Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Maria Perez

Committee Co-Chair

Daniel Renfrew

Committee Member

Daniel Renfrew

Committee Member

Bradley Wilson


With the 2016 Presidential election come and gone, political activism within the United States has garnered more attention as political actors on the Progressive Left oppose the actions of the new administration. The West Virginia progressive movement is used as a case study of the national push towards progressive politics. Using participant diaries and a series of longitudinal interviews, this thesis explores the creation of spaces belonging within an activist organization to foster sustained involvement. The analysis points to the importance of creating a sense of belonging and the desire to ‘strive for better’ in a state that is often perceived as left behind by the rest of the country. Battling an opioid epidemic, city-level fights for equal rights, attacks on the most impoverished, and constant push-back from the very people they are fighting for have taken its toll emotionally and morally on the activists. At the same time, the creation of constant contestation has created a space for belonging and friendship that otherwise may not have existed. This thesis also aims to contribute the broader conversation of what constitutes progressivism and how activist organizations use the term’s ambiguity in their strategizing.