PROPEL Rural Scholars

University of Georgia students

Make an Impact on Rural Georgia Communities

The PROPEL Rural Scholars program provides undergraduate 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.

Register here for more information.

PROPEL Student with a planter.

How It Works

How PROPEL 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.

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

Lead with us!

Lead With Us!


Applications for the 2023-2024 program are now closed. Applications for the 2024-2025 cohort will open in mid-Spring 2024. Students interested in the PROPEL Rural Scholars Program may complete this form for more information.

The Rural Scholars Program

The Rural Scholars Program


The scholars program is open to any undergraduate student. The year-long program begins in September and concludes in April with final deliverable presentations. Scholars attend five two-hour seminars throughout the fall semester, covering various aspects of economic and community development in rural Georgia. Following the second seminar, students will participate in a community visit 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 conduct research and complete a project that will assist their assigned 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 are able to earn non-course experiential learning credit through their participation in the program.

Meet our current PROPEL Rural Scholars.

 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)

  • Ben Hill

  • Burke

  • Baldwin

PROPEL In the News

PROPEL In the News

UGA students explore needs of rural Georgia communities through new program

April 6, 2023

UGA students are learning about economic drivers in rural Georgia — and why they matter to the state as a whole — as scholars in PROPEL, a unique program led by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) provides rural communities with resources to create systems needed to support their own economic and workforce development strategies.

Read more.


Propelled by natural disaster

April 6, 2023

“My core identity is deeply rooted in rural Georgia, so my aspiration has always been to find a career path that would allow me to improve conditions for rural communities like the ones where I grew up," says PROPEL Rural Scholar Max White.

Read more.


Institute of Government adds three new communities to PROPEL

February 1, 2023

The University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government is expanding efforts to support rural communities in Georgia thanks to funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development as well as resources provided by the University of Georgia Foundation. The Institute of Government is a Public Service and Outreach unit at UGA.

Read more.

PROPEL Rural Scholars program launches first cohort of nine undergrads

November 15, 2022

Nine undergraduate UGA students committed to boosting Georgia’s rural communities were named as inaugural PROPEL Rural Scholars at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. 

Read more.


PROPEL provides tools for rural community engagement and economic success

October 31, 2022

In rural areas of Georgia, like Grady County, losing young adults to schools and jobs in other cities and states can break the succession of community leaders, which is vital to future success.

As an initial PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) community, Grady County surveyed students at Cairo High School to find out what young people would like to see in their hometown, how much they knew about job opportunities in the area, and if they planned on staying close to home after graduation.

Read more.

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.