Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation

Document Type



Rural leadership development has been a field with a long, varied history. Despite this, little empirical evidence exists in its literature base. Further, Black rural leadership development programs have been almost non-existent, yet they have been desperately needed. For example, the literature has demonstrated that more than 90% of participants in leadership development programs in the U.S. have self-identified as White. In response, this investigation explored the effectiveness of a cooperative extension program called Learning Everyday About Development (LEAD), designed and facilitated by an 1890 land-grant university to revitalize rural communities while supporting economic development in traditionally underserved communities.

Three themes emerged from my analysis: (1) sparking rural leadership, (2) challenges to new leadership approaches, and (3) rethinking rural renewal. Through my analysis of data, I found the participants reported that LEAD was effective overall. This effectiveness was demonstrated in the first theme, Sparking Rural Leadership. For example, the participants discussed in detail during their interviews the benefits of networking at the conference, an immense appreciation of not being forgotten, being made aware of available resources, and the relatability of the presenters.

Although participants reported they experienced growth in their leadership style and career due to participating in LEAD, the extent of the growth varied substantially. For example, all participants spoke about the importance of networking and securing outside resources, i.e., revitalization programs and grants, to enhance their rural communities. The participants also reported that they devoted more time in their offices to work on grants and programming after their participation in LEAD.

I also found that LEAD supported participants’ improved accountability, innovation, ability to define goals, and communication. Community satisfaction, economic improvements, increased access to resources, awareness of resources, improved leadership styles were factors that appeared to improve as a result of participation in LEAD and positively linked to their perceptions of the effectiveness of the program. Moving forward, I recommend a robust longitudinal evaluation of LEAD. Perhaps data from this longitudinal evaluation could provide a basis to create a framework for other Black rural development initiatives and add meaningful insight into Black rural development.



Committee Chair

Roberts, Frank R.



Available for download on Friday, January 12, 2029