Two conferences, one past and one forthcoming, highlight a growing momentum around college access and success in rural communities.
NCAN’s recent national conference, held last month in Indianapolis, was notable for many reasons, one of which was that it featured a rural conference track for the first time. Co-sponsored by the Greater Texas Foundation, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and the Texas College Access Network (TxCAN), the track featured five sessions focused on college access and success in the rural context. Beyond that, rural and rural-adjacent conference attendees, including teachers, administrators, researchers, and funders, convened at a breakfast Tuesday morning to learn more about the national landscape of rural college access research.
One of the major themes running through the rural conference track was how to get whole schools and communities engaged with and interested in students’ college and career outcomes. For example, in “Strategies for Building a Schoolwide Culture of College and Career Readiness: Lessons from Flagstaff High School,” Tony Cullen and Katherine Pastor of Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Thomas Torre Gibney of the Regional Educational Laboratory-West at WestEd focused on buy-in strategies for various groups. For administrators, their advice included reflecting about and “seeing” principals in their own space, trying to find a common language in talking about college and career readiness, and developing a framework or process for setting goals.
Other sessions focused on the unique challenges facing rural students (e.g., lack of access to postsecondary experiences and campuses, including physical distance) and interventions showing promise (e.g., pairing college and career readiness activities with topics in social emotional learning).
Overall, the enthusiasm with which NCAN’s first-ever rural track was met was extremely encouraging, and we look forward to continuing to support this topic in the future.
For those who missed the 2019 NCAN National Conference but are interested in this topic, bookmark your calendar for the third annual Rural College Access and Success Summit, which will take place April 26-28, 2020 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The call for proposals is now open. Last year, the Summit brought together more than 500 attendees from 35 states.
NCAN will have more on the Summit in the months ahead, but for now, those with a topic they would like to present should consider submitting a proposal.