May 11, 2016

The Navasota Examiner Posts Press Release on Grimes County Texas Strategic Plan


The Navasota Examiner, a local Grimes County Texas news source, posted a story on the release of the final version of the Grimes County Texas Strategic Plan and recognized The Center for Rural Studies' Dr. Shannon Lane as she presented the final plan to the Grimes County Commissioners Court on May 10, 2016.   

The article can be viewed here.

May 10, 2016

The Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University Releases the Grimes County Texas Strategic Plan


With the overall project goal of releasing a 5-year plan voiced by county citizens and set at improving critical infrastructure as well as developing new projects/programs, The Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University was pleased to release the final version of the Grimes County Texas Strategic Plan on May 10, 2016 at the public meeting of the County Commissioners Court. The final version of the Grimes County Texas Strategic Plan can be viewed below.

To view the final draft of the Grimes County Plan, click here.

****Professional or academic use of the Grimes County Texas Strategic Plan must be accompanied with written permission.****

For information regarding the Grimes County Strategic Plan, contact Dr. Michael Fortunato at

March, 2016

Feral Hog Management with Darren Marshall




Informational Flyer


Join the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University in welcoming Darren Marshall from Australia! All students, faculty, and staff are invited to learn more about feral hog management efforts with Darren Marshall – an expert in management of feral animals and weeds, natural resources, and community engagement projects in the Queensland Murray-Darling Region of Australia. Darren will be available to meet and chat at the reception directly following his presentation. Light refreshments provided.

March, 2016

Center for Rural Studies E-Newsletter

Subscribe here!


The vision for this newsletter is to not only highlight Center for Rural Studies updates, but also to encourage each of you to send in events and special announcements from your organization that could potentially be promoted in this space. Collaboration and communication are key, so please don't hesitate to contact us with this information at!

February, 2016

Texas Rural Internship Program

Texas Rural Internship Program Informational Flyer and Link to Application

The Texas Rural Internship Program introduces college students to rural Texas by inviting them to live and work in a rural community in the form of a summer internship. The purpose of the program is to provide uniquely productive summer internships to serve both students and communities.
Interns receive hands-on experience while visiting these small towns and working with the local government, economic development corporations, chambers of commerce, or local vendors.

Interns are paid and are eligible to receive
college credit!

  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2016.
  • $1,000 stipend.
  • Students can receive SOCI course credit for the internship, in addition to the stipend!

Click Here For Application

Click Here For More Information on the Program

January, 2016

Small Town | Big Ideas

Texas Rural Challenge 2016

Sign up here!


Join us for the seventh annual Texas Rural Challenge June 9-10, 2016 in Waco, Texas! This year's conference theme is Small Town | Big Ideas. Innovation starts at home, in your backyard and communities. Together we can do big things!

The UTSA Institute for Economic Development's Rural Business Program will host the 7th annual Texas Rural Challenge conference in Waco. The conference will focus on the challenges facing rural Texans. The goal of this event is to spur small business and economic growth in rural communities across Texas by providing leaders with practical and proven approaches to rural development.

This is a state-wide conference presented by the Governor's Office, Texas Economic Development Council, Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA-Rural Development, Texas Association of Regional Councils and the UTSA Institute for Economic Development-Rural Business Program.

January, 2016

Rural is Dying?

"Sorry, I Didn't Read Your "Rural Is Dying" Article" by Becky McCray

Check out this article, written by Becky McCray - the creator of the Small Biz Survival website. It beautifully outlines the relevance and innovative efficiency of rural communties throughout America.

Small Biz Survival was created by Becky McCray in 2006 to to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

January, 2016

Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society Special Issue


The Center for Rural Studies is pleased to announce the release of a special issue of Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society focusing on community entrepreneurship development.  The special issue was co-edited by Center for Rural Studies Director Michael Fortunato, and Ted Alter, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Community Development (CECD) at Penn State University.  The special issue features articles and essays from some of the leading thinkers in community entrepreneurship, and presents research underscoring how communities can better support entrepreneurs. 

