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College of Environment and Design

Melcher, Vick accepted into inaugural rural research cohort

Rural landscape

The College of Environment and Design at UGA is proud to announce that Professors Katherine Melcher and Alfie Vick have been accepted into the inaugural cohort of the Rural Engagement Faculty Workshop series sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President for Public Service and Outreach (PSO).  The initiative connects academic faculty with rural research interests to public service faculty with community connections throughout Georgia. 

Katherine Melcher’s proposed research will address how landscape architecture – predominantly an urban profession – can benefit people in rural areas.  She says, “Landscape interventions in rural communities appear to be mostly limited to high-end estate design or regional planning and preservation efforts. But I believe that skills and knowledge of landscape architects – such as their ability to analyze the physical environment from multiple perspectives, synthesize this knowledge, and develop creative proposals for functional and inspirational places – could be of use to communities in rural Georgia.”  Melcher plans to explore a deeper understanding of the needs of rural Georgians through surveys, interviews and focus groups with UGA PSO partners and citizen leaders to determine where community needs and landscape architecture overlap. 

Alfie Vick seeks to understand how the needs of rural communities can inform the design of publicly accessible greenspace.  “There is a general assumption that rural communities are surrounded by nature and therefore do not have the same need for public greenspace,” he says. “However, I suspect that many individuals in rural communities are in fact underserved by access to nature.”  Vick hypothesizes that while some citizens may have access to large swaths of private land, not all rural residents do, and woodland areas and large yards do not provide the same benefits as public gathering spaces do.  Vick plans to partner with Greg Huber (BLA ‘96, MLA ’20), Public Service Professional with UGA Extension at the UGA Griffin Campus, in order to access community participants in his research study. 

Read the full press release below.


UGA launches program to boost rural Georgia research  

Workshop, seed grants to give faculty chance to make impact across state  


Athens, Ga. – A new program at the University of Georgia will connect academic faculty who want to do research in parts of rural Georgia with existing UGA Public Service and Outreach and Extension networks throughout the state.  

Twenty academic faculty members, representing 12 of UGA’s 17 schools and colleges, are participants in the inaugural Rural Engagement Faculty Workshop, which kicked off Jan. 22 and will continue for four additional virtual sessions. The workshop will conclude April 30 with a visit to a rural community. The College of Public Health and the School of Social Work are partnering with Public Service and Outreach to deliver the program.    

Sessions will include an in-depth examination of rural Georgia’s demographics and trends; an overview of current UGA Public Service and Outreach and Extension initiatives benefiting rural Georgia communities, small businesses, farmers, governments and nonprofits; and a review of high-impact community engagement practices for rural Georgia.   

“The University of Georgia is committed to using our resources, including our research enterprise, to increase prosperity throughout the state,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “By raising our academic faculty’s awareness of rural communities and the university’s efforts within these vital areas, the Rural Engagement Faculty Workshops will create opportunities for faculty to grow research, innovation and entrepreneurship at UGA while contributing to the success of rural Georgia.”  

At the end of the workshop, 10 teams of academic and Public Service faculty will be awarded a $5,000 seed grant to pilot a rural engagement research initiative. The Office of Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost S. Jack Hu is supporting the seed grants with $50,000.  

“One of our key priorities is strengthening partnerships across the state,” said Hu. “Through this new workshop and seed grant program, we seek to greatly increase the number of faculty who apply their expertise to the pressing needs of individuals, businesses and communities.” 


Archway Partnership
College of Public Health
Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant
Public Service and Outreach
Rural Georgia
School of Social Work
UGA Cooperative Extension

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