Episode 9: Catalyzing Change in Rural Spaces


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Welcome to Episode 9 of the Rural College Student Experience. In this episode, host Dr. Matt Newlin and his guests talk about how to create and foster change at rural serving institutions. In our culture, rural communities are often seen as being “backward,” “conservative,” and “slow to change,” but those myths – along with the idea that all rural communities are the same – couldn’t be further from the truth. As we saw during COVID, rural communities – and rural schools in particular – pivoted immediately to virtual learning and came up with all sorts of innovative and unique ways to continue serving and supporting their students. In this episode, we’re going to talk about how institutions serving rural students are working to drive change to create more equitable pathways for students. However, as we’ll hear, there is a long way to go to ensure rural students are able to have the same college experience as non-rural students.

My co-host on this episode is Liz Soellner. Liz is a rising junior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Sociology. She’s from Chester, Illinois, a small town in Southern Illinois situated on the Mississippi River. Additionally, she is also the president and co-founder of the Rural Area Student Initiative, or RASI, which is a student organization focused on making higher education more accessible for all kinds of rural students. You can follow and learn more about RASI on Twitter and Instagram.

Liz and I are joined by our guest Dr. Leslie Daughtry, a senior education designer at Education Design Lab. Leslie is currently leading the Lab's BRIDGES Rural Design challenge. Throughout this multi-year initiative, the Lab will lead a cohort of rural community colleges in designing, testing, and scaling postsecondary approaches that support the economic agility of rural learners.
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