Center for Small Towns News and Events


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picture of Saesun Kim

Alumni Spotlight: Saesun Kim ‘15

As an international student, Saesun Kim '15 was first drawn to the University of Minnesota Morris for its affordability, and soon found his people, place, and purpose here.


Past Symposiums

Understanding Rural Migration: Myths, Trends, and Opportunities Exposed

June 4-5, 2014

The 2014 symposium sought to broaden and change elements of the current rural narrative by listening to the stories and myths told about rural areas and small-town migration and evaluating trends in rural migration. This symposium contributed to the creation of the Midwest Rural Migration Network and Resources, and featured a variety of discussions, presentations, and speakers on topics such as newcomers and the youth voice.

Rural Arts and Culture Summit

June 2013

In 2013 the Center for Small Towns partnered with Springboard for the Arts to host the Rural Arts and Culture Summit. The event brought rural developers and artists to improve and revitalize small towns throughout the country. 

Reigniting Community Leadership: Being Bold in the Face of Change

June 14, 2012

The 2012 symposium, and companion event, the Leadership Chautauqua, focused on the challenges and opportunities in rural leadership development. The symposium included a variety of presentations and panels as well as featured speaker, facilitator, and rural development expert Luther Snow. The symposium also featured a panel on positive practices in talking about rural places, and engaged participants in a series of breakout sessions and conversations surrounding small towns. The symposium encouraged attendees to think about their place in the changing landscapes of small towns, and developing their own leadership skills.

Finding Solutions and Redefining Communities

June 9-10, 2010

The 2010 symposium sought to engage the shared ingenuity and optimism of participants on issues of leadership, capacity building, and practical improvements for small communities in Minnesota. There was a diverse array of speakers and panelists, including gubernatorial candidates, the Minnesota State Director for USDA Rural Development, a featured panel of success stories, and a variety of breakout sessions to engage conversation amongst participants. The symposium attempted to strengthen rural-urban connections to create a thriving Minnesota for all.

The Power of Small: Building Solutions for Energy Self-Reliance

June 3-4, 2008

The 2008 symposium focused on learning about and exploring the social, economic, environmental, and political factors that surround small scale food, fuel, and power systems for schools and local governments. The symposium endeavored to provide solutions for colleges/universities, K-12 schools, and local governments. The symposium also created avenues for participants to network, mentor, and seek new educational opportunities.

Leveraging Resources to Improve Schools and Communities

June 5-6, 2007

The 2007 symposium focused on the relationships between rural communities and schools and identifying the resources needed during challenging times. The relationship between schools and rural communities has always been an important one, and the symposium endeavored to better understand, discuss, and analyze that relationship. Participants were encouraged to consider the ways that we learn, how the roles and structure of learning institutions are changing, and how schools can help communities while still meeting their academic missions. The symposium highlighted a number of keynote speakers and engaged a wide variety of participants.

Working Better Together for the Common Good

June 6-7, 2006

The 2006 symposium and MN Rural Summit marked the declaration of June 6, 2006 as Celebrate Small Towns Day, as announced by Governor Tim Pawlenty. The symposium brought together community leaders from across the state to learn from one another and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of small towns in Minnesota. Participants discussed and learned about the economic, cultural, and educational contributions that originate from small towns, as well as coming together to create ideas on the theme of “working better together for the common good.”

Shaping Our Future

June 7-8, 2005

The 2005 symposium featured opportunities to learn about and discuss the current political framework surrounding small towns. Participants worked to identify future trends and conditions of rural places and celebrate small towns and rural living. The symposium welcomed a group of rural residents, professionals, organizers, elected officials, and other interested members of small towns to join in the two day run of activities. The symposium included a bill of topical speakers, discussions, breakout sessions, and activities that highlighted and explored the unique issues facing small towns.

Rural Communities Adapting to the New Century

June 8-9, 2004

The 2004 symposium focused on the unique qualities of small towns and rural areas. The two day symposium featured individuals taking responsibility for creating positive change in communities. Throughout the symposium participants discussed and learned about how rural communities are adapting to current challenges and how the current political framework can be changed to better support small towns. Community projects and their leaders were showcased, creating an environment where rural living was celebrated.

Rural Minnesota and a Century of Change

June 10-11, 2003

The 2003 symposium brought together leaders from across Minnesota to examine, describe, and discuss the changes witnessed by small towns in Minnesota between 1900 and 2000. The symposium’s target audience included K-12 education personnel; economic development specialists; city and county personnel such as planners, managers and council members; Extension educators; rural development organizations; and citizen action groups. The session topics were diverse and broad, delving into everything from population to politics. The final session brought together a variety of speakers from throughout the symposium to discuss future research needs of small towns.