Research

November 12, 2019 at 9:27 am

Terman, Kostansek Present ‘Intergenerational Community Visions in Appalachian Ohio’

Rachel Terman in her Bentley Annex office

Dr. Anna Rachel Terman

by Alex Paoletti ’20

Dr. Rachel Terman, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ohio University, and Joy Kostansek, M.A. student in Sociology, presented “Intergenerational Community Visions in Appalachian Ohio” at the Rural Sociological Society conference in August in Richmond, VA.

RSS aims to improve rural life, community, and environment. The annual conference is one of the society’s main pursuits, as well as its peer-reviewed journal, Rural Sociology, and its promotion of social science students and scholars through research and interest groups.

Abstract: In this presentation we will present preliminary findings from a community-engaged research project we are conducting in Southeast (Appalachian) Ohio where we seek to learn about the similarities, differences, and collaborative efforts among younger and older generations of people active in their communities. People and organizations based both inside and outside Appalachian communities have a history of action and engagement for over 100 years, including efforts to make social changes while confronting economic, environmental, and social issues. Appalachian Ohio includes 32 counties, many of which continue to be designated as economically distressed or at-risk by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Thus, new and ongoing community development efforts are important for this area of Ohio. Many people working in community action efforts in Appalachia today got their start during the War on Poverty programs in the 1960s. These community leaders are now in retirement age, and, along with the context of an aging population in many small Appalachian Ohio communities, are confronting challenges to leadership succession. Likewise, rural sociologists and others continue to document and analyze the migration of young people away from many rural communities and the subsequent effects on social structures in those places. Meanwhile, there is some evidence to suggest that the economy in Southeast Ohio is improving, which may signal an opportunity to attract more young people. In addition, youth organizing has been collecting momentum broadly across the region, but it is unclear the extent to which the two generations, younger and older, are working together. Through a series of three focus groups (one for younger participants age 18-35, one for older participants age 35 and older, and finally one intergenerational group), we seek to identify new trajectories of community engagement as well as areas of continuity among older and younger people active in their communities. The focus groups will be organized through university-community partnerships. We anticipate that these focus group conversations will provide valuable insights about intergenerational community action in Southeast Ohio. This knowledge will be useful to the region more broadly in the form of shared ideas about common issues and interests in small towns and rural areas. The knowledge will also be useful to scholars studying community development and action in Appalachia.

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