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PERCS announces winner of “Outstanding Project Award in Ethnographic Research"

Elon’s Program for Ethnographic Research and Community Studies has awarded junior Clementine Wall the 2009 Outstanding Project Award in Ethnographic Research. The award is given each year to a student that exemplifies outstanding efforts and success in conducting ethnographic research.

The award was presented during Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences', annual Excellence Awards ceremony on May 7. Wall also received a $100 prize along with her award. A junior double major in anthropology and sociology at Elon, Wall participated in an ethnographic study of Cowee Valley, a region that lies in the heart of the Little Tennessee River Valley in North Carolina.

Under the direction of Bird Stasz, associate professor in education, Wall and a team of students have conducted research over the past year in Cowee to capture life as it is, and life as it once was, in the Appalachian region. For seven months, students and faculty worked with quilters, documented stories of Cowee elders, participated in the preservation of a community general store, and practiced ethno-photography. In the coming year, their work will be developed into a book on the town that exemplifies the collaboration of the students, faculty and community.

As a researcher on the project, Wall specifically focused on a group of eight Cowee women that comes together every Wednesday to work on quilts and discuss the business of Cowee. “By immersing herself into their stitches and conversations,” Stasz said, “Clementine has entered into a world that is changing dramatically. Her portrayal of that world is sensitive, accurate and engaging. She has even learned to quilt herself.”

The Cowee project is part of Project PERCS, a sustainable program launched this year to support teams of students, faculty and community leaders in multi-year, interdisciplinary, ethnographic projects. The program promotes greater collaboration between the University and local communities, produces substantive research, and enhances student learning. As the first Project PERCS initiative, the study of Cowee Valley explores the cultural heritage of the area, and further enhances understanding of the Appalachian region as a whole.

“Cowee is important as it is representative of the many small towns across the South that are caught in the cross-currents of a need to preserve a way of life that is increasingly fragile, and the need to move ahead with the times,” Stasz said. “Thus, Cowee can be understood as a microcosm of the ‘old Appalachia’ of small, self-sufficient farms and tight-knit communities, and the ‘new Appalachia’ of tourism and retirement homes.”

Additional information on PERCS, the Cowee Project, or Project PERCS, can be found on the PERCS web site by clicking on the link to the right of this page.

The mission of PERCS is to further the understanding of ethnographic and community centered research across all fields of study, and to serve as a clearinghouse of information and discussion for students, teachers and researchers. The program is directed by Tom Mould, associate professor of anthropology, and includes an interdisciplinary faculty steering committee from the fields of sociology, art, education, history, anthropology, psychology and communication.


Eric Townsend,
5/8/2009 4:00 PM