The Symposium on Small Towns Success!

The Symposium on Small Towns Rural Migration: Myths, Trends, and Opportunities Exposed wrapped up mid afternoon on June 5th after great conversations, stories, and ideas starting on the evening of June 3rd. The University of Minnesota, Morris played host to over 150 of the brightest and most thoughtful minds in rural development, leadership, academia, and design. We also played host to amazing and insightful keynote speakers Ben Winchester, Randy Cantrell, Jim Russell, and Craig Schroeder who talked about rural migration trends, youth involvement, new research, and how to re-frame the rural story. 

Ben and Randy came together to do a two part presentation “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” and both walked through new and old information to help restructure myths about rural migration and the health of rural areas. This seemed to strike a chord with many participants and was featured on the Blandin Foundation and MPR‘s websites. 

Keynote Ben Winchester talking about new research on rural migration trends.

The Symposium also held two extremely informational and insightful panels, one with newcomers to rural areas, and the other with leaders in various foundations that focus on providing support to small towns. The Newcomer panel featured a variety of personal stories about why they moved to small towns, what that move meant to them, and why they’ve stuck around. The stories were largely heartwarming, and were met with a great response from the conference attendees. 

The foundations panel was similarly fraught with personal and local stories about how to help sustain and grow small towns throughout the Midwest. With representation from large organizations like the McKnight Foundation, the Otto Bremer Foundation, USDA Rural Development, the West Central Initiative, RUPRI, and the Blandin Foundation the room was full of great, experienced perspectives.

The newcomer panel on June 4th. 

There was so much that happened in such a short amount of time, with breakfast starting at 7:00 AM on Wednesday, and the final festivities closing at 10:00 PM, there was a lot to do, learn, and think about. There was also great engagement on the CST twitter page with the hashtag #smalltowns2014, allowing greater connection and communication between participants and the materials they were learning and discussing. 

The symposium was built together by a large group of really great, dedicated people and organizations including the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Bush Foundation, the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships University of Minnesota Extension, South Dakota State University, the University of Minnesota Extension, and the Rural Futures Institute. That’s not even counting all of the individuals at the Center for Small Towns who ran the event behind the scenes. CST hired a student, Maria Keeler, ’16, Shoreview, MN, who worked hard to put together everything from keynote speakers to organizing and scheduling the whole event.  

All of the Center for Small Towns staff and students who helped create and run the Symposium.

Were you at the Symposium? Was there anything that really struck you? Facts that stuck out? Comment below or tweet us @CforSmallTowns!

Not at the Symposium? Free free to get involved in the conversation on our twitter or ask questions here or on our Facebook

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