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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Liu

Scope of The Vernot-Jonas Fellowship Project

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

June 2, 2022

Written by: Olivia Liu, founder of The Subortus Project


I selected the Rust Belt, Appalachia, and rural southwest Virginia as my three geographical regions of study.


It seemed natural to study the Rust Belt provided its rich history in manufacturing. The Rust Belt region extends from Pennsylvania to the southeastern corner of Wisconsin. The region’s name generates from its infamous levels of population loss, urban decay, and widespread poverty, which were triggered by the region’s loss of manufacturing prominence starting in the 1950s. Currently, the region urgently needs to retain its workforce talent and find ways to re-establish its economic significance by attracting major employers to settle there. Considering the government’s recent efforts to revive American manufacturing, I wondered if the region received the positive effects of those efforts, and if so, how its residents were reintroduced to the sector.

The Appalachian region, which encompasses the Appalachian Mountains and the towns and cities at their foothills, related to my curiosity about rural workforce development. The region is known for its deep poverty and economic stagnancy, along with its social stratification and under-developed infrastructure. I wanted to consider how current or aspiring of the region’s workforce adapted to geographic isolation and connected to learning opportunities within or outside of their home communities.


Southwest Virginia helped me gain a new perspective on and tie my project back to a state of personal significance. As a resident of Northern Virginia, I knew that the geography, demographics, industries, and job opportunities in the state’s west-most corner differed greatly from the part of the state I grew up in. I hoped to appreciate how Virginians living in more rural settings than myself received access to workforce training and contributed to the same state-wide economy that my family lived off of.


Many of the institutions I investigated are not headquartered in rural municipalities, but serve and interact with residents and businesses in rural communities. However, a few of the institutions I studied are located within a five-minute walk of the homes of their students and clients.


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