The Coal Region Field Station, headquartered in Mount Carmel, is a collaborative effort between Bucknell and anthracite coal region communities to foster community revitalization, highlight local histories and culture, and to envision possibilities in a postcoal future. Launched in Spring 2015, the program builds on a collaborative partnership with the Mother Maria Kaupas Center for Service Learning, which focuses on volunteerism and community revitalization. The Coal Region Field Station and associated Coal Region Working Group is a collaborative effort across disciplines to engage students, faculty, and staff in research, teaching, and outreach in the coal region. For 201516, Carl Milofsky and Ben Marsh volunteered as faculty codirectors, withShaunnaBarnhartandtheBCSEprovidingadministrativemanagementandsupport.
Since Spring 2015, activity and interest in engaging Bucknell with the coal region has continuedtoincreasethrougharangeofactivities,including:
Facultystudent research teams conducting innovative research sparked by Coal Region Field Station summer grants in Summer 2015 (funded through Action Research@BucknellandtheDeansOffice),
Six courses with communitybased projects and/or field trips (from Sociology, Management,Geography,andComparativeHumanities)
Such activities connect to multiple pillars in The Plan for Bucknell, including Strengthening the Academic Core through offering transformative academic experiences and close partnerships in facultystudent research Enhancing Diversity through student engagement with communities of diverse socioeconomic class, culture, religion, and political perspectives and Building Bridges by connecting Bucknell students, faculty, and staff with regional communities in collaborative communitybasedresearchandserviceactivities.
With growing interest in coal region activities and possibilities after a successful meeting between community partners and interested faculty and staff at Bucknell in September 2015, a Coal Region Working Group was formed. The group now has 33 members from 18 academic and nonacademic units across Humanities, Management, and Social Science divisions: Anthropology, Catholic Campus Ministries, Center for Sustainability and the Environment/Place Studies program, Comparative Humanities, Economics, Education, Engineering, English, Environmental Studies, Geography, History, International Relations, Library and Information Technology, Management, Office of Civic Engagement, Political Science, the Provosts Office, SmallBusinessDevelopmentCenter,andSociology.
Given the broad base of interest from across disciplines, work that connects across three pillars of The Plan for Bucknell, continuing support from community partners, and the strength of our partnership with the Mother Maria Kaupas Center, the Coal Region Field Station promises tobeacontinuedbenefitforBucknell,itsstudents,faculty,staff,andregionalcommunities.
The official launch of the Coal Region Field Station in spring 2015 was accompanied by funding for three summer research grants led by Jen Silva, Nick Kupensky, and Neil Boyd. The 2015 Coal Region Field Station summer research grants have proven to be a valuable investment in faculty and student research. Jen Silva (Sociology) and Nick Kupensky (Comparative Humanities) embarked on longterm research projects with students in the coal region due to the dedicated 2015 summer research grants, with both projects continuing to flourish and engagestudentsinresearch.
Jen Silva is working on a book project which focuses on community, politics, and identity in the coal region a topic she began to pursue with the dedicated coal region summer grant. She has worked with a number of students as part of this research project two in summer 2015 (Jesse Scheimreif '16 and Caroline Hompe '17) and two in academic year 201516. In academic year 201617, she continues to work with student researchers on data analysis, with one student, Kait Smeraldo 17, writing her thesis in education about pathways to adulthood in the coal region using Silvas data and embedding the interviews into a history of the region. In addition to multiple invited speaking engagements across the country on her new research, her work has garnered international media attention, including a radio interview on BBC (see Appendix A). In September 2016, her work won an ASA/NSF Fund for the Advancement of the Disciplineforherproject,HardCoal:PailandPoliticsinSmallTownAmerica.
Nick Kupensky, Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Humanities & Russian Studies, and Erin Frey 17 explored immigrant history and culture in Mahanoy City to understand the immigrant experience through Emil Kubeks poetry, and the public discourse surrounding Slavic immigrant arrivals at the turn of the last century. They worked with the Mahanoy Area Historical Society to recover from microfilm and translate the littleknown poetry of Father Emil Kubek (18571940), a CarpathoRusyn immigrant and writer whose poetry illuminates coal mining and the immigrant experience of the early 20th century. Their work led to the Kubek Project (https://kubekproject.wordpress.com/) and a walking tour linking Kubeks poems and short stories to the city landscape. A public launch of the walking tour on November 22, 2015, drew a crowd of ~90, including coal region communities and Bucknell attendees, and was covered in local, regional, and international news (see Appendix A). The work sparked by the summer field station grant is ongoing as Frey continues her work through a Presidential Fellowship and a 2016 summer research grant with Katie Faull (Comparative Humanities) and Kupensky continues to work with partners in Mahanoy City and at Bucknell on the Kubek
Project. Kupensky, who is also a Bucknell alum, is planning to publish a book on Emil Kubek andhisworkintheStoriesoftheSusquehannabookseries.
