Matthew J. Ulmer Named the 2023 Bonnie Teater Early Career Achievement Award Recipient

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Dr. Matthew J. Ulmer as the 2023 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Early Career Achievement Award Recipient. Dr. Ulmer is the State Specialist and Priority Program Team Leader of Community Development with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) and Auburn University.

On behalf of Dr. Matthew Ulmer’s nomination, Dr. Paul W. Brown, Associate Director, Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities Extension stated, “Dr. Ulmer's body of work has made an incalculable impact on Alabama Extension and the citizens of Alabama...” Dr. Kimberly Sinclair-Holmes, Assistant Director, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, detailed her support by saying, “Dr. Ulmer has made many commendable contributions to the community development field as both a leader and change agent in the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) at Auburn University and through his regional and national contributions to the Land Grant system…Dr. Ulmer has been an exemplary partner to Alabama Extension’s co-affiliate institution, Alabama A&M University”.

Full Press Release

Save the Date: New Training Announcement for Heirs' Property

On June 6 & 7, 2023, SRDC will be joined by the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University and the Southern Risk Management Extension Center to pilot a train-the-trainer workshop for Extension professionals titled "Understanding Heirs' Property at the Community Level". To keep up with future training opportunities, you can visit the Heirs’ Property landing page. To be added to the Heirs’ Property listserv and learn more about this topic, please email Rachel Welborn at rachel.welborn@msstate.edu.

Oklahoma hosts First Multicultural Event as Part of 'Coming Together for Racial Understanding' to Highlight Diversity of Cultures

Food, artistic and cultural traditions were uniquely showcased at the multicultural event, “Coming Together for Racial Understanding,” in the Oklahoma State University’s Student Union Theater on February 17. The first cultural event of its nature, the OSU community joined members of the event’s committee and leadership representatives from Oklahoma’s three Land-Grant institutions: The College of the Muscogee Nation, Langston University, and Oklahoma State University. The program included each of the institutions discussing their historic Land-Grant missions and contributions, videos highlighting cooking of traditional cultural meals, and diverse artistic representations including song and dance.

Full News Release

STAKEHOLDER ANNOUNCEMENT: USDA Accepting Applications to Spur Job Growth and Economic Development in Rural Areas

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) is accepting applications for funding to help create jobs and economic growth in rural communities. USDA is making loans and grants available under the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. Through this program, USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to current and former Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Electric Program and Telecommunications Program borrowers and utilities that are eligible to receive assistance from the RUS Electric or Telecommunication Programs.

Additional information is available on page 53443 of the Aug 31, 2022, Federal Register. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

The 1890 Universities Foundation: Advocates for the 19-Strong 1890 Universities

Dr. Mort Neufville, President & CEO of the 1890 Universities Foundation

“The 1890 Foundation applauds the work of the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) in celebration of the center’s 50 years of strengthening capacity for the region’s land-grant universities. The 1890 Universities Foundation shares SRDC’s goal of supporting strategic partnerships and mobilizing resources to address critical issues facing communities in the rural south.

Since the 1890 University Foundation’s inception six years ago, we have promoted the 19-Strong brand to represent the 19 member universities in the 1890 Land-Grant community. Collectively, the 19-Strong 1890 Universities have earned the distinction throughout our 133-year history dating back to the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890, as the historically black land-grant institutions of higher education committed to the advancement of research, extension, and teaching to enhance the quality of life in the communities we serve. We stand ready to join our 1890 colleagues to continue collaborating with the SRDC and other stakeholders on rural development issues and opportunities that support vibrant communities.”

For more information visit For more information visit HOME|1890 (1890foundation.org)

Final Listening Sessions Report: Investing in Rural Capacity

The four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) conducted a rapid assessment of priorities for investments in rural community development. The overarching purpose was to identify the critical resources needed to build community capacity and improve quality of life in rural America. Conducted via an iterative process from Fall 2021 to Spring 2022, the assessment is from the perspective of stakeholders working in the rural development spaces.

This process was divided into two phases:

• Phase 1: In Fall 2021, an online survey was distributed to stakeholders, which focused on eight topical areas that often impact rural recovery. Survey findings informed the development of the second phase.

• Phase 2: In Spring 2022, eight virtual listening sessions focused on identifying what is needed to fill the gaps between rural communities’ assets and opportunities. These facilitated dialogues, which included interactive technologies, asked participants to think about Extension/education, research, and other investments that were needed, and to prioritize them by the most pressing areas for intervention.

In summary, the combination of findings from the survey and listening sessions underscore stakeholder priorities as those efforts that will advance organizational capacity, as well as funding and development opportunities, especially through research and Extension efforts. While these issues have been explored through the Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities conducted by the RRDCs throughout 2021-2022, additional work is needed to build upon this work and to activate positive impacts in the field of rural development.

