Writer: Rhiannon Eades
Fifteen University of Georgia undergraduate students have been named as PROPEL Rural Scholars for the 2023-2024 academic year. The experiential learning program is in its second year, and the new class of scholars is nearly twice as large as the inaugural cohort. This year’s scholars range from second-year to fourth-year students from nine UGA colleges with a variety of academic backgrounds, from agribusiness and civil engineering to biology and political science.
PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) guides rural cities and counties through a six-step model to develop and implement a plan to advance their economies. It helps communities build resiliency and capacity for long-term economic success. The two-semester PROPEL Rural Scholars program equips future leaders with knowledge and experience that will empower them to take roles in economic development, community development and civic leadership. The scholars program was founded initially with support from the UGA Foundation.
“We’re building a sustainable program to serve students and to serve rural Georgia,” said Greg Wilson, UGA Institute of Government assistant director and director of the PROPEL program. “UGA students are interested in the work that we’re doing and want to be part of it.”
The scholars will meet regularly throughout the fall to learn about Georgia’s trends in population, economic development, community development, small businesses and community engagement before beginning their work in the field alongside a UGA Public Service and Outreach mentor and community leaders in the spring. The 2023-2024 student scholars will work with communities that joined PROPEL in 2022 and 2023.
Current participating communities include the Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (Clay, Quitman, Randolph and Stewart counties), Grady, Appling, Pulaski, Washington, Baldwin, Ben Hill and Burke counties.
“The beauty of the PROPEL program is that communities first identify issues they want to work on, they build an action plan, and then our students are part of the team that helps them implement their plan,” Wilson said. “The communities we serve benefit from working with these bright students who bring new perspectives, and our students gain hands-on experience.”
Halle Bynum, 3rd year, Accounting, Biology Minor, Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Personal Leadership
Alex Crabb, 3rd year, Civil Engineering
Andrea Fernando, 4th year, Health promotion, Emphasis in Behavioral Medicine
Margaret Hart, 3rd year, MPA Double Dawg; Political Science A.B.; International Affairs, A.B.
Michael Howard, 2nd year, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Agribusiness
Hendley Jones, 3rd year, Political Science
Laura Kelley, 3rd -year, Political Science, Public Relations
Caleb Kerr, 4th year, Agricultural and Applied Economics, International Affairs
Katelyn Matthews, 3rd year, Sociology
Harper Pendley, 4th year, Health Promotion and Behavior
Isabelle Philip, 4th year, Political Science B.S.; International Affairs, A.B.
Ambar Reyna-Montanez, 3rd year, Landscape Architecture
Kevin Vega, 4th year, International Affairs and Economics
Morgan White, 3rd year, Biology Pre-Medicine
Tongxin (Elena) Zhang, 2nd year, Sociology, Intended English Education
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China