2022 Summit Keynote

Living in the Middle of Everywhere: Resident Recruitment in Rural America

Ben Winchester is an expert in community economics and serves as an educator for the University of Minnesota Extension. Ben’s passion and knowledge of building thriving rural communities will kick off the 2022 MREA Greater Education Summit.


A little about Ben


Ben has worked in and for small towns across the Midwest since 1997 — with a focus on his home state of Minnesota. Before joining Extension, Ben was on staff with the Center for Small Towns at

the University of Minnesota-Morris. He joined the Extension Center for Community Vitality in 2008. As rural sociology and evaluation educator for the center, Ben manages evaluation studies that monitor the effectiveness and outcomes of leadership, civic engagement, tourism, resident recruitment, and community economics programs for center activities. Ben also conducts research on topics relevant to community vitality.

What does this mean for your school district? Ben is currently documenting a rural “brain gain” — the trend of 30-49 year-olds moving to rural areas — to identify the social and economic opportunities of this migration. He is also analyzing rural community leadership, especially as it affects community-wide requirements to support the public sector to “keep the town running” and keep rural schools strong.

Hear Winchester and other great leaders at MREA’s Greater Education Summit November 13 – 15 at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake.

Register for the Summit 

Winchester Affiliations, Honors, Community Service

  • Award: Minnesota Association of Community and Leadership Education Professionals, Excellence in Research, 2012
  • Member: Community Development Society, Rural Sociological Society, Minnesota Evaluation Association
  • Award: Community Development Society, Current Research Award, 2017
  • Award: Oklahoma State University, National Rural Renewal Research Prize, 2021

Winchester Research and Publications