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Princeton Alumni News: Karen Rignall ’92 *94: Understanding Appalachia Through Storytelling

High school students in Rignall’s Stories of Place project visited a coal-impoundment lake and found that a family cemetery had been established on its banks about 150 years ago.

When most Americans think of the coal region of eastern Kentucky, they think of poverty — but Karen Rignall ’92 *94 is determined to help residents of Martin County, Ky., tell their own stories. 

 An assistant professor in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Community and Leadership Development and in the Department of Sociology, Rignall obtained a $50,000 public-engagement fellowship from the Whiting Foundation in 2018 to help her undertake a project she has called “Stories of Place in Martin County.” The project enables area high school students and their families to reexamine their community — physically, historically, and socially — to develop a better understanding of what it has been through and what it might become.

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