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Sewing Seeds

June 14, 2017

Stephanie Link smiling at camera.

Rural sociology Ph.D. student uses her experience for economic betterment.

Original story by   
Reposted with permission from CAFNR

Fear is common on the streets of San Salvador, El Salvador.

The capital city of the Central American country is a hot spot for gang violence and brutality. With bloody streets often being literal, rather than figurative, many young women fear the trek to school where the pressure from the gangs is a constant. Families are forced to give money for protection and girls are often pressured into a relationship.

To meet the needs of the people, many are attempting to combat the negativity. Among their ranks is Stephanie Link, a Ph.D. student in the Division of Applied Social Sciences’ Department of Rural Sociology.

Link recently partnered with The Garrobo Project, a career-training program affiliated with an El Salvadorian apparel factory that teaches young women not only sewing and textile skills, but also management skills, computer training and health and hygiene. Free child care and education for the trainees’ children would also be provided.

Link’s interdisciplinary academic background was a perfect fit with the project: She earned a degree in fashion design and product development from Stephens College; a master’s in Textile and Apparel Management and is now working toward a PhD in rural sociology.

While in El Salvador, Link began to see the similarities between textile and apparel management and rural sociology. The problems, the people and the geography of the two fields were shockingly similar.

Link, right, showing student how to fit a shirt collar at a large El Salvadorian apparel factory during her trip.

Link’s current research is focused around the developing trend of non-food mobile retail trucks, such as apparel vendors, and is looking into themes behind the motives of these business owners.

“This is opening up entrepreneurial possibilities for more people,” Link says. “They’re just coming up with interesting ways of reaching their customers and providing them with something different.”

Her doctoral adviser, Mary Grigsby, points out the significance of Link's work. “All of these things, they may look different,” Grigsby says. “But they all have a bedrock of economic betterment.”

Professor of Rural Sociology David O’Brien also notes that Link is able to broaden the department and, through her experience in foreign aid work and through the joy she finds in her research, is able to show other faculty and students that there is a larger world out there.

Grigsby concurs: “I think what she brings is this sort of creativity and energy… practical knowledge and experience. She is going to be a person who contributes to the collective intellectual discussion.”

Read the complete story from CAFNR.