Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Community & Leadership Development

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Community and Leadership Development

First Advisor

Dr. Bryan J. Hains


Appalachian women navigating higher education encounter multifaceted challenges, often confronting marginalization and a lack of representation within academic spaces. This study investigates the experiences of female Appalachian students at Mountain University in Kentucky, aiming to shed light on their journey and the university's impact on their lives and communities. Drawing on qualitative data from interviews, the research explores themes of solidarity, capacity, agency, and Quality of Life. Findings reveal a robust sense of solidarity among Appalachian peers and faculty, fostering a supportive environment conducive to personal and academic growth. Participants express opportunities to engage with their communities positively, contributing to the region's reimagining and future development. Additionally, the study highlights the development of communication skills and a strong desire among participants to remain in Appalachia post-graduation, reflecting a sense of agency and commitment to regional progress. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of the nuanced experiences of Appalachian women in academia and emphasizes the importance of recognizing and amplifying marginalized voices within educational discourse. Recommendations for this work include addressing infrastructural deficiencies, prioritizing dormitory maintenance, and enhancing representations of Appalachian culture across all academic disciplines. Moreover, fostering a sense of belonging and support for marginalized communities, such as the queer community, should be a continual focus. Future research should explore the causes of disparities between STEM and Arts & Sciences majors in representing Appalachian culture and investigate potential phenomena like 'color blindness' among Appalachian students regarding campus support programs. Ultimately, these insights can inform efforts to strengthen the university's inclusivity and support mechanisms for Appalachian students, contributing to their academic success and overall well-being.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)