October 11, 2002

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Northeastern "Centered" for Rural Development
State Legislature Creates Center for Rural Development at NSUPhoto of rural development area - old gas station

House Bill 1503 of the 48th Oklahoma Legislative session has created the Oklahoma Center for Rural Development at Northeastern State University. The Center is designed to provide a “coordinated and collaborative system that is readily accessible and responsive to the needs of cities, counties, schools, trust authorities, and other development organizations,” all with the purpose of contributing to a better standard of living in rural Oklahoma.

The Center agenda is community driven and set by a nine-member advisory board appointed by NSU President, Dr. Larry Williams. A 40-member Citizens Participation Advisory Council serves to “connect” the community to the broad resource base of the university, through the Advisory Board. NSU will spend a great deal of time listening to local leadership, and crafting an agenda of programs, projects, and activities that directly support the rural development efforts of the community.

The work of the Center for Rural Development is organized around and accomplished by six institutes, at a minimum, including Rural Health, Rural Education, Economic Development, Applied Technology, Community Development, and Entrepreneurship. Others may be organized, as needed. The Institutes will seek to support the many agencies and organizations in rural Oklahoma already doing the business of rural development. The Center’s purpose is to help communities, counties, the Cherokee Nation, and a host of existing agencies and organizations gain better access to
the resources needed to do the work of rural development.

“This is a truly exciting opportunity for Northeastern,” said Williams. “Through our Center for Rural Development, NSU will be the driving force behind projects that will build rural Oklahoma from health and education to economic and community development.”

One of the early activities of the Center is to build a web site and chat room that will help to serve as a clearinghouse for collecting community needs’ information as well as for disseminating information about resources available to community leaders.

As the Institutes develop, and projects, programs, and activities are matched to community needs, the Center will engage faculty from the University’s six colleges with communities throughout northeastern Oklahoma, working to open up a new world of opportunities. The Center will be integrally involved in supporting the development of the critical strategies on which communities, counties, schools, and others rely on for their grantsmanship process. During his first term in office, Oklahoma’s U.S. Congressman Brad Carson’s documented the that Second District communities were not faring well in the competitive process of acquiring grants. Therefore, Carson worked closely with NSU to develop funding for the start-up of the Center, and was responsible for NSU’s receipt of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the start-up funds.

Oklahoma House Speaker Larry Adair, along with several other “rural” colleagues, including State Senator Herb Rozell and Jim Wilson of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, who have championed the cause of rural Oklahoma over the years, were the prime movers of the Legislation creating the Center and for providing critically needed funding to implement the program.

Author/Contact: Larry Sand, Coordinator of Rural Development, 918.465.5511 x 3093, sand@nsuok.edu