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Rural Renewal Initiative

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REEU Program

The Rural Renewal Initiative at Oklahoma State University has developed an interdisciplinary Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) where students will collaborate with a research mentor and a community mentor to complete an 11-week summer research and service experience based in rural communities. The REEU program promotes collaborative ties between OSU and external institutions by recruiting students from other universities. Students will engage in a week-long training on community capitals, rural community development, and research methods, followed by a 10-week experience living and working in rural Oklahoma.

Meet the 2024 REEU Scholars


Applications for 2025 Rural Scholars and REEU Scholars will open in August.


Eight research areas are explored through ongoing projects in the REEU program. 


Project 1: A practical roadmap to improving treatment for diabetes and understanding of the disease in rural communities within Oklahoma

Oklahoma has the fourth-highest death rate from diabetes in the United States. Lack of health education and access to health care combined with sparse food supplies create a dangerous combination for the health of rural Oklahomans. This study seeks to create a map of healthcare and exercise facilities across the state, determine what barriers exist relating to the understanding of diabetic nutrition and access to treatment, and develop an effective educational toolkit. In this project, students will determine rural communities with the highest prevalence of diabetes in Oklahoma; assess the healthcare, exercise facilities, and health education resources available; and develop and implement educational resources for a rural community.



Project 2: Identify factors contributing to the loss of rural veterinarians

Oklahoma has a higher population of cattle than people, yet 34% of Oklahoma counties do not have enough veterinarians to provide food supply veterinary medicine. Veterinary schools graduate enough veterinarians to meet the demand, but distribution between rural and urban settings remains uneven. This study seeks to identify why rural veterinarian retention has become a challenge by completing the following goals. In this project, students will evaluate the geographic range that veterinarians serve and the number of livestock operations per practitioner; assess challenges rural veterinarians face; evaluate two OSU VetMed programs to determine how effective recruitment strategies are at addressing the shortage; and develop a recruitment and retention plan for rural veterinarians.


Project 3: Fostering shared identity through the understanding of the rural narrative

The narrative of rural places is rarely told from the perspective of community members.    Rural communities can utilize their heritage and resources as tourism assets for place-based economic development. This study seeks to identify a shared community identity and brand by encouraging community members to share their narratives. In this project, students will determine residents’ understanding and perspectives of the community; assess the tourism potential within a community; engage youth to determine their perspective on tourism attractions; and propose a tourism product or visitor experience for the community to offer.


Project 4: Reducing out-migration through youth-adult partnerships

Positive youth-adult partnerships can strengthen rural youths’ capacity to connect with, thrive in, and contribute to rural communities. This study seeks to create new educational opportunities for rural youth to connect with and learn from adults in their communities who are in leadership positions. In this project, students will collaborate with Extension educators and civic leaders in the communities to help recruit, mentor, and evaluate youth participation in leadership development and assist youth in learning about leadership roles, responsibilities, and opportunities within their community.


Project 5: Support and empowerment for Black farmers

There is an opportunity to support the needs of Black producers in Oklahoma and help them thrive. This study seeks to identify the needs of Black farmers and producers to create opportunities that develop collaborative relationships. In this project, students will identify community strengths and weaknesses; build relationships with Black farmers and producers; identify Black farmers to participate in a Leadership Forum; and develop leadership and professional development programming to help producers navigate their operations and advocacy efforts.


Project 6: Uplift youth in Oklahoma’s historical all-Black towns

Today, there are only 13 Black Towns remaining in Oklahoma and there is a need to support their efforts to once again become thriving rural communities. This study seeks to provide leadership and professional development support for Black youth in Oklahoma’s Historical All-Black Towns. In this project, students will build genuine relationships within the towns; develop entrepreneurship, leadership, and professional development curriculum; and collaborate with schools to invite students in each town to attend a mini-Leadership Summit where youth will learn about entrepreneurship and developing business ideas.


Project 7: Trends in groundwater quality in Oklahoma wells

Rural residents often rely on groundwater wells to supply their drinking water and may experience regulatory burdens, expenses, and health risks related to poor water quality. This study seeks to determine trends in the quality of groundwater in Oklahoma and to communicate that information with rural residents to help them make informed decisions regarding water use for human consumption, livestock, and irrigation consumption. In this project, students will compile publicly available long-term data on groundwater quality in Oklahoma; analyze those data to identify locations with improving or declining water quality; and create graphs, maps, and infographics to inform rural residents about ongoing changes in groundwater quality.


Project 8: Promote renewable energy technologies for sustainable agriculture

Agrivoltaics is the use of land for both agriculture and solar energy generation. Understanding farming processes, the operation of solar systems, and their mutual interactions is an essential step for designing and developing agrivoltaic systems. This study seeks to identify advantages and disadvantages of agrivoltaic systems. In this project students will identify farmers interested in solar research and secure a site where they can design, develop, and install a small-scale off-grid solar system; install sensors for measuring output power of solar power, temperature of solar cells, ambient temperature, temperature underneath solar cells, soil humidity, irradiance, and wind speed; gather data over the growing season and form a database used to understand the impacts of the agrivoltaic system; evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of agrivoltaic systems; and identify advanced technologies that can enhance the performance of the system.


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