Facilitate partnerships that provide enhanced opportunities for students, from birth through high school, and their families in rural communities through research-driven continuous improvement.  These innovations address the whole child and create positive transformation in families, schools and communities.


ECU’s Rural Education Institute will be the clearinghouse for outcomes-based research and innovation gained through outreach with networks of partnerships at the local, national and international levels. Information and knowledge will be widely disseminated in order to benefit rural schools and communities and inform practice and policy.

Goals: Improve educational outcomes for rural schools and communities through:

  1. Developing and maintaining interdisciplinary school-university-community partnerships.
  2. Sharing resources/tools gained through networks with partners.
  3. Widely disseminating information/knowledge to inform practice and policy.


North Carolina has the 2nd highest number of rural students in the country - 568,161; roughly 40% of its overall percentage of public school students. Additionally, North Carolina has a student population that is poorer and more diverse than most other states (Showalter, Klein, Johnson, and Harman, 2017).

To help meet the needs of these students and their educators, the Rural Education Institute was established in 1982, with a grant to the College of Education from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The Rural Education Institute (REI) was developed to increase awareness of the unique strengths and needs of rural schools in eastern North Carolina. In 1984 the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated funds for ECU’s REI and established a counterpart at Western Carolina University. During this time, REI provided support in curriculum, management, organizational, personnel, technology, policy, and risk management audits for public school systems.

In July 2002, REI was reorganized to align the institute with several national organizations and universities that focus on rural education issues. With shifts in funding and priorities, REI focused support on the Clinical Teacher conferences and multiple outreach initiatives for middle school and/or high school students from the region.  These efforts were intended to strengthen the college’s  linical partners’ PK-12 educational opportunities and to recruit, prepare, and support teachers in rural eastern North Carolina (Davis, 2017). While this work continues, it is now being done under the Office of Educator Preparation. REI has recently been moved to the Dean’s office as a college-wide initiative. The Rural Education Institute is reinventing itself once again to best meet the current needs of our school-university-community partnerships through research and innovation.


Sanford Teacher Award
College News
The Rural Education Institute (REI) received $200,000 from Sanford Programs at National University
Sanford Philanthropy – The College of Education’s Rural Education Institute received $30,000 as initial seed money and $70,000 Direct pay from Sanford for travel to California for on-boarding and institutes, instructor pay, fees, and travel, and marketing and instruction design and materials support to offer Sanford Institute of Philanthropy training to all counties in Eastern NC in which our 43 school systems that are currently part of our Latham Clinical School Network reside. In addition to our school partners, REI will work to reach the Continue reading →

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Dr. Rhea Miles
Discoveries in Earth Science for Middle and High School Students with Blindness or Visual Impairment
Dr. Rhea Miles, associate professor in the Department of Math Science and Instructional Technology, was awarded $179,834.00 from the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation for the program Discoveries in Earth Science for Middle and High School Students with Blindness or Visual Impairment. The program Discoveries in Earth Science (DES) for 36 middle and high school students with blindness or visual impairments provides a unique opportunity for students in eastern North Carolina to learn earth science in a university setting. Student participants will develop skills for identifying and characterizing Continue reading →

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Adult Education Faculty Recognized at National Adult Education Conference
Several faculty members in the Adult Education program were recognized for their achievements at the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE)’s 67th Annual Conference, held October 2-5, 2018, in Myrtle Beach, SC. Dr. Christy Rhodes, Assistant Professor of Adult Education, was presented with the President’s Appreciation Award for her outstanding contributions to the association in 2018. Dr. Rhodes served as conference planning chair in both 2017 and 2018, and has been active on the AAACE Board of Directors during that time, as well, Continue reading →

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Contact Us

For more information about our programs, please contact:

Kristen Cuthrell, Ed.D.
Professor and Interim Director
1008-A Bate Building