The special issue can be found online here!

January, 2016

RUPRI Innovations Website


We are pleased to announce the launch of the new Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) Innovations Website!  This website is the result of a partnership between RUPRI, the Center for Rural Studies, Texas Rural Innovators, and several other partners across the United States.  The goal of the website is to provide a wide variety of real-world stories about how communities took innovative approaches to solving persistent problems.  Each profile focuses on who was involved, how the innovation came together, and how resources were mobilized to make it happen.  The idea behind the RUPRI Innovations site is not to present "one best practice" for innovation, but rather an "idea book" of different approaches that can be mixed and matched to meet the needs of any community.  New innovation profiles will be featured on an ongoing basis, and anyone can upload a nomination to feature a community or group that is doing innovative work.  Citizens, governments, and practitioners are encouraged to use the site as inspiration to bring people together to find creative solutions to tough problems across the United States. 

You can view the new website here!

January, 2016

The Great Plains: In Focus

Sign up here!


Starting January 13, 2016, the Rural Business Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio – Institute for Economic Development is teaming up with the University of Nebraska, Sam Houston State University and the University of Minnesota to bring you a quality rural webinar series.

This no-cost webinar series will focus on positive trends impacting the Great Plains states from Minnesota to Texas and places in-between. This monthly series will be offered to local elected officials, economic development specialists, housing agencies, and others engaged in rural development practices. These webinars are educational in focus and will lead up to the Minnesota Symposium on Small Towns June 8-9, 2016 and the Texas Rural Challenge on June 9-10, 2016.

Save the Dates. Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming webinar series. All webinar times are Noon - 1pm.

  • Jan 13           Welcome: Rewriting the Rural Narrative
  • Feb 24           Brain Gain of the Newcomers to Rural America
  • Mar 23           Leadership Demands in Rural America
  • Apr 6              Baby Boomers and the Rural Housing Supply
  • May 4             Rural Entrepreneurship and the Quest for an Empowered Rural Economy
  • June 1            Great Plains Opinions and Attitudes

Virtual seating is limited and registration will close on January 8. Links to webinars will be provided the day before each session.

November, 2015

Rural Riches - SAVE THE DATE!

Sign Up Here!


November, 2015

Texas Rural Internship Program

Texas Rural Internship Program Informational Flyer and Link to Application

  • We are accepting applications immediately, through November 24, 2015.
  • The program will take place in Grimes County, within commuting distance from Huntsville.
  • The program will take place over the sixteen weeks of the spring semester, with a 10-hour work requirement per week.
  • In-person interviews will be held the week of November 30, with notifications happening during finals week.
  • $1,000 stipend.
  • Students can also receive SOCI course credit for the internship, in addition to the stipend!

Click Here For Application

Click Here For More Information on the Program

October, 2015


To be held in FEBURUARY 11, 2016 | Place and time TBA


Learn how communities are bridging the gap between tomorrow’s leaders and today’s communities with some of the best experts in the field. Program includes keynote presentations and a roundtable discussion. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Guest speakers:

  • Cheryl Hudec - Executive Director of Pioneers Youth Leadership
  • Dr. Casey Cregham - Assistant Profressor at Sam Houston State University
  • Cyndy Reed - Program Director of Stanzel Family Foundation

October, 2015

Join us for the CETA Morning Brew in Huntsville on October 21


CETA Morning Brew Informational Flyer

Join us for a cup of coffee at the beautiful historic Wynne Home Arts Center in Huntsville, Texas in Walker County. Our very own Cheryl Hudec will tell us about how Pioneers Youth Leadership programs help shape today’s student leaders and tomorrow’s community leaders. Also, learn about upcoming CETA events. Hosted by the City of Huntsville. Morning Brew is presented by the Central East Texas Alliance (CETA).

