Michelle Rathman, nationally known rural health and community engagement strategist, speaker, and writer, is the new host of Rural Matters, effective September 1, 2018. Her debut episode will release on September 10 and feature guest Alan Morgan, President of the National Rural Health Association.

Rathman replaces Mara Casey Tieken who has been a superb host and an invaluable contributor to Rural Matters, helping the program become the leading podcast in the country focused on expanding the dialogue among stakeholders in the areas of education, health and business in rural communities. Since launching in September 2017, the podcast has reached nearly 5,000 downloads, and has attracted national sponsors such as the American Association of School Administrators (The School Superintendents Association) and the National Rural Education Association, along with marketing partners that include the National Rural Education Association; Center for Rural Affairs; Ohio Small and Rural Collaborative; Foundation for Rural Service; NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association; Harvard Graduate School of Education Rural Educators Alliance; Community Hospital Corporation; and Journal of Research in Rural Education. Rural Matters is available on iTunes. Google Play, and Stitcher.

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Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part IV with Matt Dunne, Leslie Daugherty, and David Tandberg

Listen to Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part IV with  Matt Dunne, Leslie Daugherty, and David Tandberg

In this final episode of our four-part series, Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities, Michelle chats with three experts about innovative programs in rural higher education: Matt Dunne, founder and executive director of the Center On Rural Innovation; David Tandberg, senior vice president for policy research and strategic initiatives at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO); and Leslie Daugherty, an education designer at the Education Design Lab. The Lab’s focus is on ensuring that learners’ needs and goals are front and center, using a human centered design approach, She describes the Lab’s  latest project, called BRIDGES, which is conducted in partnership with Ascendium and five rural community colleges, and is dedicated to creating pilot programs for sustainable growth and economic agility for these institutions and their learners. It’s important to talk to  learners and  uncover the “why” behind quantitative  analysis to enable innovative programs to truly succeed and be inclusive, she notes. Tandberg discusses how his organization deploys empirical research to advance policy objectives in higher education in United States. State leaders should broaden their perspective of rural institutions of higher education and view them as “stewards of place,” where they can become key actors in economic and cultural development in rural areas. Dunne talks about how globalization and automation had a disproportionate, detrimental effect on rural areas following the 2008 recession and how his organization is building digital economy ecosystems to deal with this disparity. He also notes that in implementing these critical ecosystems, it was essential that the rural area have an institution of higher education, which could engage in the community, as is happening now in the exciting collaboration between Colby College and the town of Waterville, Maine. To access the Center on Rural Innovation’s report, Higher Ed’s Role in Rural Innovation Ecosystems, visit https://ruralinnovation.us/rural-ihe-report/ This episode and the entire Rural Higher Education Series is underwritten by and produced in collaboration with Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their education and career goals. For more information, visit ascendiumphilanthropy.org. The series is also produced in collaboration with MDRC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation. Learn more at www.mdrc.org.

Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part III with Alyssa Ratledge, Deborah Santiago, Edward Smith-Lewis, and Noel Harmon

Listen to Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part III with  Alyssa Ratledge, Deborah Santiago, Edward Smith-Lewis, and Noel Harmon

In the third of our four-part series, Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities, Michelle chats with four epexerts about rural diversity, both perceptions and realty; challenges and opportunities involving diverse students in the rural higher education space; and the innovative initiatives colleges and rural communities are developing to deal with these challenges and opportunities: Alyssa Ratledge, a postsecondary education researcher at MDRC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research firm; Deborah Santiago. the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Excelencia in Education; Edward Smith-Lewis, Executive Director of UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building (ICB), a team dedicated to supporting the resiliency of HBCUs; and Noel Harmon, President and Executive Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars, formerly the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. Ratledge notes that rural America is not monolithic. About 15 to 20 percent of rural individuals identify as non-white, but in many areas of the country the percentage is much higher. In addition, she explains, even in predominantly white states, rural diversity is increasing faster than urban diversity, which is important for understanding rural issues, including access to higher education and dealing with rural poverty Santiago notes her organization is looking at transformation and resiliency in areas with a substantial Latino population, including a current focus on Puerto Rico. There’s a myth that the majority of Latinos in the United States are documented, which is not accurate, she notes, adding that it’s important to “meet students with they’re at.” Smith-Lewis notes that almost 50 percent of the black population in the South is located in rural communities, and that his organization is developing programs that enable these individuals to return to these communities. Smith-Lewis believes that a key to solving HRCH issues is to bring the stakeholders to the table and to understand that better technology and additional resources need to be brought to bear in the rural South. Harmon points out that the Asian community itself is quite diverse and that about 75 percent of the higher ed students it serves is first generation.  Native Hawaiians Pacific Islanders, and the Asian community in general often are not represented at the table or are not part of the discussion in terms of necessary resources, such as extending broadband access, she says. The guests describe culturally relevant initiatives they are undertaking to meet these challenges: Harmon hopes to engage in culturally relevant research that involves organic conversations to find areas of systemic change. Smith-Lewis describes his group’s  Career Pathways Development initiative, which involves actually going to the higher education institutions and conducting town halls and other conversations to find ways for the institutions they partner with to be successful, and the importance of telling the larger historical narrative of the black population, and the importance of targeting recipients, as is the case in a recent initiative in Mississippi. Santiago describes her organization’s focus on positioning rural students as trendsetters, including those in rural Puerto Rico. This episode and the entire Rural Higher Education Series is underwritten by and produced in collaboration with Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their education and career goals. For more information, visit ascendiumphilanthropy.org. The series is also produced in collaboration with MDRC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation. Learn more at www.mdrc.org.

