Tech’s Rural Reimagined initiative awards grants

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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Tennessee Tech University’s Rural Reimagined initiative recently awarded more than $144,000 in grants for faculty research as part of its mission to support the success of Tennessee’s rural areas.

Faculty-led research projects funded by Rural Reimagined include a $25,000 grant to help the Cookeville-based Hope Springs Urgent Care Mental Health Clinic market its services and increase awareness of mental health care options throughout the Upper Cumberland, a $21,598 grant to assist Tech faculty working alongside local anti-drug coalitions to conduct community-based adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) training reducing and preventing substance misuse in the region, a $6,620 grant to support the development of free games and apps promoting STEM education in local schools, and an $8,907 grant to study rural mothers’ birthing experiences and postpartum health, among other research.

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Research proposals were judged on the significance of their rural impact, as well as their plan of action, involvement of students and dissemination of results.

“Every dollar invested into Rural Reimagined is a dollar that is multiplied to support quality of life, economic development, and, ultimately, meaningful transformation in rural communities across our state,” said Tech President Phil Oldham. “This faculty-led research is another way that Rural Reimagined brings the full capabilities of Tennessee Tech to bear in creating opportunity for rural Tennesseans and spurring renewed development in communities that need our support.”

Rural Reimagined began in 2019, growing out of the university’s Tech Tomorrow strategic plan, which called for a grand challenge that would leverage the unique assets of the university to support thriving rural communities. Today, Rural Reimagined has a presence in roughly 60 of Tennessee’s 76 rural counties and has helped more than 125 small businesses over the past year. The initiative is also engaged in eight ongoing local tourism projects.

“Whether we’re working with a person that is starting their business or working with a state or federal department, we are passionate about what we do because it impacts the residents and citizens of our great state and our rural areas,” explained Michael Aikens, director of the Center for Rural Innovation at Tech and administrative chair of Rural Reimagined. “Everything we do comes at no cost to the businesses and communities we help, and we directly see the benefits.”

Added Aikens, “We’re making investments into the community – those investments are dollars but more importantly they are investments of time and collaboration. We know that when the community does good, Tech does good.”

With faculty research grants funded, Rural Reimagined is now looking ahead to the future – including Tech’s Apr. 15 Eagle Works trade show and competition.

Now in its 10th year, Eagle Works allows Tech students to present business ideas to a team of judges in a Shark Tank-style innovation and entrepreneurship competition. The business plan with the greatest potential to positively impact rural communities receives the Rural Reimagined Award. Additionally, more than $20,000 in scholarships will be awarded. Submissions for the competition will be accepted from March 24 through March 29.

Learn more about Rural Reimagined at

Learn more about Eagle Works at