The Rural Renewal Initiative announces 2022 Rural Scholars


Eight students from Oklahoma State University will spend their summer improving health and well-being for rural Oklahoma residents.

The student researchers were selected as part of the Rural Scholars program led by the Rural Renewal Initiative. These students will relocate to small towns in rural Oklahoma counties to conduct research that encompasses a wide variety of subjects, including environmental science, agricultural communications, rural health and agribusiness.

The purpose of the Rural Renewal Initiative is to inspire, empower and coordinate rural renewal research at Oklahoma State University and beyond. The organization supports interdisciplinary research by funding seed grant projects that seek to improve the lives of those living in rural communities in Oklahoma.

Our students are preparing for a fruitful summer, according to Audrey King, assistant director of the Rural Renewal Initiative. They have planned both their research and community service activities for the last 16 weeks and have collaborated with research and community mentors to have the most effective plans and projects as possible.

 “I am excited to see how the work of this group of students can build on the work of our previous Rural Scholars,” King said. “Our students are ready to get started and get engaged with their communities.”

Students taking part in this year’s Rural Scholars program and their area of research are:

  • Anthony Caruso is an undergraduate agribusiness student. He will research the rural narrative in Tillman County.
  • Dorian Cathey is an electrical engineering graduate student. His research will focus on sustainable agriculture and energy systems for rural communities. He will work in Tillman County.
  • Addie Coody is a biochemistry and molecular biology undergraduate student who will study rural health in Tillman County. She will reside in Tillman County.
  • Rayna Ellison is an environmental science undergraduate student. She will study soil moisture monitoring and water quality in all Rural Renewal Initiative focus counties. She will be headquartered in Greer County.
  • Stephanie Harvey is an agricultural communications undergraduate student. Her project focuses on telling the story of youth leadership development through photography. Her research area will cover all of Rural Renewal Initiative’s focus counties, and she will be headquartered in Greer County.
  • Carolina Quijada, an incoming first-year medical student at the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Darci Peach, a nutritional science undergraduate student, will both study adverse childhood experiences in Harmon County.
  • Kynadi Shelby, an incoming first-year medical student at the OSU College of Osteopathic

Medicine, plans to study EMS TeleHealth in Tillman County. She will reside in Harmon County.

Rural Renewal Initiative projects provide vital hands-on learning opportunities for OSU students while providing a positive impact on Oklahoma’s rural counties.

“The Rural Renewal Initiative program is helpful to Rural Scholars as they apply their learning to the real world and discover new things through research,” said Rural Renewal Initiative co-director Tyson Ochsner. “Even though the results of research will take more than 10 weeks to impact local communities, those communities get an immediate infusion of new ideas and helpful hands for the summer.”

During their 10-week stay, this year’s Rural Scholars will also take part in community service and outreach opportunities.


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