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The initiative leads an annual competitive seed grant program open to all OSU researchers and their collaborators, providing funds to initiate research in, with or for specific rural communities where the researchers are engaged. 


The seed grant program is designed to stimulate engaged and participatory research by engaging communities in refining research questions and opportunities to build new community-academic partnerships. It is intended to attract new researchers from all career stages into rural renewal research and to provide excellent training opportunities for students and post-doctoral students.


Full proposals are due April 7th, click here for submission guidelines. 

Seed Grants for 2022

Building Sustainable Rural Healthcare Services

Principal investigator: Tao Hu, Department of Geography,


Collaborators: Xuewei Chen, School of Community Health Sciences, Counseling and Counseling Psychology; Hongbo Yu, Department of Geography; Yuting Zhou, Department of Geography; Mark Woodring, Rural Health, Center for Health Sciences; Denna Wheeler, Rural Health, Center for Health Sciences


The rural-urban disparities in US mortality have grown substantially over time. The COVID-19 pandemic and rural hospitals closure has further exacerbated health disparities in rural communities. In Oklahoma, mobile wellness units (MWUs) have recently been deployed to improve rural community’s access to basic medical needs, reduce health disparities, and improve healthcare delivery while decreasing costs. However, due to limited resources, health departments face great challenges in conducting periodical evaluations on the local health needs and gathering sufficient information to make wise decisions on allocating MWU services, which hinders its capability of providing equitable healthcare services to the underserved populations. To address these challenges, this project will partner with existing community resources providers (i.e., Harmon and Tillman Counties Health Departments, OSU extension offices, and Shortgrass Community Health Center in Harmon County) to (1) assess the healthcare needs of local communities and their barriers to the use of MWUs (i.e., lack of trust) so that effective solutions can be developed, (2) identify fine-scale healthcare professional shortage areas to assist the assessment of MWUs locations, (3) allocate and optimize MWUs locations to maximize service coverage and improve health equity, and (4) build an online interactive dashboard to assist healthcare seeking and decision making. Upon the successful implementation, the project is expected to assist health departments in providing sustainable rural healthcare services, reducing health disparities, and strengthening public health emergency preparedness and responses for underserved populations in rural Oklahoma.


A multi-dimensional approach for quantifying drought impacts on Oklahoma’s rural communities, and implications for water management

Principal investigator: Dayton Lambert, Department of Agricultural Economics,


Collaborators: Amy Hagerman, Agricultural Economics; Erik Krueger, Plant and Soil Sciences; Lixia Lambert, Agricultural Economics; Tyson Ochsner, Plant and Soil Sciences; Paul Weckler, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.


The proposed project develops an integrative approach for assessing the resiliency and adaptive capacity of rural communities whose economies rely on agriculture. Southwestern Oklahoma is currently experiencing what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls an “exceptional drought.” Drought is common to the region, but drought severity and duration have increased over the last two decades. This challenge makes it essential that community leaders, water managers, farmers and ranchers, and other stakeholders develop contingency plans for managing scarce water resources during critical drought periods. The economies of Tillman, Harmon, and Jackson Counties are particularly susceptible to drought due to their reliance on crop and livestock production, agricultural sales and services, and processing of agricultural commodities. We will engage community stakeholders to understand their perceptions of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing their current water management policies, given Oklahoma’s statutes on water rights and regulations governing the use of surface and groundwater. Local accounts will supplement historical records on crop and livestock production losses. A sociological study on Oklahomans’ perceptions of drought and water use will provide wider context of public perceptions pertaining to water security. We will communicate our findings with stakeholders highlighting 1) economic sector vulnerabilities and resiliency to drought, 2) the role of local institutions that govern water use during drought, and 3) potential opportunities to enhance water security.