October, 2015

Dr. Fortunato Presents at IEDC Conference 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska

Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies, recently returned from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) annual conference in Anchorage, AK.  Michael was part of a well-attended panel discussion about how to attract youth to the world of economic and community development as a viable career option.  In this talk, Michael featured some of the Center for Rural Studies' core educational programs, including the Texas Rural Internship Program (TRIP) and Rural Youth Leadership Development Program (RYLDP).  Both programs are aimed not only at building skills within the individual, but also place huge emphasis on building relationships between young professionals and other professionals in their community.  These networks of support, paired with the creation of good environments for personal exploration, have helped a new generation of young professionals in Texas to make new connections, and to consider staying or eventually moving back to a rural area to launch or continue a career.  IEDC is attended by top-rated economic development practitioners from across the Americas.

July 1, 2015

Marlin Might Get Help From Down Under

Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University, discusses his upcoming trip to Australia with the Mayor of Marlin, TX and how it could benefit the city's on-going programs.

June 2, 2015

Once-Rural Communities Try to Hang Onto Their Identities, Despite Houston Sprawl

Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University, and Stacey Osborne of the Central East Texas Alliance discuss the effects of urbanization on rural communities on the air with Houston Matters.

March 11, 2015

Revitilization Group Work Day in Marlin, Texas

The City of Marlin discusses and plans a city-wide work day with input from Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies.

January 21, 2015

Revitilization Group Led by Dr. Michael Fortunato in Marlin, Texas

December 3, 2014

City Future  Session in Marlin, Texas Focuses on Priorities and Participants

Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University, leads a brainstorming session focused on priorities, participation, and committees.

November 19, 2014

City Future Session

Dr. Michael Fortunato, the Director of the Center for Rural Studies, leads a brainstorming session in Marlin, TX regarding rural development.

November 12, 2014

Marlin, Texas Seminar

Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies, and Megan Henderson of Efficient Towns and Cities Co-Op lead a regional planning seminar in Marlin, TX.

October 15, 2014

Mission Possible: Marlin 'Transformation'

Transformation is the topic of discussion at the City of Marlin's third community planning meeting.

September 17, 2014

Second Community Planning Meeting in Marlin, Texas

Dr. Michael Fortunato, Director of the Center for Rural Studies, leads a brainstorming sessions during the second community planning meeting in Marlin, TX.

August 15, 2014

First Community Planning Meeting in Marlin, Texas

May, 2014

Center for Rural Studies at SHSU and Texas Cultural Trust to Examine Rural Arts through NEA Grant

Sam Houston State University’s Center for Rural Studies and the Texas Cultural Trust recently were awarded a $15,000 National Endowment for the Arts Research Grant to explore ways to stimulate rural community and economic development through the arts. The study will look at rural community impacts of the arts and cultural sectors, specifically community attachment, quality of life, and satisfaction with arts and cultural activities. Texas Cultural Trust Announcement

May, 2014

Entergy Texas Sponsors New 10-County Central East Texas Alliance

Entergy Texas, Inc., has joined forces with the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University and leaders from 10 Central East Texas counties to form the Central East Texas Alliance, a community and economic development organization that will focus primarily on rural areas in 10 counties.

August 5, 2013

Economic Vitality in Rural Texas - A Discussion of Regional Economic Development

July 7, 2013

Rural 'Economic Vitality' meeting slated at Center for Rural Studies

July 2, 2013

SHSU Center for Rural Studies Hosts Meeting to Discuss Rural Development

April 23, 2013

Inaugural Survey Reveals Needs, Attitudes Of Texas's Rural Citizenry

March 19, 2013

Center Combats Rural 'Brain Drain' With Outreach Programs

February 4, 2013

Theodori, Constance, & Hudec Receive 2013 SRSA Awards

Three SHSU faculty/staff were honored for their performance in teaching, research, and public service at the annual meeting of the Southern Rural Sociological Association (SRSA). The meeting was held concurrently with the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) in Orlando, Florida, February 2-5. The 2013 theme of the meeting was: “Social Stabilization in the Twenty-first Century: The Role of Rural Communities.” Dr. Gene L. Theodori, Professor and Chair of Sociology was awarded “Excellence in Instruction,” Dr. Douglas H. Constance, Professor of Sociology received “Excellence in Research,” and Cheryl L. Hudec, Associate Director for the Center for Rural Studies, was awarded “Excellence in Public Service.” Constance and Theodori have now received all awards offered by the SRSA: Excellence in Instruction, Excellence in Research, and Excellence in Extension.

