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a quiet main street in a small town featuring a vintage movie theater sign and only a couple of trucks parked on the street
Small communities and Main Street districts across Oklahoma benefit from the fresh perspective and innovative rural development ideas of Rural Scholars. (Photo by OSU Agriculture)

OSU Rural Scholars plan summer research on community revitalization

Friday, April 28, 2023

Media Contact: Gail Ellis | Editorial Communications Coordinator | 405-744-9152 |

The Oklahoma State University Rural Renewal Initiative has selected the 2023 participants of its Rural Scholars research and service experience. The Rural Renewal Initiative works closely with OSU Extension educators to identify community needs.

The summer internship gives OSU students the chance to study the leading issues facing rural areas in Oklahoma and the world. OSU students spend 10 weeks in the summer living in a rural community to conduct research, assist with service projects and support solutions for community obstacles.

Students prepare for the summer experience by training for community-based research approaches and rural community development as well as gathering background information on their assigned town.

Rural Scholars will join their communities beginning the week of May 22 in Harmon, Tillman, Greer and Jackson counties. The program’s interdisciplinary approach to community development and overcoming challenges aims to revitalize rural towns through research and service.

Twelve OSU students will focus on the following research in southwest Oklahoma:

  • Rhea Abraham, nutritional sciences undergraduate, Mangum: Assess glucose levels, analyze nutritional knowledge of participants with diabetes
  • Tony Caruso, agribusiness undergraduate, Tipton: Agritourism feasibility
  • John Clemmons, environmental science and wildlife ecology undergraduate, Altus: Multi-dimensional approach for quantifying drought impacts on Oklahoma’s rural communities and implications for water management
  • Kyndai Shelby, graduate student at the OSU Center for Health Sciences, Hollis: Health care needs assessment
  • Robert Dusenberry, fire and emergency management graduate student, Kansas: Explore the interrelationship between Harmon, Tillman, Greer, Jackson county communities and assess how to distribute resources in public safety and career technical education
  • Karen Kotey, political science graduate student, Hollis: Rural narrative of underrepresented populations in Harmon County
  • Thomas Lako, political science graduate student, Hollis: Adverse childhood experiences
  • Rose Njoroge, public health graduate student, Tipton: Building sustainable rural health care services in Harmon and Tillman counties
  • Ethan Parsons, construction engineering undergraduate, Altus: Studying trades and entrepreneurship
  • Carolina Quijada, graduate student at the OSU Center for Health Sciences, Hollis: Adverse childhood experiences
  • Laney Reasner, agricultural communications undergraduate, Mangum: Determine the wants and needs of community business owners regarding internet usage and digital marketing
  • Hoyt Nebgen, agricultural leadership undergraduate student, Tipton: Multi-dimensional approach for quantifying drought impacts on Oklahoma’s rural communities and implications for water management

“The Rural Scholars program integrates students into rural areas and focuses on working with communities, not on communities, to research relevant issues,” said Linnea Langusch, Rural Renewal Initiative coordinator. “By living and working in the rural communities they are studying, scholars gain valuable perspective on rural life while conducting their research and service projects.”

Program participant Laney Reasner grew up in a small town in south-central Pennsylvania and is familiar with the needs of rural areas.

“My research will require me to interview tons of different small business owners, so I hope I can use that to find service projects to supplement my research whenever possible,” Reasner said. “I’m excited to serve the communities and people in every capacity for the summer.”

Her peer, John Clemmons, spent his formative years in rural Oklahoma and has long felt a deep connection to the land.

“When I read about the Rural Renewal Initiative and its Rural Scholars program, I was fascinated,” he said. “The scholars program was exactly what I was looking for. Drought is a massive issue for many rural areas, especially those in southwestern Oklahoma where the drought impact study through RRI will be taking place.

"I believe my studies in natural resources will aid my efforts in examining the economic and societal effects of severe drought in this area. A study won't bring more rain, but it could point toward better methods of managing the water people do have control over.”

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