Additionally, Neil Boyd worked with student intern Sedona Boyatzis on a project focusing on sustainable consumption for lowincome individuals in Central PA. Student Adam Bishop also worked in the coal region on issues related to food insecurity and the food pantry networkunderthementorshipofCarlMilofsky. ClassEngagement
Since spring 2015, six courses involving six faculty and two staff (Shaunna Barnhart and Brianna Derr) have engaged with coal region communities through community based research and field trips. These courses introduced students to coal region communities and their lived experiences by working with community partners to better understand the communities and their needs, developing recommendations for addressing areas of community concern, and capturing andsharingcommunitystories.Coursesandtheiroutcomesinclude:
SOCI 206: Video Ethnography. Spring 2015. (Carl Milofsky). Students completed a documentary on the Fire History Museum in Shamokin, and the museums founder John Smith. The video is available on the Place Studies YouTube channel and has had over 300 views. The student documentary project was covered in local media(SeeAppendixA).
SOCI/UNIV 242 (IP): Rural Communities. Fall 2015. (Carl Milofsky and Jamie Hendry). AgroupoffourstudentsdidacommunityassessmentinMountCarmel.
GEOG 218: Geographies of Justice. Spring 2016. (Vanessa Massaro). After a field trip and conversation with community members, three student groups completed and presented comparative case studies to Mount Carmel Borough, Mount Carmel Downtown Inc, and the Mother Maria Kaupas Center for strategies to improve community cohesion, youth retention, and alternative financing. Student projects were covered in local media
and some recommendations are being pursued for implementation (See Appendix A). Three pilot neighborhoods will implement a recommended block captain program, with Catholic Campus Ministry students providing a communitycanvassing followup during a Fall 2016 community service weekend. Such coordination demonstrates the potential for chaining projects to involve students at multiple stages and to enhance community impact and collaboration. Other suggested projects will be further developed with additional research, grantwriting,orprojectproposalsinherSpring2017course.
MSUS 400: Sustainability Action Learning
Project. Spring 2016. (Eric Martin). Two student groups conducted indepth community studies for community revitalization and organizational strategic plans with community partners Mount Carmel Downtown Inc. and the Mother Maria Kaupas Center. Student projects were covered in local media and in Bucknell communications(SeeAppendixA).
SOCI 206: Video Ethnography. Spring 2016.
(Carl Milofsky). Students completed a documentary on volunteer fire fighting in Shamokin and the difficulty in recruiting new volunteers. Documentary built upon a Spring 2015FireHistoryMuseumvideoproject.
UNIV 241 (IP): Susquehanna Country. Spring 2016. (Alf Siewers and Katie Faull). Students participated on a field trip to a coal mine in Trevorton where they met with the coal mine operator, followed by a brief tour of Centralia. One students final project focused on coal mininghistoryinTrevorton,availableonOmeka. http://ssv.omeka.bucknell.edu/omeka/neatline/show/trevorton In addition to the above, two other courses considered incorporating coal region projects. Jake Betz, Director of the Kaupas Center, and Shaunna Barnhart visited Amanda Woodens ENST 411 Capstone course to pitch a project on turning a vacant
lot in Mount Carmel into a green space. After careful deliberation, students chose to do a project on food availability that better aligned with their goals. However, data from that project is being put to use by the United Way in Sunbury to help improve food availability throughout Northumberland County (where the coal region is located). Seth Orsborn expressed interest in working with the Shamokin Fire Museum on design issues for his MIDE 302: Design Realization, but chose other options. Such interest indicates potential for growth and developmentincurricularengagementwithcoalregioncommunities.
As the news coverage listed in Appendix A indicates, both students and the community have had positive experiences with such interactions. Eric Martins MSUS 400 students, all class of 2016 graduates in Managing for Sustainability, also provided feedback about how the experienceofworkingwiththecommunityinMountCarmelimpactedtheirlearning:
Working in Mt Carmel was a very unique experience that I feel lucky we got the chance to do. We were welcomed by everyone from the mayor to business owners, to regular citizens. There are not many places where we could have worked with all the peopleandleaderswedidthissemesterandfeelasthoughwewerecontributing. This made me realize a) how difficult it is to come in as a consultant and make sure you are not stepping on toes, and b) how hard it is to make development sustainable. Coming in, it is entirely reliant on the community surveys, interviews, and meetings as to what we should focus on. Even if we think there is a solution that works well, wecantpursueitunlessthecommunityagrees.This experience will help me in my development of becoming a more understanding personandgainamorediverseperspectivetorealissuesinournation.
I definitely learned more about how to work for the best interests of someone else, or anotherorganization. This project also helped me learn about a different type of town I would otherwise haveneverspenttimein.
In addition to ongoing work by Jen Silva and Nick Kupensky outlined previously,
additional faculty are engaged in longterm research and projects. Alf Siewers and a team of students are working on a collaborative documentary project for the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley WVIA documentary series that focuses on churches of coal country. They are working with David McFee, a videography teacher at Mount Carmel High School, and high school student volunteers. Preplanning began in academic year 201516 with initial filming and interviewing beginning in Summer 2016. Carl Milofsky continues to work with students on the Fire History Museum in Shamokin in partnership with Shamokin Volunteer Fire Companies. The collaborative project will digitally archive Shamokins fire history collection (photographs, personal accounts, news articles, and artifacts), utilize the materials for student and faculty researchprojects,andpreparematerialsforcommunitydisplay.StudentResearch
In addition to the students who have engaged with coal region communities through
coursework, students are also working with faculty as research assistants, conducting independent research with faculty mentorship, and working as interns through Bucknell in the coal region. Summer 2015 saw five students working with faculty on coal region projects, outlined in t...