MARIETTA, OHIO— Washington State Community College (WSCC) has been selected as one of five rural community colleges from across the nation to form the inaugural cohort of the Building Rural Innovation, Designing Educational Strategies (BRIDGES) initiative. They will work over the next three years to design, test, and scale post-secondary approaches that support the economic agility of rural learners and build the capacity of rural community colleges to be drivers of economic growth in their communities.
“Washington State is excited for the opportunity to lead transformational change. As a community college, our mission is rooted in providing educational pathways for learners that also support local workforce needs. Through the Bridges initiative, we will be able to engage as a thought leader to design new approaches that will take our work to the next level,” explained Dr. Vicky Wood, WSCC President.
The selected cohort includes College of Eastern Idaho (Idaho Falls, Idaho), Eastern Maine Community College (Bangor, Maine), Finger Lakes Community College (Canandaigua, N.Y.), and Zane State Community College (Zanesville, Ohio). The institutions were chosen through a national search and invitation-only RFP and funded with support from a $1.9 million grant from Ascendium Education Group. They will work with Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit and leader in the design, implementation, and scaling of new learning models for higher education and the future of work.
“This work is about enabling rural community colleges to create innovative approaches focused on the value that these institutions and communities bring to their learners—unlocking greater economic opportunity and agility for the populations they serve,” said Kathleen deLaski, founder and CEO of Education Design Lab. “These five community colleges bring a diverse group of core team members to the table, from large national employers, to local chambers and small business development teams. The learnings from this first cohort will pave the way for other rural institutions as they look at building upon the strengths of their communities.”
At the conclusion of the design challenge, the five colleges will pilot new approaches focused on building the capacity of rural community colleges to respond to the needs of students and the unique rural and remote regions they serve. The Education Design Lab will draw on insights from the collective experiences of the rural community college partners to publish a brief that articulates the evolving needs of the rural learner population and showcases exemplar models that bring economic opportunity to rural communities.
“Ascendium is pleased to support the five participating partner colleges in the BRIDGES initiative that are embracing creative approaches to serving rural learners by learning and leading together,” Danielle Vetter, senior program officer at Ascendium. “Over the next three years, this collaboration will surface new insights into innovative models with the potential to revitalize rural economies, prepare rural learners for success in high-demand fields and strengthen the communities served by this cohort.”