Jessica Gillespie earned her BA at the University of Virginia and her MA in American History at North Carolina State University. Her research is centered on the social history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Appalachia. Gillespie’s MA thesis, “‘Loved to Stayed On Like It Once Was’: Southern Appalachian People’s Responses to Socio-Economic Change—The New Deal, the War on Poverty, and the Rise of Tourism,” focuses on the ways in which twentieth-century mountain locals, contrary to popular stereotypes, were deeply connected to their physical environment and human communities, defining a collective identity based on their own cultural values in the face of drastic social change. Gillespie plans to expand on this research to uncover nineteenth-century Appalachian residents’ experiences with early attempts to economically and culturally restructure the region, including the introduction of specialized educational institutions, missionary programs, and the spread of industrialization. In her studies at UT, Gillespie hopes to contribute to a greater understanding of Appalachia’s past and people.
Gillespie had the privilege of serving as a teaching assistant throughout her time at NC State, gaining valuable experience while teaching courses in American history, Asian history, and world history. She was nominated for the university’s Outstanding TA of the Year Award for her work in 2009. Gillespie’s MA thesis won NCSU’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Outstanding Thesis Award for 2010. She also has been awarded the J. Wallace and Katie Dean Fellowship by UT for 2010-2011. Gillespie began her doctoral work at UT in the fall of 2010 and she is enthusiastic at the prospect of joining such a vibrant department with a strong history of supporting aspiring Appalachian historians.