How did you come to work in community development?
I grew up in the Appalachian area of Pennsylvania, in an area that was very rural and mountainous. I went to undergrad in Pittsburgh, PA, and I became fascinated with how other types of cities work. I focused my undergraduate studies in that direction and then went to graduate school for community and regional planning in Vancouver, BC. I was exposed to the Cascadia mindset, which was more environmentally and international development planning focused. That’s where my real passion for community development took root. The biggest trajectory of my career was when I was awarded a research fellowship and lived in Vietnam for 2 years. At that time, Vietnam was the 13th poorest country in the world. My research focused on a project about slum settlement relocation and another on marketplaces and women’s role in the household economy. Looking back, it was specifically relevant to Appalachia and the importance of “place” in our lives because in a communist country like Vietnam, they can literally relocate people, but the people inevitably gravitate back to these places where they feel they want to live. I truly loved poverty alleviation work because it allowed me to see the compelling and entrepreneurial subcultures of people that exist in places like slum settlements.
We are so excited to read the latest news release from the White House announcing the $38.8 million in POWER grants that have been awarded. Congratulations to our partners and colleagues in Appalachia who are working so hard to achieve the Appalachian Transition--we know that these awards will play a huge role in our progress toward that goal.
"It’s going to take all of us working together to create just, equitable, and healthy communities in Appalachia." - Margo Miller
Your career path has led you through many experiences with social justice and arts advocacy. How do these experiences inform your work in philanthropy?
My entry into the world of social justice came from working with the Carpetbag Theatre, a professional, multigenerational ensemble company whose mission is to give artistic voice to the issues and dreams of people who have been silenced by racism, classism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and other forms of oppression. Through them, I was also introduced to Alternate Roots, a regional group of artists who use art and culture as a tool for social change and social justice. Ever since then, I have been committed. I loved using artistic expression and working collaboratively with other artists and community members to make positive change.Read more
This video presentation by Dr. Randy Wykoff, Dean of the ETSU College of Public Health, provides a data-driven explanation of Central Appalachia's public health challenges, explores the most critical factors impacting our region's health, and proposes an integrated approach to improving Central Appalachia's health that emphasizes the role of food & food systems. The video was made possible through the Food and Ag Systems Working Group partnership with the Health Working Group, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.