In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: Neighborhood Relations in a College Town


Since 2004, I have provided technical assistance to a neighborhood association in a residential, campus-adjacent neighborhood located in a small college town in a geographically isolated coal-mining region of the United States. The neighborhood is shared by year-round residents, most of whom are older adults who have no affiliation with the university, and undergraduate students in their early 20s who live off campus. For my doctoral dissertation, I wanted to better understand the intergroup dynamics among residents of this neighborhood. To do that, I undertook a year-long ethnographic study. The study included members from five stakeholder groups and incorporated multiple data collection tools—participant observation, archival research, interviews, photography, Geographic Information Science mapping, a series of focus groups, and a small Photovoice project. This research project case describes the research process I undertook to plan and execute the study including the problems encountered, the lessons learned, and the insights developed. My hope is that by sharing the details of the study, I can help others who are conducting similar research.

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