9:00 – 9:25 a.m
Opening Convocation

Presented by Dr. Bennett Boggs and Dr. Matt Newlin

9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Keynote Address

Towards a Brighter Future: How Rural Education Can Thrive

Presented by Dr. Mike McShane. Moderated by Dr. Matt Newlin

As we emerge from a tumultuous half decade of American life, we have a chance to take stock of the status of higher education in America, particularly in our rural communities. What are the challenges? What are the opportunities? Perhaps most usefully, where are institutions of higher education experimenting, rethinking, and meeting with success. In this talk, Dr. Michael McShane will both highlight the larger trends in the space as well as offer real-world examples of thoughtful educators building the institutions of the future, today.

10:30 – 10:45 a.m. | Break

10:45 – 11:45
Concurrent Sessions

Choose 1 of the sessions

Session A: Building Strong Futures with Weak Ties: Enhancing Social Capital for Rural First Generation and Low Income Students

Presented by Tocarra Williams. Moderated by Alicia Erickson.

Acquiring social capital involves developing a network of relationships that offer support, information, opportunities, and resources. College students hailing from rural areas, particularly those who are first generation and low-income, encounter unique obstacles when it comes to harnessing social capital. However, there are opportunities for these students through the cultivation of “weak ties,” which can help them overcome the barriers that often hinder their educational and career paths. Weak ties refer t connections with individuals who are not part of one’s immediate social circle. These connections can provide an encouraging environment that enhances college students’ confidence and self-efficacy. Such reinforcement fosters a sense of belonging and self-belief, both of which are pivotal for academic and career achievements. Participants will have an opportunity to create action plans with feasible strategies aimed at increasing social capital for these vulnerable students.

Session B: Supporting Student Postsecondary Attainment through Trio Talent Search Services

Presented by Evelyn Fuller and Tyra Esparaza . Moderated by David Hewkin

Committed to the goal of helping students starting in the 6th grade and through high school graduation, the University of Arkansas TRIO Talent Search program helps students overcome economic, social, academic, and cultural barriers to higher education. The session will focus on how program services and school/community partnerships play an important role in students’ postsecondary education success The presentation will highlight the different services the program provides while also demonstrating activities specifically used with students.

Session C: Pell Grant Expansion: Higher Education Opportunities for Individuals Impacted by the Justice System

Presented by Jennifer Thomsen. Moderated by Kephen Merancis

This presentation will focus on higher education opportunities for individuals impacted by the justice system and the community and workforce opportunities in rural areas. The federal government recently reversed a decades-long policy barring individuals in the justice system from receiving Pell Grant funding, the U.S. Department of Education’s hallmark grant program for higher education students with financial need. This reversal followed years of pilot programs in several states. Many states have tracked the success of the 9,000 students that have earned an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a certificate or diploma between 2016 and 2021. Many of these students return to the communities they were raised or seek opportunities in the area they studied, which is bringing workforce opportunities to many rural areas. ECS staff will present on the recent legislation enacted on this topic, policy trends, findings from the pilot states, and opportunities for continued engagement.

11:45 – 1:00 p.m. | Lunch Break

1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Workshop Sessions

Choose 1 of the Workshop Sessions

Session D: Re-Writing Rural Student Narratives

Presented by Dr. Matt Newlin. Moderated by David Hewkin

While colleges and universities are attempting to recruit and retain more rural students, the narratives about rural spaces and people are not changing. In fact, most institutions still take a deficit-based approach to rural students and communities rather than celebrating their strengths. Additionally, rural student voices aren’t being centered or heard on college campuses because few rural students have the cultural or social capital to disrupt the institutional environment. However, there are strategies, resources, and models already available to help institutions improve the experiences of their rural students. This session will provide both interactive, reflective, and team brainstorming activities during which attendees will learn and share about the myriad ways rural students can feel a better sense of belonging.