Read the full report via the Rural Regional Development Center website

To view the interactive dashboard, survey snapshots, and other reports, visit https://www.usu.edu/rrdc/listening-sessions

Upcoming Webinar - Investing in Rural Recovery: Key Findings from the Southern Region

Tuesday, February 28th, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM CST/12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EST

Hosted by the SRDC, findings from the Southern Region survey and listening sessions conducted in 2022 around the topic "Investing in Rural Recovery" will be shared with participants.

Registration Link

SRDC Staff Joins Association of Extension Administrators and Association of Research Administrators Winter Meeting

In January, SRDC Director John Green and Associate Director, Rachel Welborn, attended the Association of Extension Administrators (AEA) and Association of 1890 Research Directors (ARD) 2023 Joint Winter Meeting in Hilton Head, South Carolina. This convening provided opportunities to explore common concerns and other opportunities across the Southern Region where collaboration between the 1890 Extension and research efforts align with SRDC’s current Plan of Work. SRDC is thankful for the leadership of these two organizations, Dr. Alton Thompson (ARD Executive Director) and Dr. Albert Essel (AEA Executive Director), for allowing us to come alongside their important and impactful efforts.

View image of SRDC staff and AEA and ARD administrators.       

Research and Extension Associate, Russ Garner, Leaving SRDC

After four years with the Southern Rural Development Center, Russ Garner is transitioning to a new position as a Community Facilitator with Communities Unlimited. The nonprofit, based out of Arkansas, works to bridge racial, economic, and geographical boundaries in communities across seven Southern states. During his time with SRDC, Russ served as a liaison to many networks regionally and nationally, and we wish him well as he continues to do so in this capacity in the South.

APLU member Universities Contribute to Knowledge about What Works for Rural Broadband Access

A recently published Theme issue of the Journal Choices features faculty from APLU member universities and describes how they are working in their communities to expand access to rural broadband, evaluate broadband efforts, and scale approaches that work.

The publication, entitled “Making it Count: Applying Science to Support Universal Broadband” was edited by APLU Strategic Advisor for Economic and Community Development Sheila Martin. It includes articles from faculty of APLU member universities including Oklahoma State University, Washington State University, Purdue University, University of Missouri, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Georgia Tech, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Clemson University, and Penn State University.

Expanded investments in rural broadband will only be effective if guided by accurate data, community-driven planning, engaged research, and successful models. This issue explores how to apply the best information and processes to guide effective investments of limited resources to expand access.

The issue is the result of two virtual conferences supported by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that intentionally paired university faculty with Cooperative Extension to ensure connectivity between research and extension in the area of rural broadband. The issue is the result of two virtual conferences supported by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that intentionally paired university faculty with Cooperative Extension to ensure connectivity between research and extension in the area of rural broadband. The content was guided by an advisory committee including Monica Babine, Wendy Fink, Robert Gallardo, Sascha Meinrath, Rachel Welborn, Brian Whitacre, and Milan Ephraim.

Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Individual Digital Capital Survey Results

Recently a survey was conducted to better understand digital disparities among socio-economically disadvantaged groups in the South. To learn more about this project visit the Bridging the Digital Divide landing page and findings from the survey, see the final report.

Southern Region Indicators: Standard and COVID-19 Impacts

Each year, indicators are collected from states in the Southern Region to show the collective impact of Extension community development programs. The collected and compiled highlights show the jobs created, grants awarded, plans new and revised for community development, and networking connections made throughout the previous year. Short vignettes also provide insights behind the metrics. In addition to this report, states also provided COVID-19 response impacts to show how each has continued to navigate through the challenges of the pandemic.


Joy Moten-Thomas Named the 2022 Bonnie Teater Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Ms. Joy Moten-Thomas as the 2022 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Moten-Thomas has over 25 years of experience working with diverse minority audiences, inclusive of youth and adults throughout Georgia.

In support of Ms. Moten-Thomas’ nomination, Dr. Mark Latimore, Associate Dean of the Cooperative Extension Program, at Fort Valley State University, stated, “She carries herself with dignity and respect and represents our program with this same regard at the national, state, and local levels.” Furthermore, Ms. Doris Evans-Gates, Manager of the Georgia WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs at the Georgia Department of Health, stated, “[Ms. Moten-Thomas] has been extremely instrumental in increasing the visibility of the Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension Program and fostering community development and partnerships throughout the state. Her dedication and efforts are invaluable to the farm community and our program recipients.”

Full Press Release

RRDCs Continue to Celebrate Year-long 50th Anniversary with Proclamations from NACDEP and SAAS

The National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) and the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) recently released proclamations in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Regional Rural Development Centers and their significant contributions and continuous leadership role of rural America.

