Giles High School Graduates at Virginia Tech: Investigating the Relationship between Appalachian Identity and the College Experience
Stallings, Sara Woodruff
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The purpose of this study was to conduct a qualitative exploration of the relationship between Appalachian identity and the college experience among Giles High School graduates who attend Virginia Tech. The population for this study was Giles High School graduates who attend Virginia Tech. The sample size included ten volunteers who graduated from Giles High School in Pearisburg, Virginia, and have attended Virginia Tech in the past three years. Data collection was obtained from the sample by conducting semi-structured interviews. Coding occurred in two phases using thematic coding. The first phase consisted of an initial coding to establish an understanding of the responses and develop codes to fit the responses for analysis. The second phase of coding consolidated, re-affirmed, compared, and contrasted categories created in the first phase using matrices. The results revealed that the interviewees did communicate an Appalachian identity. When describing Appalachia, the interviewees communicated both positive and negative perceptions of their hometown. Attending college did result in a change in their Appalachian identity. Common changes were in their willingness to accept people different from themselves, their perceptions of Giles County in comparison to more diverse and urban areas, and their appreciation for the natural beauty of Giles. Compared to previous research, I found that Giles High School students seem to have less of a disrupting experience when attending college; however, dominant cultural messages still influence the identity of Appalachian students. Further research should be conducted to confirm the results and analysis.
- Masters Theses