PROPEL Rural Scholars

University of Georgia students

Meet our current PROPEL Rural Scholars.

The PROPEL Rural Scholars program provides students interested in rural Georgia the opportunity to work alongside a Public Service and Outreach mentor and community leaders to work on and implement relevant research to communities. The two semester program will equip future leaders with the knowledge and experience to take roles in economic development, community development, and civic leadership.

The scholars program is part of the PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) program that is led by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The program 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.

Join Us!


Lead With Us!


Applications due: April 14, 2023

How It Works


How it Works


The program was created through a generous donation from the UGA Foundation as well as a USDA Grant. 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. They learn to analyze economic and labor market data and identity community resources that could drive growth in the community. Scholars will work alongside PROPEL communities and faculty.

The Rural Scholars Program

The Rural Scholars Program


The scholars program begins in October. Scholars attend four two-hour seminars throughout the fall semester, covering various aspects of economic development and community development in rural Georgia. Following the second seminar, students will take a group trip to an active PROPEL community, study the opportunities and challenges facing rural communities, and interact with community leaders. In the spring, students will complete an internship where they will work on research and other projects that will assist one of the PROPEL communities. While the PROPEL communities are across the state, interns will be able to complete the work from the Athens campus. Funds will be available to support Rural Scholars travel to their assigned PROPEL community. Students may also be able to earn experiential learning credit.

PROPEL Process


PROPEL Process


The are several steps in the PROPEL Model. Using this model, the communities will learn to utilize resources to promote lasting developments to push them forward for future development.

  • Data Analysis

  • Asset-Based Strategy Development

  • Impact Evaluation

  • Plan Implementation and Support

  • Link to UGA Researchers

  • Citizen Input

Current PROPEL Communities


Current PROPEL Communities


  • Grady County

  • Appling County

  • Pulaski County

  • Washington County

  • Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (Clay, Quitman, Randolph, and Stewart Counties)

    An additional cohort of PROPEL communities will be added in early 2023

PROPEL In the News


PROPEL In the News


Support from UGA Foundation benefits students and communities

May 25, 2022

A generous $500,000 gift from the University of Georgia Foundation board of trustees to support rural economic development will enable UGA to reach even more communities and provide experiential learning opportunities to more students.

Read more.

PROPEL gives rural communities the tools to prosper and thrive

May 5, 2022

Over the next two years, PROPEL participants will work through a six-step model focusing on economic development, data analysis, strategic planning, community engagement and vision setting. Coaches from the UGA Institute of Government and Archway Partnership will work closely to keep the communities on track. Faculty from other UGA Public Service and Outreach units, the J.W. Fanning Institute of Leadership and the Small Business Development Center, are available to provide expertise in small business, leadership development and community engagement.

Read more.


USDA grant will help communities boost economic development with PROPEL

November 3, 2021

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow UGA Public Service and Outreach units to equip rural Georgia communities with the tools, resources and knowledge to chart a strategy for economic recovery and long-term resiliency.

Read more.