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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Newsletter Article November 13, 2020

Podcasts Raise Up Leaders in Rural Places

The Rural Matters podcast is a leading rural-focused podcast with a mission to increase awareness, inform discussion and promote intelligent dialogue on the most important issues facing rural stakeholders. While previous Rural Matters podcasts have focused on K-12 education in rural areas, we were proud to sponsor a four-part series focused on postsecondary education in rural communities. At Ascendium, we know that disparities in postsecondary success between rural students and their urban and suburban peers exist at every point in the pipeline, from enrollment to completion. These disparities contribute to a shortage of skilled, qualified workers, which affects the economic health of both families and entire communities. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know the rural leaders featured on the podcasts and learn how they are helping to address these issues.

The first Rural Matters podcast focuses on challenges and opportunities in rural higher education with comments from Alyssa Ratledge, a postsecondary researcher at MDRC; Dr. Jan Miller, Dean of the College of Education and Director of Online Programs at the University of West Alabama; and Joe Thiel, Director of Academic Policy and Research for the Montana University System.

The second podcast in the series, featuring Ascendium senior program officer Danielle Vetter, centers around West Virginia’s Climb, a public awareness and programming campaign aimed at increasing the state’s postsecondary education attainment rate to at least 60% by 2030. Ascendium made a $750,000 grant to Philanthropy West Virginia for this project as its focus on collaboration and partnership to support rural learners particularly sparked our interest.

The third podcast in the series features commentary on rural diversity from leaders at MDRC, Excelencia in Education, UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building and Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholars. About 15 to 20 percent of rural individuals identify as non-white, but in many areas of the country the percentage is much higher. Even in predominantly white states, rural diversity is increasing faster than urban diversity, which is important for understanding rural issues, including access to higher education and dealing with rural poverty. This podcast addresses the challenges and opportunities involving diverse students in the rural higher education space and the innovative initiatives colleges and rural communities are developing to deal with these challenges and opportunities.

The final podcast in the series will be available for listening in late November, featuring comments from leaders at the Center On Rural Innovation, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and the Education Design Lab. Four follow-up reports from the podcasts will also be compiled by our colleagues at MDRC and will be available for reading in mid-December. Stay tuned!

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