The Rural RISE (Rural Initiatives Supporting Excellence)

University-Rural K-12 Collaboration Programs for College and Career Readiness for Rural Students

  • Matthew A. Ohlson University of North Florida
  • Shane C. Shope Morehead State University
  • Jerry D. Johnson Kansas State University
Keywords: Rural Initiatives; University-Rural K12 Collaboration; College and Career Readiness


Faculty from two universities in Florida and Ohio designed, developed and implemented programs to work with youth from their respective service regions to support college and career readiness initiatives. Both programs were directed by university faculty and utilized university resources to support K-12 students’ career development skills. In this paper, we examine the programs’ design, implementation, and results, including feedback from students, school personnel and local stakeholders. Attentive to results and the relevant literature, we hope to ignite a long-term discussion on how universities can create effective outreach programs that help support transitions from high school to college or directly into a career. 


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Author Biographies

Matthew A. Ohlson, University of North Florida

Matthew Ohlson has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida. He also received comprehensive leadership training from the New York City Leadership Academy and The Schlechty/Hohmann Principals Academy. His K-12 experience includes roles as a 15-year teacher and school leader in the Boston Public Schools and the Florida Global School. In higher education, Dr. Ohlson served as a clinical instructor at the University of Florida, Director of the nationally recognized C.A.M.P.  mentoring program and leadership facilitator at the Lastinger Center for Learning. Matthew has also conducted, comprehensive program evaluation for state agencies and helped to develop the new Florida Education Leadership Exam (FELE). Most recently, he served as an educational consultant with the Florida Department of Education, training educators and leaders throughout the state as they transition to the new curriculum standards.

Shane C. Shope, Morehead State University

Shane Shope is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Program at Morehead State University. Shope earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Ohio University and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum from Miami University. Dr. Shope has over 26 years of experience in K-12 and Higher Education settings, including serving as a high school teacher and district level administrator. Shope has worked as an educational consultant nationally and in the Middle East. His research has focused on College and Career Readiness, school transitions, rural leadership models, social justice issues and community capacity building. He has numerous peer-reviewed publications and presentations, including Career Ready: Are You, Addressing Challenges to Postsecondary Transitions K12/Higher Education Collaboration, The Essential 3: University Partnership to Meet the Professional Learning Needs of Rural Schools, Rural Specific Concerns and Strategies in the Budgeting Process and Demographic Changes in Rural America and the Implications for Special Education Programming. He also co-authored the book, Thriving in High School and Beyond: Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development. Shope has traveled extensively throughout the United States, delivering numerous presentations and workshops on community asset mapping and career readiness initiatives. Dr. Shope worked in coordination with the Public Education Evaluation Commission for the Ministry of Education for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and served as a researcher for the Regional Education Lab for Appalachia.

Jerry D. Johnson, Kansas State University

Dr. Jerry Johnson is Professor of Educational Leadership and Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Research, Innovation, and Practice in Rural Education. The author of more than 50 publications with 1200+ citations, his research has been supported by external funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences, state departments of education, private foundations, and local school districts. Johnson’s work has been cited in state school finance litigation and legislation, and he has testified before state legislatures, presented research briefings on Capitol Hill, and contributed to the development of state and federal legislation and regulations regarding the funding and operation of public schools and the preparation of teachers and leaders. Current leadership roles in professional organizations include Associate Editor of the Journal of Research in Rural Education, Advisory Board Member for the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, President for the Florida Association of Professors of Educational Leadership, and Editorial Advisor to the journal Education Leadership Review – Doctoral Research. A former English teacher and high school principal, he has taught in educational leadership programs for 15 years and served from 2003-2008 as policy research director for the Rural School and Community Trust, a national non-profit organization addressing the crucial relationship between good schools and thriving communities. In addition to his work in the U.S., Dr. Johnson consults regularly with universities and ministries of education in the Middle East on leadership development and higher education reform initiatives.

How to Cite
Ohlson, M. A., Shope, S. C., & Johnson, J. D. (2020). The Rural RISE (Rural Initiatives Supporting Excellence). The Rural Educator, 41(1), 27-39.
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