Cultivating Black Leaders for Rural Communities: A Case Study of a Leadership Development Program at an 1890 Land-Grant Institution
Keywords:1890-Land-grant university, African American, black leaders, rural leadership
Rural leadership development has been a field with a long, varied history. Despite this, Black rural leadership development programs have been almost non-existent. 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 historically Black communities in Louisiana. Three themes emerged from our qualitative analysis: (1) sparking rural leadership, (2) challenges to new leadership approaches, and (3) rethinking rural renewal. As such, we 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 the benefits of networking at LEAD, an immense appreciation of not being forgotten, and being made aware of resources. Although participants reported they experienced growth in their leadership style and career because of participation, the extent of the growth varied substantially. The participants also reported that they devoted more time in their offices to work on grants and programming. Moving forward, we recommend a robust longitudinal evaluation of LEAD. Perhaps data from this study could provide a basis to create a framework for other Black rural development initiatives and add meaningful insight into this phenomenon.