Growing up in the small southeastern Kentucky town of Letcher, Hannah Rose Adams (Class of 2020) felt like her home and its citizens were misrepresented by frequent stigmatization in mass media. She even started to let it affect her own goals and potential.
“It was hard growing up in such a stereotyped place because I began to believe the fabrications and resented my community from a very young age. I felt limited by the options — or lack thereof — for higher education and career opportunities that were available to me locally, particularly as a young woman,” she said. “There is a general consensus that the only ‘successful’ career options for women living in communities like mine are found in healthcare and education. Coming from a family full of women working in healthcare, I saw this social construct taking place from a young age. Neither of these careers ever appealed to me, and so I spent the majority of my life believing I would have to one day leave my home to find a successful and fulfilling future.”
But before Adams ever decided to attend Morehead State University, she had an impactful encounter that would foreshadow her current job in media.
In 2017, during Adams’ senior year of high school, she met Willa Johnson, then-lead educator and current director of the Appalachian Media Institute (AMI), a project of Appalshop. Adams had always heard about Appalshop but didn’t fully know everything the company did when it came to film production. After some encouragement from Johnson, Adams applied for an internship with AMI at age 17.
“As a young person who had just begun to tread into the world of media production, the Appalachian Media Institute program seemed like the perfect opportunity to test the waters and see what potential I had,” she said.
Her experience at AMI and Appalshop eventually factored into her field of study when she attended college. She went to Southeast Community and Technical College her freshman year to get some of her general education requirements completed while she figured out her major. Her freshman year also included gaining more experience with Appalshop, which led her to pursue a career in media and transfer to MSU to major in convergent media.
“For me, producing media in and about the Appalachian region has changed my outlook on this region and my future living here. I’ve learned to see the aspects of my community — the good and the bad — and not only accept them but understand why we lead this lifestyle. There are so many untold stories behind the stereotyped image mass media so often paints of central Appalachia.”Hannah Rose Adams
“I researched colleges and universities in Kentucky who offered media and journalism degrees, but none of them compared to Morehead State’s convergent media program,” Adams said. “I loved that the convergent media program was very hands-on and covered a variety of different media fields, similar to the Appalachian Media Institute program. I applied to Morehead State University very last minute at the end of my freshman year and was honored to be accepted.”
As someone who had never ventured far away from her rural hometown, Adams said she not only expanded her horizons, she stepped out of her comfort zone and took on more responsibilities. She stepped into the executive roles of a director or producer on several projects and said she found an extended family in her instructors and peers.
“All of my professors were, and still are, so supportive and vital to my success as a student and media producer. I believe because the convergent media program is so hands-on in terms of peer-to-peer and professor-to-student work, students and faculty effortlessly become one collective team,” Adams said.
After graduating with her Bachelor of Arts in Convergent Media in the winter of 2020, Adams knew what she wanted to do and where she wanted to do it. Based on her work with Appalshop, she hoped to take her passion for filmmaking not to Hollywood but her own backyard.
Since 1969, Appalshop has had a 50-year legacy of documenting Appalachia’s often-untold stories and unseen communities. This year, Adams will do her part to contribute to that legacy as AMI’s newest lead educator.
“I hope that in my new position, I can teach and support the youth who still have yet to find themselves and find love for our misunderstood region,” she said. “I hope the Appalachian Media Institute will continue to help young people find a passion for media production and encourage them to capture the stories of central Appalachia with a lens that they control.”
Visit www.amiappalshop.org to learn more about the Appalachian Media Institute.
For more information on MSU’s convergent media program, visit www.moreheadstate.edu/cml.