Small Vermont towns in study of resiliency

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ROCKINGHAM — About a dozen residents of the town of Rockingham, along with residents of three other small Vermont towns, will be part of a University of Vermont research project that examines the resiliency of small towns.

On Monday night, between 10 and 12 Rockingham residents will meet at the Rockingham Free Public Library, to be followed by similar gatherings in Richmond, Randolph and Newport on Tuesday and Wednesday. Researchers from the University of Vermont are studying perceptions of rural resilience and how to measure rural resilience in small towns, which are described as having population between 4,000 and 10,000 people.

According to Amy Kelsey, a researcher with UVM's Center for Rural Studies, it is a comparative project with researchers in New Zealand, who have conducted a similar study among rural small towns in their country.

"The project seeks to understand community perceptions of resilience, whether existing data capture these variations and what potential differences may exist," she said.

Meredith Niles, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences in the Gund Institute for Environment is the project's leader. Niles said Friday that she had done research in New Zealand for 10 years before coming to Vermont four years ago, and she was struct with the similarities between the small New England state and New Zealand.

Much of her New Zealand research focused on small communities dealing with social, cultural, economic, environmental and external changes, particularly in agricultural communities. She said she hopes to have a good selection of residents who have a "broad view" of the issues facing Rockingham. She said the researchers had used Front Page Forum to generate interest in the research project.

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The UVM researchers are still looking for volunteers in Rockingham, and participants will receive $50 for their time Monday evening, as well as a free dinner.

All participants must be legal residents of Rockingham, and must be over the age of 18, and they must have lived in Rockingham for at least one year. Participants must pre-register. Kelsey said that so far she had eight Rockingham residents lined up. She said the Center for Rural Studies was only playing a small role to help recruit participants and facilitate the meetings.

Susan Hammond, chairwoman of the Rockingham Select Board, said she had volunteered for the project, and she urged fellow board members and other residents to sign up for the exchange.

A trained mediator will run the conversation and activities, Kelsey said.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the project should contact Kelsey at amy.kelsey@uvm.edu or 802-656-4377. Niles said there were still a few spots left in the Rockingham session, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at the library.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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