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
Syntia Santos Dietz, Ph.D., NCC
Syntia Santos Dietz receives AMEXCAN 2018 Community Leadership Award for Research Partnership
Counselor Education faculty member, Syntia Santos Dietz received the AMEXCAN 2018 Community Leadership Award for Research Partnership. The award was presented by the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN) for excellence and dedication to service to the Latino community of North Carolina. Congratulations, Syntia!

Learn More

Fadekemi Oyewusi
Visiting Scholar Profile: Dr. Fadekemi Oyewusi
Dr Fadekemi Oyewusi is an Associate Professor from the Centre for Educational Media Resource Studies,   Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. She is a specialist in school librarianship; and a Visiting Research Scholar and a Part-Time Instructor in the Library Science Program, Department of Interdisciplinary Professions in the College of Education. Her area of research is Bibliotherapy – book therapy or use of books for healing – which is employed in libraries by librarians with the intention to influence positive changes Continue reading →

Learn More

Kate Kehayes
Kehayes establishes Wellness Infusion Initiative at Wilson Community College
As the Educational Support Counselor in Student Development at Wilson Community College (WCC), Kate Kehayes connects students with the resources to support their academic and personal goals. Kehayes began working at WCC as an intern while completing her Masters in Counselor Education at ECU.  During her internship, Kehayes helped develop the Early Alert Referral System (EARS), which allows instructors to identify underperforming students for additional outreach by counselors.  Working with at-risk students helped Kehayes identify common challenges faced by community college students such as: transportation, Continue reading →

Learn More

Contact Us

For more information about our programs, please contact:

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