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Rural Matters

Nov 3, 2020

In the second of our four-part series, Rural Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities, Michelle chats with four inviduals committed to improving education in West Viriginia:  Danielle Vetter, Senior Progrm Officer at Ascendium; Stephanie Hyre, Senior Program Officer of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation; Corley Dennison, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education; and Paul Daugherty, President & CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia. Vetter discusses Ascendium’s priorities in the rural space, including research, building capacity for postsecondary providers, and  catalyzing investment and partnerships to create opportunities and open doors that may have been previously closed. There are many lessons learned from these incredible collaborative efforts in West Virginia, including the importance not just talking about issues, but actually meeting the needs of rural communities through strategic development. Dennison notes how rural West Virginia really is and how important it is to initiate innovative programs, such as the one designed to improve developmental education. Dennison also describes the main goal of West Virginia Climbs, supported by Ascendium, that 60 percent of workers in the state will have some kind postsecondary credentials by 2020. Daugherty describes how Philanthropy West Virginia promotes collaboration among government, business, nonprofit, and philanthropy to bolster communities, an effort that has taken on added significance during the pandemic, especially on the issues of food security and business and survival. An essential component to success in the space, according to Daugherty: Courage to try something new. Hyre  describes the work of the Education Affinity Group, a subset of Philanthropy West Virginia (which she now co-chairs), whose priorities include early childhood literacy and postsecondary degree attainment. She explains how the group moved toward strategic priorities  through the 3 Ps (pipelines, partnerships, and platforms), to attract additional funding and support for rural education.

Want to find out more about what’s happening in West Virginia? Cheick out this video:  This episode and the entire Rural Higher Education Series is underwritten by and produced in collaboration with Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their education and career goals. For more information, visit The series is also produced in collaboration with MDRC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation. Learn more at