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rural renewal
The event is an opportunity for rural renewal scientists to address the challenges faced in rural communities. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

Second annual Rural Renewal Research Symposium is approaching

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Media Contact: Alisa Boswell-Gore | Communications Coordinator, OSU Ag Research | 405-744-7115 |

Oklahoma State University will host the second annual Rural Renewal Initiative Symposium on Oct. 12 in a virtual format, uniting researchers from across the U.S. to share current rural renewal research.

Sharing research with colleagues and communities is one of the three aspects of the Rural Renewal Initiative, according to Audrey King, assistant director of the OSU research initiative.

The initiative is a TIER 1 research initiative that began in 2019 and its mission is to “catalyze the renewal of rural communities and places in Oklahoma and beyond through interdisciplinary research, student mobilization and community engagement.”

The symposium is meant to foster collaboration among rural renewal scientists on issues facing rural communities and bring awareness to this type of research.

“Wanting to see rural communities thrive is what inspired this initiative. Many of the problems that rural communities face cannot be solved by one discipline or by one researcher,” King said. “It takes interdisciplinary efforts, and it takes engaging with the communities themselves. Researchers do not have all the answers, but we are excited to work with communities to help make things happen. We hope this work can be used to help rural communities thrive.”

King said the 2021 Symposium will include three pre-sessions from 1 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 11 for those interested in the following topics:

  • An overview of the Rural Scholars Program for Extension educators and community members who are interested in hosting rural scholars during their 10-week summer internships in rural communities where they conduct research and community service.
  • Tips for writing community grants.
  • Discussion of the RRI Seed Grant Program, including tips on how to collaborate with others in applying its standards.

To register for the no-cost pre-symposium session, email

The Rural Renewal Research Prize and the Rural Renewal Citizenship Prize will both be awarded as part of the symposium. University of Minnesota Rural Sociologist Ben Winchester will receive the research prize for his “brain gain” research that uses demographic analysis to understand the nuances of rural population changes and reframe core rural issues.

Through his research, Winchester discovered that rural areas experience slower but steady inclines and that people ages 30 to 49 move in disproportionate numbers to rural areas. JaNae Barnard of Fairview, Oklahoma, will be awarded the citizenship prize for her work as executive director of the Major County Economic Development Corporation and for being “Fairview’s biggest cheerleader.”

The following is the agenda for the 2021 RRI Symposium on Oct. 12:

  • 9 a.m.: Welcome — Kenneth Sewell, OSU vice president for research
  • 9:15 a.m.: Symposium goals and logistics — Tyson Ochsner, RRI co-director
  • 9:30 a.m.: Research to improve rural health care — Mark Woodring, RRI co-director
  • 10 a.m.: Rural scholar presentations — varied
  • 11 a.m.: Research to enhance broadband access and digital literacy — Sabit Ekin and John O’Hara of electrical and computer engineering and Kristin Olofsson of political science at OSU
  • 1 p.m.: Rural renewal activities in the Oklahoma Association of Electrical Cooperatives
  • 1:15: Rural renewal activities in the American Association of Retired Persons
  • 1:30 p.m.: Rural renewal activities in OSU Extension — Damona Doye, associate vice president of Extension
  • 1:50 p.m.: Rural scholars’ presentations — varied
  • 3 p.m.: Rural renewal research prize winner recognition and keynote address — Paul Weckler, RRI co-director
  • 3:30 p.m.: Rural renewal citizenship prize winner recognition and acceptance speech — Tom Coon, dean and vice president of the Ferguson College of Agriculture
  • 3:45 p.m.: 2022 Rural Scholars Program update and symposium wrap-up — Shane Robinson, RRI co-director

This year’s symposium will be held virtually. To participate, register on the symposium website for $25. Oklahoma’s AARP chapter, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives and OSU Extension are the event sponsors.

“Our symposium went really well last year. We had attendees from nine different states and a couple of different countries,” King said. “For our rural scholars, it was a great opportunity for them to share the research they make happen. I am excited for those collaborations to continue to grow, and I am excited about these pre-sessions. I think they will include a lot of tangible concepts that participants can readily apply to their own unique, local communities.”

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