Fielding Student’s Project Looks at Economic Impact of Folk Schools

Santa Barbara, CA —Thanks to the work of PhD student Dawn J. Murphy, Fielding Graduate University has received a two-year, $200,000 federal research grant through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Arbutus Folk School, WA

Centered on Arbutus Folk School of Olympia, Washington, community and university researchers will develop and implement a Community-Based Research project in the Pac5, a five-county region in the Pacific Mountains of Washington. The “Leading from the Roots” project will engage local artisans, craftspeople, and tradition bearers in a study of economic vitality and resiliency through arts, culture, and heritage-based activities.

Melchor Hall

Abigail Lynam

Specifically, Fielding faculty Principal Investigators Abigail Lynam, PhD, and K. Melchor Hall, PhD, as well as Murphy – a doctoral student and fellow with Fielding’s Marie Fielder Center for Democracy, Leadership, & Education – aim to answer these questions: “How can place-based, traditional artists and craftspeople help reduce their region’s dependency on external or unsustainable economic drivers and develop economic vitality and resilience in rural communities?” and “What impact does engagement in a Community Based Participatory Research process have on scope of service in folk schools?”

Dawn Murphy

“Folk schools have a long history of inspiring social change by awakening, enlivening, and sustaining the communities in which they are located,” Murphy said. “Communities across the country are turning to folk schools for this reason with 92 new folk schools founded since 2001. Through the Leading from the Roots research project, Arbutus Folk School will serve as a model in broadening and measuring their impact. This could mean a ripple effect with communities in more than half the U.S. states reaping benefits.”

A total of 202 applications from universities in 46 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico competed. Collectively, these applicants requested more than $21.4 million, making this grant highly competitive. From the applications received, the “Leading from the Roots” Community Conversations Project was one of 16 grants awarded.