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Cain awarded research assistant in competitive selection process

Elise Cain, Ph.D.

Georgia Southern University College of Education hosted a competition in spring to award a research assistant (RA) for the academic year. Elise Cain, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational leadership, was named the 2022-2023 recipient of the RA to assist with her research exploring the experiences of college students from rural areas.

“Higher education has been paying greater attention to and recruiting more students from rural areas over the past several years,” said Cain. “Although people from rural areas are just as likely to graduate high school as their more urban peers, they are less likely to enroll in postsecondary education. Also, fewer rural adults have at least bachelor’s degrees compared to urban adults, and this educational gap is expanding.” 

While current research focuses on students’ identities to determine the influence on individuals’ educational pathways, Cain saw a gap in the research pertaining to place.

“The influence of place and place-based identities have been mostly overlooked,” she explained. “I have proposed a place-based identity model using existing theories and literature, but this theory needs to be empirically tested.”

Utilizing the Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity by Abes et al., which considers how one’s attributes such as race, sexual orientation, or gender and social group memberships, converge to create one’s holistic self, Cain will additionally consider how students’ place-based identities intersect with their other social identities to influence their educational choices and pathways.

Cain will begin testing her theory alongside her RA, Aliyah DeLoach, an incoming M.Ed. Higher Education Administration graduate student, through a qualitative research process including virtual interviews of current college students at Georgia Southern who self-identify as being from rural areas.

“I am excited to have a research assistant in the coming year,” said Cain. “Working with and mentoring students is why I have worked professionally in higher education for the past 14 years, and I am looking forward to expanding my mentoring skills and relationships through this experience.”


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