By Marcy Stamper
Jennifer Sherman, an associate professor of sociology from Washington State University, is living in the Methow Valley for the year as part of her research on families in rural Washington.
Sherman’s project, “Changing Times, Changing Families in Rural Washington,” will look at issues affecting rural families through in-depth interviews.
The interviews will help Sherman and her colleagues explore the concerns of people in rural parts of the state, as well as illuminate the challenges and rewards in their lives. They aim to understand how changing social and economic conditions have affected families.
While the study title refers to families, Sherman said she defines “family” very loosely, recognizing the range of impacts on people’s lives and family connections, both in the valley and elsewhere.
Sherman has already interviewed 35 people and has a goal of 100 interviews. Any interested adult can participate.
“By and large, people love the process — it gives them a couple of hours to talk about their lives. For most people, it’s really fun,” said Sherman.
She chose the Methow Valley in part because the researchers wanted to include at least one community with amenity-based tourism — that is, tourism built around the natural environment, wildlife and recreation.
The confidential interviews will ask about life, family, work, leisure activities and beliefs. The interview can take place in the person’s home or in a public place, depending on what is most comfortable and convenient. No names or personal identifiers are attached to the information and names are not used in anything written about the study.
One of Sherman’s colleagues will conduct similar interviews in rural parts of Whitman County next year. They are also looking for a logging town in the western part of the state for 2016, said Sherman.
Sherman ultimately plans to compile the information in a book that will compare people’s experiences in different types of rural communities.
Sherman will also provide feedback to local organizations that have been helping with the project and where she is working as a volunteer, including The Cove, Room One and TwispWorks.
Interviews will last one to two hours, and participants will be compensated with a $25 gift card or $20 in cash.