January 29, 2013

New Study Looks at Quality-of-Life in Rural Texas

January 16, 2013

The Center for Rural Studies Releases the Results of the Texas Rural Survey

Lee County Community-Youth Development Program

Wraps up for 2012

On August 2, 2012 the Center for Rural Studies hosted a Banquet honoring all of the sponsors, partners, youth, parents, and employers who participated in the innaugural Lee County Community-Youth Development Program (CYDP). There were approximately 50 in attendance. Each sponsor, partner, and employer had the opportunity to share their experience with the program. A video featuring the youths' experiences and thoughts about their community was also shared with the audience. Overall, the program was a great success. Lee County will be hosting the CYDP again and the Center for Rural Studies and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area will be expanding to other rural places in 2013.

Non-Profit in Crockett Offers Internship Through Center

The Mary Allen Museum of African American Art and History Board of Directors, of Crockett, Texas, is currently working with the Center on a Community-based Planning Process toward the restoration of Mary Allen College building and transformation of the building into an African American art and history museum.

The Mary Allen Museum Board will be offering an unpaid internship to one SHSU student for the summer (4 weeks). This student would primarily gain experience working for a non-profit organization and would earn college credit for the internship. This is an excellent orpportunity for both the student and the organization.

Center Speaks at Local Rotary Club Meeting

Dr. Gene Theodori and Mrs. Cheryl Hudec of the Center for Rural Studies presented to local community leaders at the Huntsville Rotary Club Meeting on March 7, 2012. Theodori spoke about community and community development and the services that the Center provides in respect to each. Hudec gave some examples of the current work being done by the staff at the Center for Rural Studies.

Pictured here are Walter Bennett, Rotary Club President, Dr. Gene Theodori, and Mrs. Cheryl Hudec.


Center Students Present on Hydraulic Fracturing at Regional Meeting

Graduate students: Michelle McGuckin and Robinson Schariah presented the paper: "A Big Fracing Mess: An Examination of Public Perception of Hydaulic Fracturing" at the 2012 Southern Rural Sociological Association Annual Meeting held in Birmingham, Alabama. The meeting brings together rural sociologists from across the southern region as a part of the larger Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists Conference. McGuckin and Schariah are graduate students in the Department of Sociology at Sam Houston State University and are also involved in various project with the Center for Rural Studies including the fracing perception study presented at the regional meeting. Also on the paper were Dr. Gene Theodori and Mrs. Cheryl Hudec of Sam Houston State University. The paper abstract is provided below.

Hydraulic fracturing is a long-standing, yet increasingly controversial, practice in the energy industry. Technological advances in hydraulic fracturing methods and horizontal drilling techniques, coupled with a favorable price environment, are the primary factors that have spawned the unprecedented gas shale boom across the globe.  This exploration and production gas shale boom is occurring in both rural and urban areas. In this paper we investigate the public’s perception, as influenced by the mass media, of hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, we examine the public’s perception of the environmental, health, and economic impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing. A general web search was conducted for newspaper and internet articles. The articles were then sorted according to one of the following topical areas: environmental, health, and economic related impacts. We conclude by discussing the possible implications of our findings.

Center Releases Quarterly Newsletter: Rural Conversations

The Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University would like to introduce to you the inaugural issue of Rural Conversations, a quarterly newsletter that aims to provide discussions of all things rural. We hope that you enjoy the newsletter and benefit from the information contained within.Click on the newsletter image below for the full newsletter.


