett, “Town and Gown Collaborations in Southwest Virginia Post-Coal Communities: Clinch River Valley Initiative and Radford University Economic Diversification Efforts;” and with colleagues from various universities, “Bringing Back the Forest: University Outreach, Community Engagement, and Partnerships for the Reforestation of Coal Mines in Appalachia.” In December 2022, her article, “The Activism of Dance Performance in Appalachia: Utilizing the Arts to Address Social and Environmental Crisis and Injustice in the Mountains,” was published in the American, British and Canadian Studies special issue, Staging Crisis in Contemporary North American Theater and Performance

She was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam to serve on the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice, for which she continues to serve. She was awarded an NEH Summer Institute Grant for the 2015 “Transcendentalism and Reform in the Age of Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller” in Concord, MA. As the U.S. co-chair for both the 2019 and 2022 Appalachian-Carpathian Mountain Conference, she worked with her Transilvania University colleagues, Dr. Georgeta Moarcas and Dr. Cristian Pralea. Theresa is a board member for the nonprofit organization, Appalachian Sustainable Development.

In her spare time, she enjoys running and hiking throughout the Appalachian region. Theresa lives on a nontraditional 120-acre farm and artist retreat, Gwendolyn Ridge, in Washington County, VA, with her two sons, Paul and Campbell, her husband, Dr. James L. Werth, Jr., their eleven rescue animals, and various wild animals.

Secondary Title:

Interim Director of The van Vlissingen Center for Career and Professional Development

Contact Info

P.O. Box 947, Emory, VA 24327