RU's Melinda Wagner Receives Grand to Study Sustainable Communities

Appalachian Regional Commission
Center for Social and Cultural Research
The Old Church Gallery, Floyd, Virginia

The Old Church Gallery, Floyd, Virginia

Floyd County, Virginia Seal




PROJECT:  The Appalachian Regional Commission’s Appalachian Teaching Project (ATP) requires each participating university to offer a course in which students address the question, “How do we build on community assets to shape a positive future for Appalachia?”  The Fall 2013 Radford University ATP, “Sustaining the Community Mind for Long-term Community Resiliency:  Appalachian Values Assessment in Floyd County, Virginia,” is embedded in a course that will teach students the skills to become effective community leaders who understand the importance of community values.  As globalization and culture change continue apace in the region, long-term sustainability requires sophisticated culturally-aware leadership with the skills to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their communities and to predict the effects of changes.  These future leaders will “strengthen the capacity of Appalachian people to compete in the global economy.” 

PARTNERS:  The Radford University Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center, Center for Social and Cultural Research, and Scholar-Citizen Initiative are partnering with the non-profit Old Church Gallery’s Floyd Story Center, and the Floyd County government Office of Community and Economic Development to undertake this data-based study of community values.

FOCUS:  Floyd County Virginia’s Land Policy Task Force found that “What Matters Most” to Floyd County residents was “preservation of rural character, Appalachian heritage, and community identity.”  The Appalachian Teaching Project will research what residents want to preserve and study perceptions of potential threats to those values. 

Recent social science research has highlighted “narrative” and the identification of “core values” as critical   elements that help sustain communities affected by cultural and economic change and persistent negative stereotyping.  Better understanding Floyd County’s history and heritage (and defining what residents mean by that) will buttress a foundation for a positive trajectory.  In the words of Lydeana Martin, Floyd County Development Director, “it would allow for going beyond simply reacting to outside stressors as they arise.  From a land planning and economic perspective, it would be valuable to know these answers.”


  • Poster outlining the research findings
  • Presentation at the Appalachian Teaching Project Conference in Washington, D.C.
  • Presentation at the national Appalachian Studies Conference
  • Presentation to the Community Partners, and to wider community audiences
  • Written report of the research findings
  • Preparation for participation in the Floyd County Place-Based Education Oral History Project in Spring 2014, directed by Community Partner, the Floyd Story Center, in conjunction with Floyd County High School

Students who successfully complete the Fall 2013 Appalachian Teaching Project course and who have demonstrated maturity, professionalism, and willingness to contribute to an intergenerational team will be invited to participate in a follow-up resiliency-building program to improve community connections, preserve cultural heritage, and build technology skills.  In the Floyd County Place-based Education Oral History Project the Radford University students will participate as mentors to a Floyd County High School class focused on interviewing and making movies featuring elderly local residents, archiving the results at the Floyd Story Center, and sharing them with interviewees’ families and communities.  They will teach the high school students skills they themselves have learned, namely interviewing, audio and video recording, transcribing, analysis, and movie-making. The Floyd County Place-Based Education Oral History Project will apply the social science findings regarding resiliency by providing a forum for “intergenerational communication in sharing coping skills.”  The Project will provide youth with roots and wings – a strong appreciation for the wisdom of their county’s elders, and technological skills to carry into the future.  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote:  “Every people has a past, but the dignity of a history comes when a community of scholars devotes itself to chronicling and studying that past.”  We will create a multi-generational community of scholars with the Spring 2014 Project.

Sep 5, 2013