Center Welcomes New Research Associate

August 2011

Dr. Colter Ellis is joining the Center for Rural Studies team in August 2011 as a Research Associate. Ellis earned his Doctorate from the University of Colorado. There, his research used interview-based research to understand how those in animal agriculture struggle to balance the demands of animal welfare and environmental sustainability within the restraints of difficult agricultural markets: “My interest in agriculture and animal related issues is something I hope to incorporate into my work with the center.”Dr. Ellis also has interests in human-wildlife conflicts, habitat conservation efforts, and human dimensions of invasive species control.

My interest in agriculture and animal related issues is something I hope to incorporate into my work with the center.

Dr. Ellis’ experience in qualitative research will guide his primary focuses within the Center:  “My primary research expertise is in interview-based data collection that focuses on people’s everyday experiences. This approach makes the voices and opinions of community members and stakeholders its driving force and allows those who understand issues best to guide the research. The outcomes of this in-depth method are policy recommendations based on the everyday experiences of actual community members.”

The outcomes of this in-depth method are policy recommendations based on the everyday experiences of actual community members.

When asked about his vision for the Center, Dr. Ellis replied: “I am especially enthusiastic about providing rural communities with independent and rigorous research that can help them achieve their cultural, economic, and environmental goals. It is my hope that through partnership with community leaders the center can foster evidence-based programs and practices that will have lasting and positive outcomes for rural areas.”

It is my hope that through partnership with community leaders the center can foster evidence-based programs and practices that will have lasting and positive outcomes for rural areas.

New Online Mapping Tool Provides Data for Rural Areas in the United States

Feb. 18, 2011- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the debut of an online mapping tool that captures a broad range of demographic, economic, and agricultural data on rural areas across the United States. The Atlas of Rural and Small-town America, developed by USDA’s Economic Research Service, provides county-level mapping of over 60 statistical indicators depicting conditions and trends across different types of nonmetro regions.

The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America is available online.

Public Perception of the Oil and Gas Industry Research Featured at Local Energy Expo

Dr. Gene L. Theodori, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Rural Studies, presented his research on the Public Perception of the Oil and Gas Industry on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 in Center, Texas at the East Texas Energy Expo hosted by the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and City of Center Economic Development Corporation. Theodori is a program manager of the Environmentally Friendly Drilling (EFD) program. The EFD program is managed by the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), integrates advanced technologies into systems that significantly reduce the footprint of petroleum drilling and production in environmentally sensitive areas. The objective is to identify, develop and transfer critical, cost effective, new technologies that can provide policy makers and industry with the ability to develop reserves in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. For more information on the EFD program, please visit: KTRE featured the story which can be viewed below.



Local Community Developer Attends State Community Development Institute

Houston, Texas (March 5, 2011) – Economic and community development representatives from across the nation participated in the Texas Community Development Institute (CDI) held February 28 – March 4, 2011. Among those completing Year One of the three-year program was Cheryl Hudec, Associate Director, Center for Rural Studies.

The five-day session was held at the Lone Star College System Offices and included just over 50 classes offered by 25 practitioners on such topics as Developing a Workforce, Principles and Processes of Community Development, Identifying Stakeholders, and Community Assessments.

The purpose of CDI is to train community officials, volunteers and employees who work with city/state/county governments, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, utility companies and community social services in the techniques of modern leadership and management of community development efforts. Since the program's inception more than 1,000 community leaders from throughout the country have participated in the program.

Lone Star College System, one of the premier educational institutions in Texas, the Texas Economic Development Council, and the Community Development Council are supporting organizations of the Texas Community Development Institute.

