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Letter from the Director: Winter 2023

Dear friends,

Winter is here. The leaves have fallen. The winds chilling. The snow is arriving in the mountains. We are bundling up. And we are reflecting on another year. Whether the feelings about the year bring joy, sadness, uncertainty, or hope the winter is a powerful time to find meaning and to mark out new paths or rediscover old roads. In her book Wintering, Katherine May describes winter as a necessary time for retreat that makes possible further strengthening, the potential for growth, a new beginning. That is, if we are attuned to it. If we don't fight it.

“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. ...Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.” Katherine May, Wintering

Last year at this time the CRC was in a deep metamorphosis. Emerging together for the first time in two years with in-person activities, in Fall 2022 our team had returned to the work of growing an ever widening community of students and community partners committed to long-term action research for social, economic and environmental transformation.

Last Winter 2022-23 pushed us deeply into reflection on the essence of this endeavor. We launched an internal evaluation of our first four years and developed a strategic plan that enabled us to hone in on two areas: 1) improving the quality and reach of our educational programs like the Sustainable Development Internship, Appalachian Food Justice Institute, and graduate training in Community Engaged Research, and 2) strengthening and systematizing our community engaged research process and impacts through the Community GIS program, Project Partnership Proposals, and Cooperative Agreements. 

Our evaluation also yielded insights on our growing impact amidst those pandemic years. In the past four years we have partnered with 25 community organizations in WV, supported 38 projects, raised $7,630,500 in direct support to project partners while training and placing 73 undergraduate interns and 17 graduate students in the field of action. 

In our review of these activities and partnerships we also identified three areas of inquiry and action that have guided this work and will continue to serve as a focus: 1) Community Economies and Sustainable Regional Development, 2) Environmental Justice, Climate Action, Health and Community Wellbeing, and 3) Food System Transformation. Moving forward toward 2028, we see these areas as fertile ground for learning and action and we welcome community members, students, faculty, new partners and old friends to join us as we ramp up activities in these areas.

We are incredibly excited for 2024. The groundwork of these past four years has prepared us. In Fall 2023 CRC established a new process of project partnership development and mentorship training that built exceptional capacity among our team. In 2024 January, the team at the CRC will be coordinating  14 yearlong community engaged research projects  and mobilize a core of 50 researchers, interns and community partners to generate results in those projects by August 2024.

Expanding these efforts ever further we are excited to announce our first annual  Community Engaged Research Fund  to stimulate projects by graduate students and faculty at WVU. January, we will also be announcing our first annual Resilient Communities Institute (August 2024) a series of community leadership and engaged research courses, workshops and dialogues hosted in collaboration with our partners that will coalesce into further efforts in 2025 and beyond. 

Wishing for you a profound and meaningful winter full of insight on your next steps in 2024.

In solidarity,

Bradley Wilson