On Thursday, December 12th students from the Departments of Sociology & Anthropology and Women & Gender Studies presented on the “Quality of Place in Elkhart County,” at the IUSB Elkhart Center.
For a little over a year various faculty and students, mainly from the IUSB Sociology of Anthropology Department, have partnered with Vibrant Communities Elkhart, as well as the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau and other Elkhart County leaders, to learn more about residents’ experiences living in the county. The project has focused mainly on those experiences/perceptions that are the most important drivers of a person’s attachment to place: openness and perceptions of acceptance and tolerance, social offerings, and aesthetics.
This fall, students from sociology professor David Blouin’s Research Methods class continued this research partnership, surveying more than 150 mainly Elkhart County residents of color at various community events. They also conducted follow-up, in-depth interview with close to thirty residents. In the presentations, students shared, to the approximately 40 community and IUSB members in attendance, the main findings from their work.
Students reported that a majority of residents rate the community positively on most measures of aesthetics, social offerings, and openness. For example, more than three quarters of residents surveyed believe the county is a great place for families with children and people entering the workforce without a college degree. A vast majority also rate the parks and playgrounds and the availability of community events and coffee shops and diners, favorably. Residents however, were less positive about environment for gays and lesbians and the availability of affordable housing. Further, despite the generally positive assessment on most measures, minority residents perceive the county at least slightly less favorably on issues such as the availability of jobs (especially for those w/o college), quality of the police, and whether Elkhart County is a good place for minorities and families with kids.
The in-depth interviews reveal that residents are hopeful for the future of the county, and see increasing open mindedness in their communities, especially among young people. Residents also see room for improvement in the public sphere, in areas such as public schools and community-police relations.
For more additional information or questions please contact David Blouin, Associate Professor and Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post written by David Blouin