Growing up in a rural farming community, Dr. Jodie Winship understood that education was important but, for many, not possible due to poverty, commitments to family farming businesses and a host of other reasons.

The first in her family to graduate from both high school and college, Winship is now Chair of Teaching and Learning and Chair of Instructional Leadership and Support at the University of West Alabama, striving to drive much-needed changes in rural education. She’s also part of a dream team of rural education experts leading UWA’s new online Doctorate in Rural Education degree program, launched in August 2018.

The group created the doctoral program to help rural educators, administrators and community leaders address issues specific to rural education. Those include inequitable funding processes, a lack of real-life connections to classroom learning and insufficient research into the needs of rural schools.

Take, for example, an Alabama school district with the highest population of English Language Learners (ELL) in the state. The district enrolled a team of school leaders in UWA’s online rural education doctoral program. As part of their dissertation, they are researching solutions to the financial and curricular challenges of teaching ELL learners in a rural setting. These schools need professional development and materials for teachers and students, which, of course, requires funding.

In addition to solving problems, the UWA rural education doctoral program strives to help create connections between students’ experiences in their rural communities and what they learn in the classroom.

"Everything we're doing is rooted in helping students find solutions to the problems in rural schools, and it's amazing how many of our students come back and say, 'I wouldn't have done this otherwise. Thank you for making me do this.' That's very uplifting."

Read the full article about rural education by Wendy McMahon at EdSurge.