Rural Ed Summit: Helping rural populations deal with pressing education issues

On April 12, 2024, the Purdue Center for Rural Research, Education and Outreach will hold its annual Rural Education Summit at Made@Plainfield near Indianapolis.

Graphic of a cornfield with the following text overlaid: 2024 Rural Education Summit - April 12, 2024, 8:30AM - 3:30PM

Its theme is “Rooted in Learning – Growing in Knowledge” and the goal is to bring together education leaders and prominent stakeholders to share ideas and strategies to help rural youth transition successfully from high school to college and careers.

“The Rural Summit is an in-person opportunity for all rural stakeholders in the state of Indiana to gather for discussion, collaboration, and a deep dive into the most pressing issues our rural populations are facing,” said Jennifer Barce, executive director of the Center. “This year, we are excited to partner with both the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association (ISRSA) and the Rural Early College program from CELL at UIndy.”

Barce and Stephanie Oudghiri, director of the Center, identified a need in rural education for a collective and collaborative effort for rural initiatives. Some Indiana rural educators had already been working together, but Barce and Oudghiri thought holding a statewide summit would provide them with the opportunity to work together more cohesively and learn from each other.

Jenn Barce
Stephanie Oudghiri

(l) Jennifer Barce and (r) Stephanie Oudghiri

The summit is important for Indiana education because the state ranks among the top ten states with the largest population of students enrolled in rural school districts. These students increasingly come from underrepresented populations and are more likely to be first generation college students. The Center’s goals directly address the access and affordability of higher education to this population.

Anyone who engages with rural communities in Indiana may attend the summit, including P-12 teachers and administrators, guidance counselors, higher education faculty and staff, Extension educators, and policy makers. In addition to collaboration and networking opportunities, keynote speakers and session presenters will have the latest in best practices and information to share.

“The summit this year is our first statewide event and the co-hosting organizations will be bringing in a wider audience and more participants,” Barce said. “We’re excited about the national keynote speakers as well.”

One keynote speaker, Dr. Allen Pratt, the executive director of the National Rural Education Association, will discuss the national report on rural education data with a focus on Indiana. The other keynote speaker, Shannon Anderson, the award-winning children’s author of the Indiana Farm Bureau 2023 Book of the Year, will close the program with a focus on rural identity and student engagement.

Graphic promoting the 2024 Rural Education Summit

In the spring of 2022, Barce and the College hosted the first Rural Education Summit, exploring how the national teacher shortage was hurting rural schools and areas. The second summit took place in April 2023 after Oudghiri joined the Center team and focused on social justice and practices that contribute to enacting ethics of care for minoritized students in rural communities. After that summit, Purdue approved the new Center to be launched, and the summit continues to evolve and grow.

“Since the approval of the Center in 2023, we’ve been able to establish significant partnerships across Purdue and around the state,” Oudghiri said. “We are also collaborating with and learning from other university-based rural education centers across the country. There are several grant proposals in the works, and we’re developing an exciting new program that will provide a path for Purdue credits from 4-H participation.”

“We really hope this year’s summit gives a platform for the Center to grow and expand in reach and influence,” Barce said.

2024 Rural Education Summit information & registration

Sources: Jennifer Barce,; Stephanie Oudghiri,