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OSU ethnography students study local issues

September 25, 2013 by

A group of ethnography students from Oregon State University recently spent two weeks studying a variety of community-related issues in Lake County.

The purpose of the rural anthropology field school was to afford students hands-on, in-the-field experience in the course of their studies, according to instructor Dr. Sarah Cunningham.

“We want to really give the students a chance to try out the methods of anthropology,” she said, noting that the students stayed with local families during the course of their two-week study.

Subjects researched by the undergraduate and graduate level students included health care, elder life, local food, post-high school education and plans, renewable energy, drug and alcohol treatment, ethnic restaurants, local artistic motifs and child care.

The latter category is what OSU junior Pamela Sutto chose to focus on, a subject of particular in light of her becoming a mother within the last year.

Sky Woods, a senior majoring in cultural anthropology with a minor in French, took on the subject of drug and alcohol treatment facilities.  His research included local alcoholics and narcotics anonymous groups, as well as the Lakeview Center for Change and Lake County Mental Health agency.

Woods, who has interned with Benton County Parole and Probation, is interested in ultimately veering toward a career in parole & probation services.  He cited cultural anthropology as a key tool for use in criminal justice services.

Woods also said that he was surprised to see the expansiveness of drug and alcohol-related issues within a small community.

“I kind of came in thinking it wasn’t such a big issue,” he said, “but I’ve learned there’s drug and alcohol problems everywhere.”

Graduate student Nicole Wiseman tackled the subject of local foods and local perceptions on local foods during her two-week visit.

Wiseman said that she had spoken with a number of locals with regard to the concept of community-supported agriculture and their perceptions on local produce.

Determining what the local vision is for locally-produced food and what locals are willing to do in order to coordinate this type of movement were chief goals of her interviews and research.

She acknowledged that U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations serves as a major stumbling block, especially where locally-grown beef is concerned.

“That’s a huge issue,” she said.

Dr. Cunningham said the students would transcribe their interviews, code them for varied themes and seek patterns and contradictions while spending the rest of the fall term in preparing individual research papers.

The class visiting Lakeview consisted of two graduate-level and seven undergraduate students, she said.

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