Back to:
Current year's news releases

All news releases
News and information home

Social work students to visit Appalachia

RELEASED: May 19, 2011

This immersion experience received financial support from UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Commitment.

EAU CLAIRE — Ten University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire social work students will depart May 23 for a 10-day Appalachian immersion trip to eastern Kentucky. Dr. Vanda Galen, professor and chair of the social work department, will lead the excursion, which is partially funded through the Blugold Commitment.

Galen will take students to the coalfields to better understand the rich culture of the area. The group will spend two days in Benham and Lynch, Ky.— two coal company towns in the shadow of Black Mountain — to see the devastation of mountain-top removal for coal extraction that has been wrought on the Virginia side of the mountain. The students will meet with local advocates who are trying to save the mountain on the Kentucky side.

"Social work has a focus on 'person-in-environment,' and we will look particularly at how coal extraction has influenced the lives and life chances for people of the area," Galen said.

Senior Amy Pederson, Mondovi, is looking forward to putting herself in the shoes of local residents during her stay.

"People in social service fields are taught that you have to be open-minded, but it is hard to do that when there is little variation in your surroundings. This experience will help us to see what is possible in our careers and be more appreciative for how truly different each and every community can be," Pederson said.

The group will also visit social programs begun by women during the Progressive Era: Hindman Settlement and Pine Mountain Settlement Schools, which were part of the Settlement House movement, and the Frontier Nursing Service, which was the first nurse/midwifery program in the United States.

"The immersion trip is an opportunity to experience diversity," said Heather Wroten, a senior social work major from Portage. "The people living in Applachia live entirely different lives than people living in northern Wisconsin.

"I look forward to learning firsthand how coal mining has affected the culture. I have heard that the Appalachian community is extremely impoverished so it's a little unsettling to think that I will be in their community and there won't be anything I can do to improve that. I guess that is why I want to be a social worker," Wroten said.

Stops at Henderson Settlement School in Frakes, Ky., a tour of Appalshop, a center for media and documentary works about the area, and a stop at a folk festival in Big Stone Gap, Va., also are planned. The students will blog about their experiences online.

This immersion experience received financial support from UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Commitment. In 2010 the Student Senate and the UW System Board of Regents supported increasing the amount of differential tuition UW-Eau Claire students pay, with the new dollars going to fund Blugold Commitment projects that enhance student learning.

For more information, contact Dr. Vanda Galen at 715-836-5366 or galenv@uwec.edu.

-30-

RD/DW

Back to:
Current year's news releases

All news releases
News and information home

 

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.