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a black sport utility vehicle driving down the main street of Coweta's downtown district
Rural Renewal Symposium sessions will discuss research conducted on the preservation of rural Oklahoma’s historic downtown districts. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agriculture)

Registration open for Rural Renewal Symposium in southwest Oklahoma

Thursday, October 12, 2023

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

The Rural Renewal Initiative at Oklahoma State University will host the annual Rural Renewal Symposium Nov. 2-3 at Quartz Mountain Lodge in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma.

The event brings together students, faculty, community members, nonprofit organizations, corporations, government leaders, tribal leaders and anyone with a passion for revitalizing rural communities. The symposium is designed to support interdisciplinary research within rural communities and provide a space for all people driven to improve rural areas to come together and share their perspectives on rural issues.

Linnea Harvey, OSU Rural Renewal Initiative coordinator, said this year’s program will feature sessions that focus on society, human capital, natural resources, infrastructure and technology. Main themes will include information on economic development, health care and accessibility, water, food shortages, and preserving historic Main Street areas in rural Oklahoma.

“We are offering an optional tour of downtown Hobart, Oklahoma, as an extension of the third main session on investing in rural downtown districts,” Harvey said. “We’ll put symposium research into action in a rural community and learn how it has come to life.”

The symposium will also host a panel on the Rural Scholars experience. Eleven OSU students spent the summer living and working in small towns across southwest Oklahoma. As OSU Rural Scholars, they studied the leading issues rural residents often face.

“A couple of the scholars and a community member who has worked with them will walk through the experience and give perspective on how the Rural Scholars program benefits students and small towns,” Harvey said. “All of the scholars will present the final results of their summer research in poster presentations Friday morning of the conference.”

This year marks the first time the symposium will be held off campus in southwest Oklahoma to better accommodate community members who collaborate with Rural Scholars.

“We heard a lot of feedback last year from community members that having the conference 3 1/2 hours away in Stillwater during the week was not the most accessible,” Harvey said. “Our whole focus is on investing back in rural communities and getting researchers off campus to see the beauty, struggles and everything in between that rural Oklahoma has to offer.”

The Rural Renewal Symposium also highlights two outstanding individuals each year through the Rural Renewal Research Prize and the Rural Renewal Citizenship Prize.


Rural Renewal Research Prize

Mary Emery, director of Rural Prosperity Nebraska at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This award is distributed to a global leader in rural renewal research, education and engagement. Honorees are employed by colleges, universities or research institutions worldwide and nominated by their colleagues. The prize includes a plaque and cash award.

Emery earned a Bachelor of Arts at Livingston College as well as a Master of Science and doctorate from Rutgers University. Over her 30-year career, she has become one of the preeminent scholars in rural community development. Emery has co-authored six books, eight book chapters and over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles. She has developed coaching techniques for community leaders that center on identifying pathways for community growth that span age, gender, class and culture. Emery’s work has been foundational in the field of rural community development and her work has had broad impacts in both research and practical applications.


Rural Renewal Citizenship Prize

Bethia Owens, manager of the Muldrow Library and Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library in Sallisaw

This award recognizes a leader who has made important contributions to the renewal of one or more rural communities. The recipient is an exceptional role model, promotes community welfare and advocates for community needs. The prize includes a plaque and cash award.

Owens, a native of Muldrow, Oklahoma, received a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma. She was awarded grant funding in 1994 to build a library from the ground up in her hometown. The library was completed in 1998. She has played an integral role in supporting library services in Sequoyah County and increased accessibility to computers, WiFi, books and meeting spaces for community members. Owens invests in library programming by developing and supporting health literacy, summer reading, cultural and youth STEM programs.

Additional information on the Rural Renewal Symposium and registration details are available online. Registration rates increase after Oct. 23.

To learn more, contact Linnea Harvey at

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