Rebecca Nicole Roades, Ph.D. is a 2011 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Alan Guskin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Member
  • Suzanne Tallichet, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Julie Zimmerman, Ph.D., Committee Member


narrative inquiry, qualitative, Appalachia, women, professionals, culture, social identity, dual consciousness, marginalization, leadership, identity, interviews

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This study examined identity construction among a purposeful sample of professional women of Appalachian origin with particular regard to the blending of their cultural heritage in a society in which they are often marginalized. The questions guiding the research were grounded in a conceptual framework encompassing elements of culture, gender, leadership, and identity theories specifically using internal colonization, social cognitive, and social identity theories. They included the following: How do these women identify with their Appalachian heritage? How has their Appalachian heritage influenced real or perceived feelings of marginalization and how has that shaped their identity? Do they perceive themselves to be leaders in any capacity? How have they blended or reconciled their professional and Appalachian identities? Participants were asked these questions during in-depth interviews and were then invited to join other members of the study in a focus group discussion designed to explore the findings. Common themes which emerged from the interviews were related to culture, personal identity, social identity, and leadership. The identity construction of these women reflected a life composition akin to an interwoven quilt-like pattern stitched together through refocus and redefinition of their lives based on relationships, their sense of place, their education, age, maternal influences, and their experiences outside the region. They demonstrated a dual consciousness by actively making choices about how they present their cultural pride juxtaposed with a keen sensitivity and awareness about Appalachian stereotypes. The leadership aspect of their identity unfolded through their stories of personal development and relationship to the physical region, their families, and their community. The findings from this study prepared a solid launching pad for future studies that will continue to inform our understanding of the Appalachian culture and the people it represents. This study fills a gap in Appalachian scholarship regarding Appalachian women which has historically failed to employ an appreciative lens to Appalachian women’s subculture. Furthermore, it is unique in that it overlaps cognitive aspects of identity with geographical aspects of a region. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,