Eastern Oregon University, Rural Schools Collaborative’s Pacific Northwest Regional Hub partners, recently made the long journey from La Grande, Oregon to the Midwest to visit with and learn from two of RSC’s other Hub partners: Monmouth College (Illinois Hub) and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville (Driftless Hub). Reciprocal learning and collaboration is what RSC's network is all about.These three institutions are exemplars in innovative rural education and community development, so it was a week of rich conversation as they discussed shared work and challenges, and began planting the seeds for the future.
Eastern Oregon University is designated as the state’s “rural university,” and has continued to lean into that identity through a growing assortment of rural school and community-focused programs, including Teach Rural Oregon. This model, supported by RSC's Catalyst Initiative Grant program, has been successful at ensuring students in Oregon’s often isolated and remote rural towns have access to quality education, and providing numerous pathways for students to enter the education profession. Looking to grow from their early successes, The EOU team, consisting of Dave Dallas (Director of Teach Rural Oregon and Hub Contact), Rae Ette Newman (Interim Dean of the College of Education), Angela Vossenkuhl (Interim Department Chair), and Jerred Jolin (Special Educator Endorsement Program Director), traveled to Illinois and Wisconsin to see how other national leaders in this work have grown their programming.
After an afternoon with the Rural Schools Collaborative staff in Galesburg, Illinois, the EOU team made their way to nearby Monmouth, where they visited with the Rural Education Initiatives faculty at Monmouth College to learn how their ever-growing TARTANS Rural Teacher Corps, place-based education focus, and Educational Garden and Farm have taken flight. RSC helped support early phases of this rural work at Monmouth College, and we celebrated the recent announcement of a multi-year federal grant and generous community support that will continue to support local rural education. The discussion with EOU culminated by experiencing Monmouth College’s work firsthand through a walking tour of the Farm in the brisk early spring air.
Driving north through fields and forests, and twice across the Mississippi River, the EOU team came to Platteville, Wisconsin, set in the heart of the geologically unique Driftless Region. After introductions, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville faculty and staff offered a detailed overview of the School of Education’s rurally-focused educator preparation programs, a new K-through-9 Major rooted in place-based methodologies, a new Special Education Minor, a bolstered focus on teacher recruitment and retention, the Proud Rural Teacher Podcast, and their nationally innovative Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
The EOU team witnessed the theory in practice with a classroom visit to the Community-Based Learning class, and a discussion with current UWP students. Finishing the day with small group discussions between deans, fellow professionals, and Hub Contact peers, the collective commitment to a thriving rural future was clear.
"Rural resilience” is as much about strengthening the many assets and opportunities that our rural places have to offer, as it is journeying out to experience and learn from those same treasures in other locales. We are so grateful to see this collaboration first hand as our Regional Hub Network continues to expand our collective impact on rural America.
Thank you to our partners at Eastern Oregon University for making the long trip out to visit with us in Galesburg; and huge thanks to our partners at Monmouth College and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for being outstanding hosts and collaborators!
Joe Brewer - Cuba, IL
March 9, 2023
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