Profile: Tammy Schwartz
Date: June 26, 2000
Story and photo by: Dawn Fuller
UC doctoral student Tammy Schwartz remembers hiding her Appalachian heritage from
high school peers and still feels the sting of negative stereotypes. Now, 18 years after her
earlier school days, Schwartz is earning recognition for research that is leading her back
to that painful past.
Schwartz is one of 35 doctoral students around the nation to be selected from 600
applicants for the 2000 Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship Program. The
fellowship provides both financial and professional support and is awarded to scholars
who are working to bring a fresh perspective to the art of teaching and learning. She will
receive $20,000 to support the completion of her dissertation in the College of
Schwartz's dissertation is titled Urban Appalachian Girls: Writing and
Identity. The Cincinnati native grew up in Price Hill, a community that welcomed
Appalachians when they migrated to the city to find industrial jobs in the '40s and '50s.
It was when Schwartz left "the hill" to attend high school that she says she was
singled out for being different. "It didn't matter whether they knew me a week or a
month they were placing labels on me. It's not a difference that is celebrated, it's a
difference that is ridiculed with names like 'hillbilly' and 'redneck.'"
Because of the stigma, Schwartz says she tried to hide her heritage and says she
now wishes she had explored and celebrated her family history. "I would stay away from
my grandmother because she embarrassed me. Now that she has passed away, I wish I
could go back to her."
"I just feel for these kids because we don't see the riches...the strong kin
reliance...that's a positive thing. Why don't we build on that in the schools? Why don't
we have more family and community members involved within the school?"
Through her research, Schwartz is exploring her own identity and building strong
connections with other urban Appalachian girls in the community, as well as reaching out
to their teachers.
"Tammy Schwartz's work is unique in that it combines educational research with
community advocacy," says Schwartz's advisor Deborah Hicks, associate professor of
teacher education. "The prestigious dissertation fellowship she has received speaks to the
possibility of doing high quality doctoral research studies that also serve urban youth and
communities. It is to Tammy Schwartz's credit that her work has achieved national
recognition through its dual research and action agendas. This is the kind of work that
will make a difference locally in urban communities as it contributes to a wider
understanding of educational theory, research and practice."
Schwartz's research is done in conjunction with the Urban Appalachian Council
(UAC), a non profit organization founded in Cincinnati in 1974 to promote positive
recognition and improve the quality of life for Appalachian migrants and their
descendants in Greater Cincinnati. UAC provides a broad spectrum of programs,
services, research and advocacy efforts targeted primarily to Cincinnati neighborhoods
which are predominantly Appalachian and low-income, including Price Hill where
Schwartz is doing her research. A key element of UAC's work is to promote positive
images, oppose negative stereotypes and reinforce pride in Appalachian heritage within
both the urban Appalachian and wider community.
In addition to support for her research, the Spencer Dissertation Fellowship also
provides for the Fellows to meet and discuss their findings. Schwartz will attend three
forums organized and funded by the Spencer Foundation, with the third forum held at
the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association April 10-14, 2001
Schwartz, who lives in Westwood, plans to finish her dissertation by spring or
summer of 2001. She says she will continue to be an advocate for poor and urban
children and will further her research focusing on literacy and social justice.