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Alum Seelig wins two AERA dissertation awards for research on rural education

February 28, 2018

UW-Madison alumna Jennifer Seelig’s research examining educational policy in rural Wisconsin is receiving recognition from two different groups associated with the American Educational Research Association.

Seelig is receiving an AERA Division L Outstanding Dissertation Award, which is designed to put a spotlight on the exceptional research accomplishments of recent doctoral graduates. Division L represents scholars examining the area of educational policy and politics.

Similarly, Seelig is receiving the 2018 Rural Education Dissertation of the Year Award from AERA’s rural education special interest group (SIG).

“I am honored to receive recognition for my ethnographic study of a small town in Northern Wisconsin,” says Seelig, who received her Ph.D. from the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies in 2017. “I am very pleased that my colleagues acknowledge the importance of considering the effects of educational policies in rural contexts, as well as the influence of demographic, economic, and political dynamics on school-community relationships."

Seelig’s dissertation is titled, “North of Highway 8: An Ethnographic Study of a School-community Relationship in Rural Wisconsin.”

Seelig explains that her study traces the ways in which educational policy and community development overlap in a remote rural manufacturing town. The purpose of her study was to address the ways global relations of capital and labor and neoliberal policies shape the demographic, economic, and educational challenges in Northern Wisconsin, and impact the relationship between school district and community. In Forest Lake (pseudonym) rural school policies and practices are responding to the shifting national demographic and global economic patterns that affect all communities, as well as attending to the needs of their local community.

Seelig notes that industry relocation, spikes in unemployment and an aging population in remote, rural locations define the uphill battle that schools and communities face in remaining viable in an urban-centric society and global economy. Her research project addressed the critical gaps in understanding how these structural changes and economic challenges affect school-community relationships.

Seelig is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. She will be recognized for her research during AERA’s 2018 Annual Meeting, which runs April 13-17 in New York.