The Southern Rural Development Center is thankful to both organizations for their national and regional support to the center.
Each proclamation can be found via the SRDC website, here: NACDEP PROCLAMATION & SAAS PROCLAMATION

Phase II of the Listening Sessions Initiative for Rural Community, Economic, and Workforce Development

An interactive data dashboard has been launched where users can explore data from Investing in Rural Recovery, a report on findings from the Regional Rural Development Centers’ (RRDCs) survey of rural development stakeholders. The dashboard was created in collaboration with the Extension Foundation. Users can combine and display results in a variety of ways.

Virtual listening sessions have also now been completed. These sessions represent Phase II of the RRDC initiative and brought together stakeholders for facilitated dialogue to identify critical investment opportunities. Eight sessions were held in total, with themes for discussion informed by the survey’s results. Four regional sessions identified high priority investments across research, Extension, and other capacities for the topic areas most important to the given region. In addition, four nation-wide listening sessions were conducted on cross-cutting issues. These covered the topics of: Broadband and the Digital Divide; Community Planning, Leadership, and Governance; Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Workforce Development, Training, and Education. Following analysis of findings from these facilitated discussions, an overall report will be generated, reviewed, and disseminated to stakeholders. Updates can be found on the Listening Session landing page.

Rachel Welborn Awarded Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) Diversity, Inclusion Award

Recenlty, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning celebrated Black History Month by holding its annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards ceremony. The IHL Board of Trustees recognized 10 employees from the state’s four-year public universities for their campus and community leadership.

Rachel Welborn, Associate Director of the Southern Rural Develompent Center, was awarded a 2022 IHL Diversity and Inclusion Award for helping identify pressing rural development concerns and facilitating responses in the state, region and nation on critical issues, including poverty, disasters, workforce development, racial reconciliation and internet availability.

To read the full press release, click here

SRDC and 1890 Partners Receive AFRI Rural and Economic Development Grant Funding for Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Project

Vital to Rural Economic Development (AFRI's Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities priority) is equitable digital access. Digital equity means all individuals have digital (internet) capacity needed for full participation in our society and economy. Digital equity is essential for economic viability and quality of life.

This project's goal is to identify and address digital equity challenges facing socio-economically disadvantaged (SED) communities in the Southern Region. Through research, the project will identify unique challenges facing SED communities along with the capacity of the 1890 Extension Service to respond. Extension will develop and pilot SED-responsive approaches to building digital capacity in partnership with 1890 Extension.

SRDC’s Rachel Welborn and Dr. John Green, are pleased to be partnering with Dorothy Brandon, Alabama A&M University; Travella Free, Kentucky State University; Roberto Gallardo, Perdue University; Sanjun Gu, North Carolina A&T State University; Jimmy Henry, Prairie View A&M University; and Terrence Wolfork, Fort Valley A&M University.

The four Regional Rural Development Centers Kickoff Year-long 50th Anniversary Celebration with Announcement

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rural Development Act. Among its many outcomes, the Act led to the creation of the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs). To help kick-off the year-long celebration, the RRDCs were joined by two key partner organizations, who each took actions formally recognizing the Centers’ significant contributions over the past 50 years and anticipating their leadership role in the continued vibrancy of rural America. The Board on Agriculture Assembly (BAA) Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP), which provide leadership and governance to the Cooperative Extension System and the State Agricultural Experiment Stations, respectively, each voted on the recognition at recent meetings. Hear more from ECOP and ESCOP’s leadership and help us celebrate! 

Passed into law on August 30, 1972, the Rural Development Act of 1972 consolidated multiple rural development initiatives into a single piece of legislation and ultimately led to the creation of America's four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs). The RRDCs play a vital connecting role in rural America, linking the research and educational outreach capacity of the nation's public universities with communities, local decision-makers, entrepreneurs, families, and farmers and ranchers to help address a wide range of rural development issues.

The Centers will be hosting additional programs throughout the year to highlight the successes and impacts of their first 50 years of service to Rural America, and to prepare for the emerging opportunities and challenges of the future.

The country’s four Regional Rural Development Centers are:

Learn more about the Regional Rural Development Centers at: https://rrdc.usu.edu/

Listening Sessions Report: Investing in Rural Recovery

The nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) recently released Investing in Rural Recovery: Findings from a Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development from a national survey.

The survey, conducted in the fall of 2021, is part of an ongoing Listening Session Initiative aimed to identify key priorities, capacities, expansion, and valued programming that resulted in the eight critical topic areas for rural communities. This initial report marks the close of the first stage in the consultative feedback process. The second phase, in March and April of 2022, will provide a basis for a series of facilitated dialogues.

Click to View the Full Report

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