 

 

Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part II with Danielle Vetter, Stephanie Hyre, Corley Dennison, and Paul Daugherty

Listen to Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part II with Danielle Vetter, Stephanie Hyre, Corley Dennison, and Paul Daugherty

In the second of our four-part series, Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities, Michelle chats with four inviduals committed to improving education in West Viriginia:  Danielle Vetter, Senior Progrm Officer at Ascendium; Stephanie Hyre, Senior Program Officer of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation; Corley Dennison, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education; and Paul Daugherty, President & CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia. Vetter discusses Ascendium’s priorities in the rural space, including research, building capacity for postsecondary providers, and  catalyzing investment and partnerships to create opportunities and open doors that may have been previously closed. There are many lessons learned from these incredible collaborative efforts in West Virginia, including the importance not just talking about issues, but actually meeting the needs of rural communities through strategic development. Dennison notes how rural West Virginia really is and how important it is to initiate innovative programs, such as the one designed to improve developmental education. Dennison also describes the main goal of West Virginia Climbs, supported by Ascendium, that 60 percent of workers in the state will have some kind postsecondary credentials by 2020. Daugherty describes how Philanthropy West Virginia promotes collaboration among government, business, nonprofit, and philanthropy to bolster communities, an effort that has taken on added significance during the pandemic, especially on the issues of food security and business and survival. An essential component to success in the space, according to Daugherty: Courage to try something new. Hyre  describes the work of the Education Affinity Group, a subset of Philanthropy West Virginia (which she now co-chairs), whose priorities include early childhood literacy and postsecondary degree attainment. She explains how the group moved toward strategic priorities  through the 3 Ps (pipelines, partnerships, and platforms), to attract additional funding and support for rural education.

Want to find out more about what’s happening in West Virginia? Cheick out this video:   https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qcPNVITWOoM.  This episode and the entire Rural Higher Education Series is underwritten by and produced in collaboration with Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their education and career goals. For more information, visit ascendiumphilanthropy.org. The series is also produced in collaboration with MDRC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation. Learn more at www.mdrc.org.

Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part I

Listen to Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities — Part I

In the first of our four-part series, Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities, Michelle chats with Alyssa Ratledge. a postsecondary education researcher at MDRC; Dr. Jan Miller, Dean of the College of Education and the Director of Online Programs at the University of West Alabama (UWA); and Joe Thiel, Director of Academic Policy and Research for the Montana University System. There’s a big gap between urban and rural students in higher education, Ratledge notes, with about 41 percent of urban adults attaining college degrees, while only 28 percent of rural adults have those degrees. While rural and urban areas have similar graduation rates, those in rural areas are less likely to attend college, she points out. In addition, she says, many rural students live in “education deserts,” where there are no nearby colleges to attend. Ratledge adds that rural students are facing a “digital divide,” with less access to robust broadband, as well as other challenges like transportation issues.  Miller describes UWA’s University Charter School, which provides real-world experience for education students and how business and economic opportunities in the area are now expanding. UWA also has introduced innovative initiatives with local communities, such as “drive-in” education programs and turning school buses into Internet “hot spots.” Miller also describes dual enrollment programs and scholarships opportunities for juniors and seniors in high school that require that students remain in the local area for three years. In Montana, Thiel notes, it’s difficult for smaller institutions of higher education to sustainably offer even in-demand programs in fields like allied health, due to the costs of programs and the challenges recruiting and retaining qualified faculty, who can often earn more working in industry. He notes that higher education institutions are exploring “hub-and-spoke” initiatives, in which the hubs would provide online teaching in respiratory therapy, for example, while the spokes would coordinate the clinical and lab experiences and provide in-person supports. To learn more about these ideas, check out MDRC’s paper on COVID-19 and Rural Higher Education, https://www.mdrc.org/publication/covid-19-and-rural-higher-education. This episode and the entire Rural Higher Education Series is underwritten by and produced in collaboration with Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their education and career goals. For more information, visit ascendiumphilanthropy.org. The series is also produced in collaboration with MDRC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation. Learn more at www.mdrc.org.

Rural Assembly Everywhere with Whitney Coe, Kathleen Sebelius, Benya Kraus, and Norma Flores Lopez

Listen to Rural Assembly Everywhere with Whitney Coe, Kathleen Sebelius, Benya Kraus, and Norma Flores Lopez

Michelle chats with Whitney Kimball Coe, director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies and the leader of the Rural Assembly, about the upcoming Rural Assembly Everywhere Festival, and with three presenters at this landmark event including, Kathleen Sebelius, former HHS Secretary, Benya Kraus, co-founder of Lead for America and Executive Director of Lead for Minnesota, and Norma Flores Lopez, chair of the Child Labor Coalition’s Domestic Issues Committee and an activist with Justice for Migrant Women.

 

Rural Assembly Everywhere is a free, five-day (October 26-30) streaming virtual conference/festival, where you can tune in at any time to find out what’s happening in this critical time in rural America, Coe explains. The festival includes “main stage” keynotes from various authors and thought leaders, including Sarah Smarsh, author of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Dr. Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rural Everywhere will cover vital issues and headlines from The Daily Yonder, such as the rural vote in the 2020 elections, and racial justice in rural America. Breakout sessions will focus on more specific issues, including climate change, resiliency, and developing the next generation of rural leaders. Also, Coe notes, there will be a happy hour every day, at which attendees can network with other attendees. T