Rural Initiative

Investing in Rural Colorado

In June 2021, the CSU System Board of Governors voted to invest $8.58 million over the next three years in expanded support for rural Colorado students and communities. We are making these investments after listening to and learning from our communities, economic and community development leaders and individuals across the state.

As we expand our rural initiative, we continue conversations. We listen and learn and work together with communities, evolving and enhancing our approach to serve the needs of Coloradans. This inclusive, statewide process led us to create key goals and the hire over a dozen rural initiative specialists who work to design and deliver programming that meets the unique needs of their communities.

Four Focus Areas

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Accessible Education

Supporting college access, curriculum and partnership development with community colleges and other university partners to create collaborative bachelor’s programs around the state. Piloting 4-H programs targeting underserved populations. Developing innovative new positions that bridge school-based STEM education with college admissions.

Accessible Education Specialists

– Sydney Wilkinson, Southern Region | Q&A with Wilkinson
– Sofia Guardado, Eastern Region
– Brenda Valdez, Eastern Region
– Ruben Flores, Mountain Region
– Gregory Felsen, Western Region

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Improved Health

Expanding our lifelong learning and wellness programs for older Coloradans and establishing a ‘health extension’ system based on prevention science. Increasing rural mental health awareness and education through partnerships with community healthcare providers and facilitated connections to resources. 

Improved Health Specialists

– Jennifer Aengst, Mountain Region | Q&A with Aegnst
– Ginger Williams, Eastern Region | Q&A with Williams
– Calandra Lindstadt, Western Region | Q&A with Lindstadt

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Vibrant Communities

Building on the efforts of the Family Leadership Training Institute of Colorado to increase community leadership training opportunities and support civic capacity building. Establishing a system of ‘humanities extended’ to create connections that promote rural histories and cultures. Fostering dialogues within rapidly changing communities to bridge urban/rural and other cultural divides while supporting community problem-solving.

Vibrant Communities Specialist

– Willie Wilkens, Mountain Region

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Thriving Economies/Food and Agriculture

Expanding the Regional Economic Development Institute’s capacity to inform and support community planning and redefining our impact on the agriculture economy with a focus on technical assistance and research translation. Redeveloping the value proposition and ways of working with large-scale food and agriculture producers, with a focus on technical assistance and research translation in areas such as soil sustainability and large animal veterinary medicine. Improving access to high-speed internet through grant and program development.

Thriving Economy Specialists

– Derek Lowstuter, Mountain Region | Q&A with Lowstuter
– Nicole Didero, Western Region | Q&A with Didero
– Stephen Lauer, Southern Region | Q&A with Lauer
– Libby Christensen, Statewide Food and Ag | Q&A with Christensen
– Adrian Card, Statewide Specialty Crops

Learn more about CSU’s initiatives in rural Colorado

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Fourteen expanded rural initiative specialists begin serving communities across Colorado

The 14 regional initiative specialists have begun connecting with their communities. They are building on programming already being delivered by CSU Extension experts across the state and are working to create educational resources that meet their regions’ unique needs.

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Rural initiative brings CAM’s Classroom to Mesa County

Over the summer, support from CSU’s Office of Engagement and Extension’s Rural Initiative made it possible for the team at CAM’s Ag Academy to offer free, hands-on educational programming at the Mesa County fair.

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CSU Extension is expanding access to mental health care in rural Colorado

For decades, Colorado AgrAbility has focused on helping farmers and ranchers with physical challenges live healthy and productive lives. However, seeing a growing need in recent years, they have doubled down on their efforts to improve access to mental health care in rural communities.

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Custom-built mobile VR science lab takes innovative learning experiences statewide

The interior of the cutting-edge lab, from its desk spaces to countertops and cabinets, is all built using wood harvested from the wake of the Cameron Peak Fire, an event that upended communities and the natural systems that support animal and plant life across more than 200,000 acres. Now, the reclaimed timber is serving a key role in educating youth across the state about the interwoven connections between people, animals and the environment.