Valparaiso University’s Michael W. Longan, Ph.D., professor of geography, has received the Kapfer Endowed Faculty Research Award to continue his work on the geography of country music during the 2020–2021 academic year.

The bi-annual award is funded by an endowment established by the Kapfer family and named in honor of Philip G. Kapfer, Ph.D., and Miriam B. Kapfer, Ph.D., both of whom, during long careers, developed and published innovative curriculum designs and strategies for elementary and secondary schools, higher education settings and corporate training programs. The Kapfers are parents of alumni Paul Kapfer ’89, J.D., and Stephanie Kapfer ’91, M.D. The award provides one semester of full-time leave with pay or two consecutive semesters with a half-time schedule, plus a $4,000 stipend.

Longan plans to use the time to schedule interviews and write the remainder of the content for his book. Longan’s project began in 2007 with a proposal to study the exurban culture of Northwest Indiana. The project inspired him to add a unit to a course on rural geography to use music to better understand rural working-class culture.

He has begun research into this little-studied topic, and presented at the 2019 International Country Music Conference. He is working toward publishing a book, “I’m Country: A Geography of Country Music,” which has received positive anticipation from press editors at the University of Georgia Press.

Longan, who joined the faculty in 2002, has worked on multiple aspects of this research simultaneously, creating slow but steady progress. Thanks to the Kapfer Research Award, he will be able to devoted dedicated time and energy toward researching the connections between changes in rural geographies and stylistic and lyrical trends in country music.