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Rural Matters

May 4, 2020

Michelle chats with Mara Tieken, associate professor of education at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, whose research focuses on racial and educational equity in rural schools and communities. Her landmark book, Why Rural Schools Matters, examines how rural schools define and sustain their surrounding communities. Tieken, a former host of Rural Matters, is working on two studies, one supported by the Spencer Foundation, which explores the college experiences of rural, first-generation students, and the other, supported by the Reed Foundation, studies the effects of school closures on rural, black communities in the Arkansas Delta. Tieken discuss key aspects of her research on college access for rural students, noting that as student spent more time on campuses, they became more aware of wealthier students, and how that led to them feeling more isolated and believing that their college was elitist and out of touch with their home communities; and they began to doubt that our education system was a meritocracy. There are several inequities in this area, Tieken notes, including less familiarity with four-year colleges, financial barriers, and access to social mobility. Since schools are closed during the pandemic, Tieken notes, face-to-face contact with high school counselors on college access and campus visitations are often not an option for students. Tieken hopes the COVD-19 pandemic will provide the impetus to narrow these inequities, but she and Michelle agree that this requires a real commitment from stakeholders. This episode is sponsored by NREA,