SRDC team receives national diversity award

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

By Nathan Gregory
MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. — A team led by a Mississippi State University unit has been recognized on the national level for its contributions to race relations.

The Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) project received the 2021 National Diversity in Extension Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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CTRU is a team of Extension specialists and administrators from 22 land-grant universities from 17 states coordinated by the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) at MSU. The team helped train facilitators who guided community dialogues across the country focused on race-related issues.

The program was established in 2016 by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy with the intent of growing a community of Extension professionals capable of facilitating dialogues on race relations.

The CTRU curriculum has four phases: a train-the-trainer workshop that equips teams to launch the initiative in their own states; a Cooperative Extension Service capacity building phase for state teams to recruit and train more participants; a community selection phase to identify locations for dialogues; and a dialogue phase when teams work in their communities to facilitate local race relations discussions.

SRDC Associate Director Rachel Welborn said the effort involved 29 states sending teams for national training, with more than 100 participants completing train-the-trainer workshops. These participants have led more than 900 Cooperative Extension System staff members through training sessions at the state level.

“Coming Together for Racial Understanding is a dialogue-to-change process for communities seeking new pathways for working together across racial/ethnic lines that seeks to foster understanding and build trust in order to take informed collective action for meaningful change,” Welborn said. “Investing ourselves in the important task of trust building through dialogues is essential for meaningful change.”

MSU Extension Director Gary Jackson said advancing efforts to foster positive change is one of many activities of the SRDC that make it a vital partner of MSU Extension.

“I applaud this team for its dedication and hard work as it works with Extension specialists in many other states to provide training for this important curriculum,” Jackson said. “Opportunities to assist, teach and encourage people to work together, for common and positive outcomes, will be a great benefit for everyone.”

More information is available about the SRDC at