Dr. Theresa Burriss


Theresa Burriss (on left) with her Transilvania University friends/colleagues, Dr. Georgeta Moarcas and Dr. Cristian Pralea, in Brasov, Romania, October 2021.

Theresa L. Burriss, Associate Professor, has a BA from Emory University in Atlanta, an MS from Radford University, and a PhD from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. She serves as the Director of Appalachian Studies and the Appalachian Regional & Rural Studies Center at Radford University. Theresa is Coordinator of the School of Teacher Education & Leadership’s Ed.D. in Education Program. Additionally, she serves as Radford University’s Director of Academic Outreach for the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon. She teaches a graduate Appalachian literature class, undergraduate and graduate multidisciplinary classes on Appalachia, and doctoral classes on place-based education and critical theories.

For the 2021 fall semester, Theresa was awarded a Fulbright Teaching & Research grant to Romania. She taught Appalachian literature with a coal focus 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.

Theresa 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 forthcoming 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.”

She was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam to serve a two-year term on the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice from 2020 – 2022. 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, hiking, and kayaking 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.