We and others have found that higher education research lacks substantial treatment of rural students and their educational experiences. In an interactive symposium session at the annual AERA meeting, we’ll explore our own rural experiences and higher education. We plan to facilitate conversations toward a more nuanced definition of rurality that recognizes intersecting identities and urbanormativity in rural higher education experiences. Overall, we seek to explore the role of rurality and its intersection with race and gender in relation to higher education and post-secondary educational opportunities.  To that end, the conversation must go beyond the bound confines of one academic conference.  Fellow rural identifying scholars have agreed to blog, here, about the experiences of growing up rural and how that has shaped them. And we hope the conversation will spill over into more spaces, more research, more questions, and more critical openings for action.

Kathleen Gillon
I was born and raised in Martin, Tennessee – a small town in the northwest corner of the state and home to the University of Tennessee-Martin – by parents who were originally from Holyoke, Massachusetts and thought tea should be served hot and with milk.  Needless to say, I struggled to fit in as a rural Southerner.  A few days after my 18th birthday, I moved to Memphis – or as we called it in Martin, “the city” – where I pursued a bachelor’s degree in English at Christian Brothers University.  I then ventured to Nashville where I earned a master’s degree in higher education administration at Vanderbilt University.  My professional career took me to the east coast, where I worked for six years in the areas of academic success and new student transition at Stony Brook University.  Currently, I am a PhD candidate in the School of Education at Iowa State University.  My research focuses broadly on issues related to access, equity, and opportunity in higher education.  My dissertation explores how rural communities shape students’ understandings of post-secondary educational opportunity.

Moira Ozias
I grew up in Downs, Kansas just 6 miles from the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City and miles away from the geodetic and geographic centers of the lower 48 states. I went Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, completing a BA, and moved just north to the University of Kansas where studied Composition and Literacies (MA), and later social work (MSW). I’ve worked for over 10 years in writing centers, as well as doing community-based work with older adults, survivors of domestic violence, and teens. Currently I work as Associate Director of the OU Writing Center, and am working toward a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma. My research interests center on issues of identity and educational equity, particularly related to literacies, peer learning, writing centers, and community-university partnerships. In my collaborations with people and organizations across the OU campus and Oklahoma communities I aim to work democratically and in participatory ways, with an emphasis on addressing issues of equity and justice.

Erin Simpson
My hometown of Sedan, KS boasts the World’s Longest Yellow Brick Road and is birthplace of Emmett Kelly, world famous clown.  My name is literally carved into the sidewalk—my yellow brick lets people know I am a Sedanite, born and bred.  I left Kansas for the University of Oklahoma where I have been ever since.  All of my educational efforts have been in education, a B.S. in Elementary Education, an M.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education, and now a Ph.D. in progress in Adult and Higher Education and Women’s and Gender Studies.  I currently work in Student Affairs as the Assistant Director for Residence Life.  My research interests center on gender equity in higher education, feminist movement making, and social justice issues in Student Affairs.

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