Instructors from across the United States, each well-known in their business and community development fields, facilitate the comprehensive program curriculum designed to meet the increasing challenges facing community developers in today's fast paced society and is applicable for community leaders from towns and cities of all sizes.
With more than 69,000 students in credit classes for spring 2011, and a total enrollment of more than 85,000, Lone Star College System is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area, and the fastest-growing community college system in Texas. Dr. Richard Carpenter is the chancellor of LSCS, which consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Park, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit

For more information:
Kay Fitzsimons
Director, Community Leadership Institute
Lone Star College System
5000 Research Forest Drive
The Woodlands, Texas  77381-4356
281-330-5494 cell
832-813-6624 fax

Economic Development Forum

The Center for Rural Studies and Texas Rural Innovators together hosted an Economic Development Forum and Luncheon on Thursday March 17, 2011. The forum was an effort to bring a mix of outstanding practitioners together to share tips and practical information about success in small city and rural economic development and it was a hit among participants. Success stories from around the East Texas region, information on different economic development designs, and advice, resources and tools to use for economic development were shared at the event.

The featured speakers were Jim Clinton, director of the CENLA Advantage Partnership, a non-profit promoting regional development in Central Louisiana; and Carolyn Motl, former economic developer with Entergy Texas and a key figure in the development of the Community Development Institute. Linda Parker, CEcD of the Texas Department of Agriculture East Texas-Economic Development shared six tips gained through her years of experience in the area. Additionally, Roger Feagley, Executive Director of Sulphur Springs EDC, Jim Wehmeier, Executive Director of Lufkin EDC, and Steve Maddox, Executive Director of Navasota EDC shared their successes, failures, and advice with participants. Planning for another Economic Development forum is underway.

Carolyn Motl's Presentation

Roger Feagley and Jim Wehmeier's Presentation

Grant Writing Workshop A Success!

On Saturday, February 26, 2011, The Center for Rural Studies and the City of Huntsville hosted a Grant Writing Workshop for local non-profits. The workshop was held at the University from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm; refreshments and a small breakfast were provided. Victoria Constance and Joann Ducharme of VisionBridge Consulting, LLC facilitated the class. Thirty-five individuals attended and were actively engaged in the workshop. Topics discussed included: the grant search, data collection, problem statements, narratives, outcomes, budgets and budget narratives. Additionally, participants were able to review and discuss both un-successful and successful grant applications and budgets. With exceptional feedback from the attendants, follow-up workshops are expected soon. Please check back on the Center's website for updates.

Above: Victoria Constance talks with some of the participants at the Workshop.
Right: Class attendants listen to a discussion about the building blocks of the grant writing process.





Director Receives Research Award at Rural Conference

Dr. Gene Theodori received the Excellence in Research Award for 2011 from the Southern Rural Sociology Association. Recipients are selected on the basis of their outstanding work respectively in areas of teaching, research, extension, and public service in the Southern United States.  A fundamental interest of the SRSA is social justice, as seen through various disciplinary lenses and approaches, with focus  upon the South.  SRSA believes this focus to be particularly appropriate and poignant, given the social-economic context of the region, and the various legacies left in a history of oppression, (e.g. race, class, gender).  The 2011 Awards Committee found Dr. Theodori's dedicated research at Sam Houston State University to exemplify these commitments, and therefore acknowledged his work and dedication with the 2011 Award.   

Center for Rural Studies Travels to Vernon, Texas

In September, Dr. Gene Theodori presented his Guide to Community-Based Planning to members of the 2011 Leadership Vernon, a locally developed annual initiative. During the orientation retreat Theodori informed and engaged the class around community development practices and procedures. The 2011 class mission is: Leadership Vernon is a group of individuals from throughout Vernon coming together in order to learn about their community and find ways to help Vernon be further utilized and grow. Here you can follow progress of the class on Facebook.


Texas Rural Internship Program Feature: Internship Program Gives Student a Taste of Rural Life

The Texas Rural Internship Program is a joint initiative between the Center for Rural Studies and the Texas Department of Agriculture. This is the second year for the program. Lindsay Byrd, one of eight students, participated in the program this year. Byrd's experience in Levelland is featured here.

To view the intern's presentations and videos, click here.

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