Since its inception in 2015, Bucknell University's interdisciplinary Coal Region Field Station has connected students, faculty, and staff to anthracite coal communities through projects that foster community revitalization, explore coal region histories and cultures, and imagine post-coal futures. Partner organizations include local nonprofits, local governments, public libraries, public schools, a food bank, and downtown development groups. The interdisciplinary Field Station is headquartered in Mount Carmel, PA, and is administered through the University's Center for Sustainability & the Environment in partnership with the Mother Maria Kaupas Center.
A conservative coal town and one of America's most respected liberal arts universities may seem far apart on many levels, but the Bucknell-Mount Carmel relationship is proving that, as the world gets smaller, we can all learn from each other, and grow with each other.
(Editorial from The [Shamokin, PA] News-Item, 10-29-16)
Twelve courses in humanities, social sciences, and management have engaged in collaborative community-based research and field trips through the Field Station. These have led to many positive outcomes, including a documentary on the Fire History Museum in Shamokin, a block captain program, studies on community revitalization, a study on the history of coal mining in the area, assistance with strategic planning, and a study of regional food availability.
Recent faculty-led research projects include development of the Fire History Museum in Shamokin, led by Professor Carl Milofsky (sociology & anthropology), a book project focusing on community politics and identity in the coal region by Professor Jennifer Silva (sociology & anthropology), and a documentary on coal country churches for the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley series by Professor Alf Siewers (English) in collaboration with WVIA, the PBS and NPR affiliate for Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Students engage with coal region communities through coursework, independent research with faculty mentorship, and working as interns or faculty research assistants. They have digitized archives, researched historical immigrant experiences, conducted youth summer camp assessments, created digital tours of monuments, developed health needs questionnaires, and explored options for creating a reading garden next to the Mount Carmel Public Library.
Bucknell Athletics and Catholic Campus Ministries have worked through the Field Station to provide service opportunities for students. Recent activities include hosting youth swim clinics, conducting a food drive, streamlining a food bank’s operations, partnering with a summer camp, and helping to prepare a space for the local historical society.
Through Bucknell’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) entrepreneurs have access to free, confidential consulting, training workshops, and other resources that encourage businesses in the region. One of the successes is Mount Carmel-based Soupie Brothers who produce and sell a dry-cured meat made with a family recipe that originated in Isca, a small village in Italy. Early 20th-century Italian immigrants’ “soupressa” was used often as a portable food in anthracite coal mines.
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