Session E: Using Visual Thinking Strategies to Improve Critical Thinking and Competency Training

Presented by Vicki Weaver. Moderated by Alicia Erickson

This proposal is for a 90-minute workshop at Equity Summit 2023 where workshop attendees will be introduced to Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). The session will begin with an interactive PowerPoint utilizing the VTS teaching method followed-up by a deconstruction of the VTS process and an examination of facilitator and student behaviors exhibited during the conversation. The session will close with a question-and-answer wrap-up along with the distribution of VTS materials and contact information.

As a contemporary art museum in rural Missouri, Daum Museum has been offering VTS training for teachers and student tours successfully for the past fourteen years. The museum has also partnered with local, rural schools to implement VTS into their curriculum with the goal of enriching instructors’ teaching practice and encouraging student growth through thoughtful, carefully facilitated conversations. Through these facilitated discussions, students increase their critical thinking skills that over time transfer to other classroom interactions as well as elevating soft skills that empower students to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

Session F: Activating Agilities to Explore Careers and Build Networks

Presented by Kristie Larson. Moderated by Sarah Moore

In Missouri, approximately 60% of high schools are considered rural. Rural schools and communities are sources of pride for our state, but challenges to prepare students to be college and career ready with limited access to school funding, technology, and jobs is an uphill climb. Students and teachers need resources to help them identify tools to build confidence, translate skills, and explore career pathways to equip them for success in an ever-changing economy.

Research from The DeBruce Foundation finds career literacy + network strengths = employment empowered individuals. It may seem like a simple equation, but 7 of 10 Americans are low in one or both areas and 4 of 10 are low in both. The DeBruce Foundation will discuss how tools such as the Agile Work Profiler, Agilities framework, and Career Explorer tools can help individuals enhance their career literacy by leveraging their skills and interests. Couple that knowledge with the network strength found in rural community partnerships, in-school and out-of-school programs and students will be equipped with what it takes to launch careers and navigate career transitions across a lifetime.

2:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Trend Talk Sessions

Choose 1 of the Trend Talks

Session G: rootEd Missouri: Increasing Postsecondary Success for Rural Students

Presented by Kari Hanks. Moderated by Dr. Matt Newlin

National philanthropic organization rootEd Alliance has tained and placed dedicated college and career advisors in rural high schools across America to help students define, plan, and achieve their educational and career goals following graduation. In partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Ozarks Technical Community College, rootEd has placed advisors in 135 rural high schools. This session will highlight rootEd’s advising model; and its impact, to date.

Session H: The Rural College as a Cultural Hub: Film Screenings and Guest Lectures Create a More Open World

Presented by Leigh Kolb. Moderated by Kephen Merancis

A curated Film and Lecture Series has the potential and power to offer culturally and socially inclusive programming to not only students and staff, but also the wider community, particularly in rural communities. This Trend Talk will introduce attendees to East Central College’s Film and Lecture Series—its history, programming examples, community partnerships, and operational information—as well as provide tangible information about programming films (costs, distribution companies, planning), scheduling guest speakers, and offering in-person and remote programming.

In a time of attempted limitations on diversity and inclusion in and out of the classroom, colleges have a unique and important role to be able to offer the community cultural programming. It’s our privilege and responsibility to serve as a cultural and social hub for our communities to help create more a more culturally competent populace. Film screenings (documentary and narrative films, modern and classic) and guest speakers are an excellent and accessible way to nourish the potential of our rural institutions.

Session I: State Rural Education Policy Trends

Presented by Ben Erwin. Moderated by Samantha Dickey

Join Bryan Kelley and Ben Erwin from Education Commission of the States for a review of trending education topics with impacts in rural communities. Bryan and Ben will provide an overview of trends and relevant policy examples of state efforts to address the digital divide, student health and wellness, teacher preparation, student transitions, and postsecondary access and supports. Each of these issues has a significant impact on the educational opportunities available to rural students and this session will lay the groundwork for more targeted conversations throughout the conference.

3:00 – 3:15 p.m.
Closing Session

Presented by Dr. Matt Newlin