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Rural Matters

May 26, 2022

In Part V of our six-part series on continuing rural postsecondary education and workforce development, produced in collaboration with and supported by the Ascendium Education Group.

Michelle chats with three education leaders who are doing some amazing work with rural colleges: Cindy Lopez,  Executive Director of Network Engagement at Achieving the Dream, who oversees designated ATD Network services, such as multiyear transformation initiatives for unique groups of colleges that includes minority-serving institutions and regional groups, as well as ATD’s Building Rural Resiliency for the Future of Work project; Meredith Hatch, Director of Network Relations at Achieving the Dream, who provides leadership to identify and scale promising practices for use across the ATD Network of 300+colleges as well as serving as program manager for Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work project; and Monica Clark, deputy director for the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research.

Lopez and Hatch discuss how ATD helps colleges build digital skills capacity and supports for low-income rural community college students to enter and have success in earning credentials that prepare them for high-quality jobs, and the importance of equity in college transformation. Clark describes the mission of her organization, the importance of data, the lessons learned from the Rural College Leaders program, and how the Belk Center is building on work that is already happening in North Carolina and nationally to support rural institutions.

This episode and the entire six-part series is sponsored by the Ascendium Education Group, whose philanthropy aims to remove systemic barriers faced by certain learners, specifically first-generation students, incarcerated adults, veterans, students of color, and rural community members. For more information, visit