2024 Rural Schools Collaborative Regional Hub Summit

On June 12th, partners from across the RSC network convened in Indianapolis for a day of conversation, relationship building, and collaboration.

June 24, 2024 |
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The 2nd annual Rural Schools Collaborative Regional Hub Summit took place on June 12th, hosted by our RSC’s Indiana & Great Lakes Regional Hub partners at the University of Indianapolis: Center of Excellence in Leadership and Learning (CELL). The gathering brought together partners from across RSC’s Regional Hub Network for a day of networking, learning, and fostering collaborative relationships.

In early June, Rural Schools Collaborative hosted a gathering to bring together members of the regional hub network, thought partners, and staff and board members. This second-annual Regional Hub Summit was graciously hosted by RSC’s Indiana & Great Lakes Regional Hub partners at the University of Indianapolis Center of Excellence in Leadership and Learning (CELL), with additional support from Made@Plainfield, TNTP, and the National Rural Education Association (NREA). Partners came together from across the country to join in community, share ideas and knowledge, and build relationships that will continue to spur collaboration and progress for our united vision of thriving rural schools and communities.

Regional Hub partners, board members and thought partners convene at RSC's Regional Hub Summit.

As a network-based organization, Rural Schools Collaborative is staffed by a small backbone but supported by a diverse ecosystem of partners of rural leaders in higher education, community development, teacher development, and more. The central pillar of RSC’s community is the Regional Hub Network: RSC's hub network covers 30+ states with 20+ partner organizations, and our Regional Hub model offers a flexible and cost-effective infrastructure to create sustainable rural communities. While our partners do connect and exchange ideas or collaborate virtually, this event was a unique opportunity to bring about 40 participants together for a day filled with conversation, learning, and building momentum for the future.

Lisa Kennedy presenting to attendees at the Regional Hub Summit.

After taking time to meet, reconnect, and ground ourselves in place, attendees heard from three different perspectives on key issues in rural education. First, Rural Schools Collaborative Advocacy Intern Lisa Kennedy shared her research on what top higher education institutions are doing to intentionally recruit and support rural students, which are often disproportionately underrepresented on their campuses. Her research was, in part, informed by her own experience growing up in rural Rhinelander, WI, and now is beginning her senior year as a rural student at Georgetown University. In her talk Lisa drew connections between her research and the work of RSC Northern California Regional Hub partner Chico State University’s program to create space and empower rural students on their campus.

Jenny Seelig has led efforts to research the Rural Teacher Corps started through RSC's Catalyst Initiative Grant.

Following Lisa, partners heard from Jenny Seelig, who has led efforts to research and better understand the conditions preceding and supporting the establishment of Rural Teacher Corps via RSC’s Catalyst Initiative Grant. Jenny highlighted the diverse contexts that host Rural Teacher Corps, or the intentional effort to recruit and prepare rural educators. Jenny’s research drew upon the experience of in-crowd attendees, including recent Catalyst Initiative Grant recipients like Kristen Cuthrell of Southeast Hub East Carolina University (2023-24), Kathrina O’Connell at Bemidji State University (2023-24), Dave Dallas of Eastern Oregon University (2022-23), and a table-full of team-members from CELL (2022-23).

Haley Salitros-Lancaster with RSC Board Member, Nate McClennen.

Finally, the third presentation came from Haley Salitros-Lancaster, an English at Lincoln High School teacher from Vincennes, Indiana. In 2021, Haley was awarded the National Signature Project Award, in which through a partnership with the NREA RSC provides a $2,500 award for teachers to complete a place-based project with their students. Haley focused on a student-led process of studying a local historic park and creating signage to tell the importance of Vincennes in the revolutionary war. Haley shared stories and inspirational lessons on how she is able to connect her students to their local history, community, and each other.

For the remainder of the gathering, partners from across different time zones, organizations, and professional focus areas engaged in a series of open-ended conversations around their own hot-button topics, issues and opportunities within their respective networks and partnerships, and finally came together to share ideas on ways in which the Rural Schools Collaborative network can continue to find opportunities to grow in connectivity and reach. Throughout these conversations, partners found organic connections in each other’s work and laid exciting groundwork for future in-person and virtual events.

The future directions generated in these conversations offer an inspiring roadmap of future collaboration within the network. Many highlighted that they would love to spend more time traveling to each other’s respective places and organizations, learning about their programs within the immersive context of place. Another theme shared was the desire for increased opportunities to bring in and feature teacher voice, including at future events like the Hub Summit or during cross-partner visits. Continuing conversations from last year’s summit and quarterly Regional Hub Committee meetings, many shared a desire to continue to find ways to collaborate on grants and research opportunities.

Dr. Jerry Johnson participating in a discussion about the GRAD Partnership.

A through line through all conversations and takeaways was the palpable excitement and energy around continuing to build the RSC network, or as Dr. Jerry Johnson of East Carolina University put it, the web or partners and organizations better reflect the complexity of an ‘ecosystem.’ Alive and ever-changing, symbiotic and mutually beneficial, the analogy was apt and offers a distinct road forward. The Rural Schools Collaborative team is excited to continue to find more ways to bring partners together, foster authentic relationships, and uplift the meaningful work happening in each of our Regional Hubs. Until then, we hope to see many of you at the National Forum to Advance Rural Education in Savannah, GA, this fall!

Thank you to the University of Indianapolis Center of Excellence in Leadership and Learning for serving as a gracious host partner for this event; to Made@Plainfield for hosting our community; to TNTP for helping sponsor and make this event possible; to the Rural Schools Collaborative Board and Regional Hubs Committee for providing the inspiration and direction for the gathering; and especially to the entire Regional Hub Network and guests for attending the event and truly making it a memorable, insightful, and energizing experience for all!

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