My name is Jenna Vangellow and I am a senior Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies major also working towards achieving the Sustainability and Undergraduate Global Health Certificates. I am involved on campus with the Student Health Advisory Board and Planned Parenthood Club. My interests mostly lie within women’s health, sex and sexuality, sustainability, social justice, and I also love animals! One interesting fact about me is that I am very into arts and crafts and my favorite thing to do is collage. Collaging with cut outs from magazines is a really cool art form because it is sustainable and allows you to explore your creativity with no boundaries and create something completely one-of-a-kind and sometimes weird.
This semester, I joined the Appalachian Teaching Project, a project focused on creating a foundation of research and ideas for decreasing out-migration from the Appalachian region, and specifically we are focusing on the idea of brain drain in Fayette County. I joined this project through my Sustainability Capstone course, and it caught my interest because I found it intriguing that we were studying the effects of out-migration in this region and saw opportunity in the fact that we can work topics of sustainability into our brainstorming of solutions and collection of research.
The Appalachian Teaching Project is supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and the governments of the 13 states that make up the Appalachian region. The project we have taken on here at the University of Pittsburgh is focused on consuming and producing research on “brain drain” in the Appalachian region. Appalachian high school graduation rates are on par with those of the nation, but the region’s college graduation rates fall behind, according to ARC. Our goal is to understand this phenomenon and create a space for research at the University of Pittsburgh. Our small group of students and faculty will aim to start a platform for future students in the project to use filled with contacts, resources, maps, articles, and more. We will be visiting the city of Connellsville soon and there we will speak to some business owners, stakeholders (of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority), and other individuals working and residing in Connellsville in order to learn more about Connellsville, its strengths and weaknesses, and what we can do to best create a strong relationship between the city of Connellsville and the University of Pittsburgh.
The ATP is important for multiple reasons. Firstly, it is important for the University of Pittsburgh to create strong relationships with communities outside of Pittsburgh. By creating lasting relationships with a city like Connellsville, we are able to provide high-quality research and a platform for ideas for economic development to a community which will in turn teach students and faculty how to work with others, research and problem-solve with people with different backgrounds than us. Leaving Pittsburgh to work with Connellsville will allow both the students and faculty to have a unique experience working to use our knowledge and unique expertise to develop solutions to a multi-faceted community development project. What a great way to learn, work, and get involved in the community!
On the other hand, the ATP is important in uniting the Appalachian region and make known the qualities of this region to continue developing small communities like Connellsville forward to sustainable and progressive communities. The sustainability aspect of this project for me comes mainly from the fact that I joined through my Sustainability Capstone course, so my two teammates and I from that class are focusing on sustainability regarding this project. Building more sustainable and progressive communities will allow for the Appalachian region to move forward and find solutions to their out-migration problem, attracting younger residents, promoting clean energy, and increasing quality of life.
My career aspirations center around sustainability, women’s health and empowerment, and social justice. I am interested in pursuing many different career paths and I am not set on a certain path yet, but after graduation I am interested in working somewhere like Planned Parenthood, where I can work within the field of women’s health and reproductive rights, which I feel very strongly about. I am passionate about reproductive justice and find it very important to advocate for women who need a certain level of healthcare in order to live safe and healthy lives. My career path will guide me to advocate, empower, and assist people in one sense or another, and I hope to one day find a career that could allow me to combine my passions together to be the ultimate dream job!
I am honored and excited to be part of this project. I understand its importance, my role, and the goal we have as a team moving forward and I am looking forward to further combine all of our different backgrounds in order to address this project with multiple disciplines and positive intentions. During the semester, I hope to further develop my research and communication skills and also learn to work with stakeholders in a professional and efficient way. I will make sure to focus on creating ethical and responsible forms of research and solutions for the stakeholders and continue to engage with community partners with the highest level of respect and thoughtfulness. I can’t wait to continue my participation in ATP and, specifically, I am so excited to visit Connellsville and meet the people we are working to help and create strong professional relationships with.