By Kathleen Jarman, Research Associate
HEI is proud to spotlight our friends at the Education Design Lab’s Building Rural Innovation, Designing Educational Strategies (BRIDGES) program. In the spring of 2020, the Lab launched the BRIDGES initiative with support from Ascendium Education Group. BRIDGES is a multiyear project that aims to answer the question, “How might we strengthen the capacity of rural community colleges to serve as critical economic growth engines for their learners and communities?”
Five rural community colleges from across the country were selected to participate in the Lab’s design challenge. Each college assembled an institutional team to participate in the initiative and work in partnership with a broader cohort of rural community colleges. Using their human-centered design approach, the Lab has worked with the five partner institutions to support them as they designed and launched pilot programs aimed at better serving their rural communities. The innovative pilot programs included initiatives such as the College of Eastern Idaho’s “Construction Combines,” two-day events in which students have the opportunity to receive training in various construction skills and to demonstrate those skills to local employers, and Eastern Maine Community College’s “Destination YOU,” a free 8-week course designed to engage unemployed or underemployed learners by creating a triangle of support that includes education, employment, and community resources.
HEI has had the pleasure of supporting the Lab and the BRIDGES partner institutions with their program evaluation efforts. Throughout the evaluation process, HEI has seen the power of cohort learning. One of the most common themes from HEI’s annual interviews with BRIDGES institutions is the power of building a network of fellow rural community colleges. The institutions have learned with and from each other, sharing best practices and brainstorming innovative ideas for the future.
To see more on HEI’s previous work to support BRIDGES’ data visualization needs, check out THIS POST.