Research - Theses and Dissertation

Doctoral Dissertation
Relationships between rural entrepreneurial ecosystems and the resiliency/growth of military veteran-owned firms
Dissertation Chair, Dr. Charles M. Tolbert, II

Entrepreneurship can be a pathway of opportunity for military veterans, as well as provide economic growth for rural communities. The success of rural veteran-owned firms is contingent on their resiliency amidst limited access to capital and labor, as well as distance from infrastructure. Because of data limitations, research on the relationship between rural ecosystems and the entrepreneurial outcomes of military veterans is non-existent. In this dissertation project, I will identify local conditions of ecosystems that are conducive to veteran-owned firm growth, resiliency, and death. Quantifiable characteristics include individual, spatial, cultural, policy, and temporal factors. This project uses restricted-access federal microdata in the Texas Federal Statistical Research Data Center (RDC). Outcomes will include four peer-reviewed journal articles, and programming resources for Cooperative Extension Professionals.

Master's Thesis
Age, period, and cohort effects on trust of government in rural America
Thesis Chair, Dr. Charles M. Tolbert, II

After the Presidential Election of 2016, natural surprise was offered as to the impact of rural communities and working-class voters on the outcome. While much research has been done on racial, gender, and individual economic-based tensions, little research has addressed the underlying macro-level economic shifts in rural communities that influence both former conditions. Using hierarchical age-period-cohort with cross-classified random effect modeling (HAPC-CCREM) and a span of thirty-five years of empirical data, I address the linkage between macro-level socioeconomic conditions and institutional trust. I hypothesize that rural communities have experienced significant period forces that have influenced their levels of institutional trust. The statistical model reveals that while there was little difference between cohorts, statistical significance was achieved in many periods that overlay shocks to the less-diverse base of economic capital in rural America. Future models will introduce additional random, level two covariates to directly address community socioeconomic contexts.

Bachelor's Honor Thesis
Adherence to themes in rural local education agency reorganization research: A meta-analysis review
Thesis Chair, Dr. Shoon Lio - University of Illinois
Award poster.jpg

Recipient of the 2015 Brookens Library Undergraduate Research Award for Undergraduate Research

As the United States education system has developed, local education agencies (LEAs) have found the role of serving as a tool to define collective identity within rural communities. The purpose of this study is to understand current perceptions community members might hold about LEA reorganization through the utilization of interdisciplinary lenses: educational policy and rural sociology. This study has critically evaluated completed perceptions survey research on rural LEA reorganization by quantitatively collecting trend data from a sample of seven case study dissertations published between 2000 and 2014. Within the sample, it was found that the researcher’s first null hypothesis concerning perceptions of social identity aligned with Howley, Johnson, & Petrie’s (2011) policy brief [the community’s perceptions of loss of democratic identity]. The researcher’s second and third research hypothesis concerning perceptions of economies of scale and opportunities available, however, fell in line with Smith’s (1938) research [reorganized LEAs provide greater efficiencies with highly qualified staff and that a broadened academic and extra-curricular education would provide competition in more activities, versus less opportunities]. Results were determined through the use of five independent coders to collectively verify themes. There is a shift in rural communities in the face of globalization, but this change should take place with the knowledge of research-based perceptions of rural identity to replace vanishing regional social structures and diversifying commodities markets.