Student Opportunities

PROPEL Rural Scholars

Make an impact on rural Georgia communities

Program Background

The PROPEL Rural Scholars program provides undergraduate students interested in rural economic and community development the opportunity to work alongside an Institute of Government mentor and community leaders from across the state. In this program, students conduct and implement relevant research in rural Georgia communities. The two-semester program will equip future leaders with the knowledge and experience to become leaders in economic development, community development, and civil service.

The scholars program is part of the PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) program led by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The program guides rural cities and counties through a six-step model to develop and activate a plan to advance their economies. It helps communities build resiliency and capacity for long-term economic success.

Program Highlights

Students engaged in the PROPEL Rural Scholars learn about:

  • Economic policy and development
  • Community engagement and development
  • Georgia demographics, trends, and contemporary issues and opportunities
  • Small business development support strategy
  • Consulting skills and tactics
  • Meeting management and administrative skills
  • Core skills, like teamwork, notetaking, professional communications

Program Details

The year-long program begins in August and concludes in April with final deliverable presentations. Scholars attend bi-weekly two-hour workshops throughout the fall semester, covering various aspects of economic and community development in rural Georgia. In the fall semester, students will travel to an active PROPEL community, study the opportunities and challenges facing rural communities, and interact with community leaders. In the spring, students will work in teams to complete an applied research project that supports their community’s PROPEL plan. While the PROPEL communities are located across the state, scholars will complete their project largely from the Athens campus, committing 10 to 12 hours per week to the project throughout the spring semester. Funds will be available to support Rural Scholars' travel to their assigned PROPEL community.


  • The Rural Scholars program is open to UGA undergraduate students from any school or college.
  • Students can earn non-course experiential learning credit through their participation in the program.

The PROPEL program is supported by the USDA. PROPEL Rural Scholars was created through a generous donation from the UGA Foundation. All PROPEL communities embark on a two-year journey working with a core team of community leaders along with coaches from the Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Small Business Development Center, and Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Communities learn to analyze economic and labor market data and identity local resources that could drive growth in the area. Scholars will work alongside PROPEL communities and faculty to support their community's PROPEL plan.

Applications for the 2024-2025 program are now closed.


2022 Communities

  • Grady County
  • Appling County
  • Pulaski County
  • Washington County
  • Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (Clay, Quitman, Randolph, and Stewart Counties)

2023 Communities

  • Baldwin County
  • Ben Hill County
  • Burke County

2024 Communities

  • Emanuel County
  • Crisp County
  • Marion County

Additional communities may be added in the future.

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