Bridging the urban-rural divide at EOU

Urban-Rural Ambassadors bring Oregon’s east, west together at EOUUrban-rural ambassador

June 21, 2018 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Eastern Oregon University students will soon bridge the urban-rural divide alongside Portland State University students by experiencing each others’ sides of the state first-hand.

In a unique partnership, EOU and PSU have joined together with support from Oregon Solutions to create the Urban-Rural Ambassador Institute. The program consists of a six-credit course that takes place over 10 days in September. Students spend five days in the Portland metro area and five days in Eastern Oregon, studying issues particular to each region with a focus on the principles and methods of collaboration.

Officially announced on April 27, during Governor Kate Brown’s visit to EOU, the program will be held Sept. 6 to 15.

“Our goal is to create a new pipeline of future leaders,” the governor said during her trip to EOU. “It will challenge students — whether from Pendleton or Portland — to provide creative solutions that meet the needs of our diverse communities and support our local, thriving economies.”

This year, course topics include transportation, agriculture and sense of place, but topics will evolve every year. Nate Lowe, Dean of EOU’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and co-convener of the Ambassador Institute, said the institute aims to continue engaging students and faculty from the two campuses in studying the multifaceted and timely issues that confront communities in the state.

Overarching topics at each site serve to bridge the perceived disparity of issues facing rural and urban communities. The goal is for students to share, learn and analyze similarities, differences, and specific place-based factors that influence social, political, and economic drivers unique to each region. In-class learning will be supplemented by a special Welcome Dinner, community field trips, cultural events, and guest speakers.

For instance, members of the National Policy Consensus Center will engage students in leadership training while in Portland. The program culminates in a display of teamwork, as rural and urban students synthesize their learning and demonstrate their capacity to serve as ambassadors who can advance collaboration in their professional and civic lives.

Sponsorships reduce the financial barriers that keep students from participating, since the program requires a $500 fee in addition to tuition. In-kind and financial sponsorships are also needed for further program development and operations. More information about supporting the program through donations or service is available at eou.edu/urban-rural.

EOU and PSU plan to establish the program this year as a standing, sought-after experience

that in future years can also be available to graduate students, community members, and professionals in the field interested in making enduring connections that bridge urban and rural Oregon.

EOU students interested in enrolling in the course should contact Maren Peterson, a geography professor at EOU leading this term’s cohort.


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