Seminar class research helps women in the High Country

Joshua Farmer

A senior seminar class for the sociology department at Appalachian State University didn’t do research just for the experience. Instead, they conducted a full study that can help the entire Boone community.

The study, titled “Identifying Barriers to Self-Sufficiency,” was completed in May 2013 and helped the Appalachian Women’s Fund determine what kinds of barriers women in

Watauga County face while trying to become self-sufficient.

This study planning started fall 2012, even though the class did not start working on the project until the spring.

That fall, Appalachian and the Community Together hosted an event in which professors at the university could meet organizations that wanted research conducted, said Cameron Lippard, associate professor of sociology.

That’s when Lippard met the organizers of AWF and decided to use their research idea for his class the following semester.

The AWF is an organization that helps fund other programs through local nonprofits that support women and girls, according to

“Specifically for organizations, [AWF] wanted to know how to better hand out grant funds,” Lippard said.

While Lippard was the research coordinator for the project, the class did most of the work, said Katie Beth Caswell, a 2013 Appalachian graduate, who was part of the class.

The students collected data through surveys, formed a database with the information gathered and wrote an article for the results. The surveys asked about women’s current economic situation and what they would need to become more financially independent.

The biggest barriers the study showed were needs for transportation, affordable housing and childcare for women in Watauga County, Caswell said.

For Caswell, the most surprising part of the results was the variety of needs.

“There wasn’t one thing all women need,” she said.

Lack of reliable transportation was also surprising for Caswell, since all the research was conducted within Watauga County, which has the AppalCart system.

“The AppalCart runs on the student schedule,” she said. “The bus doesn’t run on Sundays, so women who depend on the bus can’t work that day.”

Kendra Black was also a part of the class, and like Caswell, was surprised by the variety of needs.

“We all went into this project thinking that, by the end, one would be set apart from the rest and we would be able to present the Appalachian Women’s Fund with a specific answer as to where their greatest area of need could be found,” Black said. “That wasn’t the case though.”

The full report on the economic barriers women in Watauga County face can be read here.

Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter