Rural Reimagined: A focus on making life better for rural families

By Dr. William H. Baker

Contributing Writer

Rural Reimagined was launched as a Grand Challenge initiative by Tennessee Tech University a few months ago. It is now in the early stages of development. The goal is to help develop and support the success of rural areas throughout Tennessee.

According to early announcements by the university, “Rural Reimagined will focus on projects such as health care, child care, innovation and technology, small business and economic development, career readiness and rural history.”

Some of these challenges are already being addressed. Tech serves more distressed counties than any other state university and is centrally located to eight counties in greatest need.

Historically, the university has played an important role in the education and prosperity of the Upper Cumberland region.

Michael Aikens, director of the project, cites Tech’s successes in assisting rural areas with “…a remote area medical clinic, a small business development center, research and outreach center, a STEM mobile unit for K-12 student success, water quality research, and archives of rural history.”

Now this new opportunity builds on that past and involves faculty, staff and students from almost all academic disciplines. Service-learning opportunities for students are incorporated into the plans. The need to increase availability of broadband access in rural areas is another challenge.

The President of Tennessee Tech, Phil Oldham, noted that this project is designed “…to increase the number of affordable and quality child care.” He said that “…a number of surrounding communities are without child care providers.”

The successful results of Rural Reimagined will be of great importance to some of the most distressed counties in the Upper Cumberland. Additionally, they can be used to address rural needs throughout Tennessee and elsewhere.

Additional information is available at the Rural Reimagined website [https://www.tntech.edu/grand-challenge/.

William H. Baker is a Claiborne County native and former Middlesboro resident. Email: wbaker@limestone.edu