I began graduate school with the desire to conduct deep qualitative work in rural Appalachian communities, with the goal of better understanding and addressing the persistence of poverty in the region. While I was attending school in Boston, I opted to leave for good after finishing my course requirements, living in my field site for the remainder of my time. Originally from Virginia, I moved to the other side of the Appalachian mountains for my research, settling in Eastern Kentucky.
This area is often regarded as the "epicenter" of the opioid crisis, and I arrived in the mid-2010s, just as overdoses started to spike. I had watched several loved ones navigate both alcohol use and substance use disorder; yet I quickly became aware of the vast disparity in experience between my more privileged family members and friends and the men and women I met during my fieldwork. I realized the direction my research would take, studying the intersection of rural inequality and substance use.
I also grew up seeing how the experience of alcohol and substance use disorder is fundamentally social; I watched the way that alcoholism and addiction were experienced relationally and impacted my own family dynamics. In Kentucky, I was particularly struck by the ways that parents who use drugs and their families were addressed by the state and the recovery complex. Today, I focus on the ways that families experience substance use disorder and drug policy.
I have since left rural Kentucky for rural Pennsylvania, bringing along my partner, Jesse, two dogs, Cora and Clementine, and three cats, Pokey, Snarf, and Grem--all of whom I had the privilege of finding during my research journey. You can find us hiking in the woods, floating on the lake, or listening to local live music.