Seed Grants for 2021


The Community Champions Program: A Community-Based Intervention to Mitigate and Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Improve Well-being in Harmon County

Principal investigator: Dr. Dolores Vazquez Sanroman, Anatomy & Cell Biology, Center for Health Sciences,


Collaborators: Dr. Lana Beasley, Human Development & Family Science; Dr. Julie Croff, Rural Health, Center for Health Sciences; Dr. Alicia Ito Ford, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Center for Health Sciences


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) include experiencing abuse, violence, or substance use in the home, or having a parent incarcerated. ACEs are associated with long-term changes, which result in poor mental health, substance use disorders, and reduced educational and occupational achievement. More importantly, the prevention of ACEs can have a positive impact on education and employment levels. Thus, providing intervention resources is pivotal to reducing negative life outcomes in Harmon County, OK. Our community intervention-based research will have TWO main goals: 1) Understanding the particular risk and resilience factors of community members and 2) Providing community education that focuses on understanding the impact of ACEs. We will partner with existing community resources, such as Shortgrass Community Healthcare Center, to assist them in implementing the Neuroscience, Epigenetics, ACEs, and Resilience Science (NEAR) curriculum. This will further equip them to increase positive coping resources and strategies in their community, which will have a long-term effect in improving the community's health and well-being



Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Systems for Rural Communities

Principal investigator: Dr. Hamid Nazaripoua, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering,


Collaborators: Dr. R. Scott Frazier, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering; Dr. Paul Weckler, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering; Kerry Rowland, American Electric Power; Cindy Conner, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service; Jim Reese, Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives; Anna Politano, Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives


Support of family and small farming is a strategic action for preventing depopulation in rural communities, and stimulating rural renewal.  Decline in the financial soundness of small-scale-farming is one of the main issues that farmers in rural counties such as Harmon and Tillman are facing, which has led to the loss of family farms [1]. One effective solution to increase farmers’ income and their ability to stay in agriculture is to improve productivity of farms. Farm productivity highly depends on the cost of energy required for agriculture [2]. To reduce energy costs in farms, increase the net farm productivity and income, and promote more sustainable farming and rural development, new energy supply strategies are needed. This project aims to study the integration of local alternative energy resources (AER) with agriculture in rural areas. Alternative energy and farming have the potential to be a winning combination. It not only contributes to energy cost reduction, energy efficiency, and farming productivity increase, but also provides farmers with a long-term source of income. On the power grid side, deployment of local AER addresses the capacity shortage and reliability of electricity supply to rural areas. However, due to the temporal scale differences in crop and AER energy production, the cost-effective coupling of AER and rural agriculture faces a multi-time scale coupling issue. To this end, prior knowledge of farming energy consumption and AER energy generation is an essential step for energy planning, energy-related advancements, and policy development in agriculture. We propose developing probabilistic models for agricultural load and AER energy generation via a joint effort by researchers, energy service providers, and farmers.


Seed Grants for 2020

Developing Youth to Become Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Rural Settings

Principal investigator: Dr. Shane Robinson, Agricultural Education, Communication and Leadership,


Collaborators: Dr. Ron Cox, Human Development and Family Science


One effective way to stimulate rural renewal is to empower youth to remain in their communities after graduation by helping them become civically engaged entrepreneurs. United We Can (UWC) equips youth with the entrepreneurial and leadership skills needed to be successful contributors to community revitalization. UWC also reduces high-risk behaviors such as teen pregnancy; it has been shown to reduce alcohol, tobacco and drug use while increasing academic achievement and entrepreneurship skills in urban settings, but its effectiveness in rural settings is currently unknown. This project will implement and test a combined UWC and 4-H/FFA entrepreneurship program with rural youth in Harmon and Tillman counties and to identify psychosocial factors associated with intentions to leave among adolescents. We expect this will result in stronger families (with higher parental involvement, communication and cohesion), stronger youth (with hope, resilience, problem solving, critical thinking and leadership skills) and an improved community. We expect to increase school participation, civic engagement and knowledge of entrepreneurship among youth while decreasing such high-risk behaviors as substance abuse. We also expect to gain new insights into what motivates youth to remain in rural communities.


Building Resilience in Rural Communities

Principal investigator: Dr. Kristin Olofsson, Department of Political Science,


Collaborators: Dr. Jared Fitzgerald, Sociology


This project will tackle issues of rural sustainability and resilience through a guiding research question: How can we build community resilience by enhancing policy response capacity in rural areas? Sub-questions include: How is sustainability related to rural resilience? How can we create a model for sustainability that captures the whole community? In what ways does community engagement build capacity for policy response?

