Four panelists

Rural Education Initiative Launches Multi-campus Collaborative

The University of Pittsburgh School of Education recently hosted a kick-off gathering about rural education initiatives for faculty, staff, administrators, and students across the five Pitt campuses.

The Rural Collective Convening, a hybrid event held on the Pittsburgh campus and Zoom on December 1, 2023, brought together individuals across disciplines who are engaged in rural scholarship, service, and teaching. The goal of the collective is to build a network that supports rural initiatives at the University and to collaborate with rural communities and organizations across the state, region, nation, and world. 

The Rural Collective is the first strand of the Rural and Community-Based Education Initiative, led by Executive Director Darris Means.

“I see the Rural Collective as a multi-campus, interdisciplinary initiative that can make a positive impact at the University of Pittsburgh and in Western Pennsylvania, our state, and the region,” says Means, an associate professor in the Pitt Education Department of Education Foundations, Organizations, and Policy.

The kickoff meeting allowed participants to connect, learn more about the purpose of the initiative, and begin developing guiding principles and goals for the Rural Collective. 

The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Master of Arts in Education Policy student Rachael Stowe, in which four Pitt faculty and staff members considered challenges, opportunities, and equity in rural communities. The panelists included César Escobar-Viera, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral and community health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School; Stephanie Fiely, executive director of the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville Education and Training Hub; Jill Henning, professor of biology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown; and Lisa Ortiz, assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. 

The event also had small group discussions and a large group discussion about the future of the Rural Collective.

Means says this first gathering of the Rural Collective was a successful event, and he is looking forward to how the group will collaborate and expand partnerships in rural communities.

“The energy I experienced and the insights I gained during the kickoff event makes me excited for the future of the Rural Collective,” says Means.

Learn More

The School of Education’s Rural and Community-Based Education Initiative aims to advance knowledge and practice related to spatial and place-based equity and justice at the intersection of racial, class, and gender equity and justice across local, regional, national, and global contexts. Learn more about the initiative.

University of Pittsburgh faculty, staff, administrators, and students who are interested in joining the Rural Collective can contact Executive Director for Rural and Community-Based Education Darris Means at