OUS class to help city lay course for future

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Like many of his peers, life-long Ironton resident Dennis Murphy has a personal stake in an ongoing Ohio University Southern research project - to provide his three children the opportunity to find good jobs near home.

As part of Dr. David Lucas' International Institute of Folknography, Murphy is one of 16 students who began a week-long folknography research project Monday that will give the people of Ironton a voice.

"I hope the city can use this as a tool to better Ironton. The officials will be able to know what the citizens want," Murphy said of the study that will be the first of its kind in the city. "If we put all our minds together, we may be able to come up with a plan and ideas to bring Ironton back to a time when it was full of industry."

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Building the community is important to Murphy so that his three children can have the option of staying here but still finding a good job, he said.

Folknography is a qualitative research method developed by Lucas and fellow professor Dr. Charles Jarrett that records attitudes and perceptions of communities and groups.

The students will conduct at least 50 one-to-one interviews throughout the week at a variety locations, including the city center, local restaurants, barber shops and more.

Sample questions include: "If you were on council or were the mayor, what would be the first thing you would do?," "What are the most serious problems facing the city of Ironton?," "What types of businesses do you feel might thrive in Ironton?" and "What do you feel is the greatest assets in the City of Ironton?"

Student researchers will also administer 100 one-page surveys that focus on satisfaction with city services and living in Ironton and conduct at least five focus groups to get in-depth responses.

"The study gives us a really good snapshot of how people think, feel (and)

their dreams and hopes," Lucas said at a press conference Monday. "It will give us a good, qualitative view."

Mayor John Elam agreed that the study will provide a blueprint for future strategies and business plans.

"This study will help set the future of Ironton at no expense to the taxpayers because it is done completely by the OUS students," he said. "… Hopefully, we can put the right foot forward as we continue to entertain growth and prosperity in the City of Ironton."

Once completed, the study will be capped off with a town meeting later this month to present the results to the mayor and city council. It will be up to them to decide how to best use this information.

Researcher George McCalvin emphasized that working on a study right here in his own back yard adds something to the project.

"I am very excited because I am a citizen of Ironton and we are working towards something that helps the city I live in," McCalvin said. "My kids are here, my family is here. It shines a different light on it.

"I think it is great the citizens of Ironton get to speak. They will have a voice and it will open some eyes."

Lucas and the OUS students have conducted several folknography studies in Mexico, Puerto Rico and, most recently in Richwood, W.Va., for a research project that looks at the perception of math in rural parts of the country.