There is an urgent need to develop capacity for policy response that capitalizes on the coupled human-natural systems in rural communities which interact and reinforce each other. Resilience in rural communities can be supported through policies that give residents “local control” of structures and processes allowing them to maintain healthy, vibrant, and self-sustaining local economies. These kinds of policies are typically best crafted with participatory and deliberative processes that directly engage community members, recognize the complexity of problems in rural areas, and make use of that complexity to craft effective policy interventions. Typically, these kinds of community-based participatory processes are structured by local organizations and leaders who understand the culture and vulnerabilities of that community. Since the 1970s, however, local political party organizations have been in a state of decline as traditional grassroots and volunteer-driven electoral strategies have been replaced by media-driven and mass audience-based persuasion tactics. This decline has led to a deterioration of local party organizations in rural communities to the point of functional non-existence. The absence of local parties has particularly dire implications in rural communities where there are typically few or no other local organizational structures present to absorb communities’ vulnerabilities and channel community actions toward policy interventions. While this project does not aim to build new organizations, it will equip local residents in Harmon and Tillman Counties with some of the tools needed to begin to build local organizational capacities that push for policy change to build long-term resilience in these communities.


Seed Grants for 2019

How Can Rural Health Systems Help Lift a County out of Persistent Poverty?

Principal investigator: Dr. Mark Woodring, Center for Rural Health,


Collaborators: Dr. Brian Whitacre, Agricultural Economics; Dr. Dave Shideler, Heartland Forward; Lara Brooks, Rural Health, Center for Health Sciences


Health care contributes to a higher quality of life and employment opportunities in rural communities. Tillman County recently lost its hospital, and Harmon County ranks near the bottom of the state for “Clinical Care” outcomes, particularly preventable hospital stays, uninsured populations and access to primary care providers. Both counties are seeing substantial job and population losses. This project seeks to test new health care delivery models such as repurposing the recently closed hospital in Tillman County and creating a Health ExtensionPLUS collaboration emphasizing the strengths of the existing providers in both counties along with key university outreach assets. This project will explore creative new models for integrating and reinvigorating existing health care and Extension resources in impoverished rural communities.
Specific aims include:


• Determining the feasibility of alternative models for emergency services and health-related Extension (telehealth, dietary and nutrition, etc.) aid for rural communities following a hospital closure; and


• Evaluating how these alternatives form different linkages within the local economy compared to prior hospital-focused models. 


 Learning more about the current status of and the opportunities for improvements in rural health systems and economic conditions in Harmon and Tillman Counties is expected to benefit the  community. This research will also clarify characteristics affecting the feasibility of emerging health care models and their connectivity to the local economy.


Technological Innovations for Rural Broadband and IoT Connectivity

Principal investigator: Dr. Sabit Ekin, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering,


Collaborators: Dr. Tyson Ochsner, Plant and Soil Science; Dr. Ryan Reuter, Animal & Food Sciences; Dr. Paul Weckler, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering; Dr. John O'Hara, Electrical Engineering


Rural communities increasingly rely on wireless communication systems for agriculture, telework, telemedicine, and e-commerce, but connectivity is often poor or unavailable in remote rural places. Radio-frequency spectrum is the life-blood of these wireless communication systems, but it is scarce and utilized inefficiently. For example, rural areas often have many unoccupied TV channels, called TV White Spaces (TVWS). This project aims to explore how these TVWS can be best utilized for broadband wireless communication services in rural areas. Along with broadband access, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies (“smart” devices that communicate at low data rates via the internet) have great potential in farming and ranching applications. However, traditional Wi-Fi systems have inadequate coverage areas for most agricultural applications. We propose to test and optimize an emerging technology called Long-Range Wide Area Networks (LoRaWAN) for farm and ranch deployment. We hypothesize that TVWS and LoRaWAN technologies can provide broadband and IoT wireless communication services effectively in rural areas as well as offer helpful new methods for farmers and ranchers to monitor crops, livestock, and other assets. The proposed research is expected to result in new methods to effectively deploy broadband and IoT connectivity for rural people and places with numerous agricultural, livestock and environmental applications.


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