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Rural Scholars

The Rural Scholars program aims to benefit both rural communities and Oklahoma State University students. OSU students will conduct research on the leading issues and grand challenges facing rural communities in Oklahoma and beyond, receiving firsthand research and service experience. For 10 weeks in the summer, pairs of students will live in a rural community and work with community leaders to carry out research projects and provide assistance, support and solutions for community issues. Before that, students will be trained in community-based research approaches and gather background information on their assigned community. Learn more about our 2020 Rural Scholars here. 


The Rural Renewal Iniative is always looking to expand its efforts. If your community would be interested in hosting Rural Scholars, please fill out an application.

2020 Rural Scholars Projects

Participatory Action Research (PAR) for Citizen Scholars

We are proposing a Participatory Action Research for Citizen Scholars class, where students will learn the principles and methods of ethical community engagement and PAR before carrying out a community PAR project. Students will partner with the local community to identify and address a social problem. Not only will this result in a collaborative solution to a community-identified social problem, it also may yield important contributions to our understanding of citizen scholarship and community PAR, particularly in a rural setting, which is underrepresented in today’s literature.


Deconstruction: Beneficial Downsizing of the Built Environment in Rural Towns

Between 1930 and 2010, Harmon County lost a greater percentage of its population than any other Oklahoma county, going from 13,834 in 1930 to 2,922 in 2010, a decrease of 79 percent. With such changes, what role must demolition play in the future of rural communities? Most research in downsizing has focused on declining industrial cities, with little research being conducted on the tremendous need for reduction of the built environment in rural towns. This Rural Scholars project will train and support two student summer interns to identify deconstruction options and generate related digital resources for Harmon County while providing the student interns a valuable real-world, hands-on learning experience. One intern would focus on the public policy/regulatory situation while the second intern would focus on developing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools and databases


Comparing the Impacts of Agricultural Technologies on Rural Communities in the US and China

As research has led to more use of technology and mechanization in agriculture, outmigration from rural communities has grown. The unintended effects of those technologies on natural and social capital in rural areas are still being discovered, and many important questions remain unanswered. How are increases in agricultural mechanization and automation influencing soil health, agricultural employment and rural demographics? What are rural residents’ perceptions of how agricultural technology and the quality of life are linked in rural communities? We propose to address these questions through the development of a student-led, community-based research partnership between China Agricultural University and Oklahoma State University. This summer project would focus on Lishu County in Jilin Province in northeastern China, one of the nation’s most fertile agricultural regions, and Harmon and Tillman Counties in southwest Oklahoma. Two upper-level undergraduate students from OSU will be paired with two graduate students from CAU for five weeks in Lishu County and five weeks in Tillman County during the summer of 2020. These students will collect data on the status and trends in natural and human capital in both locations as affected by advances in agricultural technology.

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