August 30, 2022 | Spotlight

Applications now open at Institute of Government for rural scholars

Hands-on internship designed to educate UGA students about rural economic and community development

Writer: Margaret Blanchard

Students interested in helping boost Georgia’s rural communities are encouraged to apply for the inaugural PROPEL Rural Scholars program through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

PROPEL, or Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership, is a unique public service program that launched earlier this year.

“Becoming a PROPEL Rural Scholar is ideal for anyone interested in learning about leadership and decision making at the community level,” said Greg Wilson, the institute faculty member who directs the program. “It will provide hands-on experience in helping communities develop the tools to build capacity for long-term success.”

The PROPEL Rural Scholars program begins in October. Scholars attend four seminars throughout the fall semester, covering various aspects of economic development and community development in rural Georgia. After the second seminar, students will take a group trip to an active PROPEL community and meet the core leadership team.

In the spring, students will complete an internship including an applied research project for their assigned community.

The deadline to apply is September 23.

For more information, visit https://www.cviog.uga.edu/student-opportunities/propel-scholars

The scholars will work alongside a mentor from UGA Public Service and Outreach and community leaders to conduct data analysis and other research, and complete a project that will help increase the communities’ opportunities for economic success.

Dallas Hunt, a biology/pre-med major, who spent this past summer as an Institute of Government intern, helped develop the rural scholar program schedule. A Tifton native, Hunt says the program would be a premier experience for undergraduates interested in working in public service or pursuing graduate school.

“Students work on research projects which directly benefit communities throughout the state, and they involve themselves at an early age in local government. This sets them up to be better leaders in their communities after college, and it gives them a greater appreciation for rural Georgia,” Hunt said.

The PROPEL program will guide low-income rural cities and counties through a six-step model to develop and execute a plan to advance their economies. Current PROPEL communities include Appling County, Grady County, Pulaski County, Washington County and the Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (Clay, Quitman, Randolph and Stewart counties).

The PROPEL Rural Scholars program is made possible through a generous donation from the UGA Foundation. Neal J. Quirk, chair of the foundation’s board of trustees, said this spring providing students the opportunity to understand Georgia’s rural communities and citizens is vital to the state’s overall prosperity.

“The success of our rural communities is critical to the long-term viability and competitiveness of our state, and our students must understand this dynamic and support it now and after graduation,” he said.