The Rural Leadership Fellowship is a paid and scholarship-supported applied learning experience for students interested in rural economic development and public sector careers. Student fellows will be mentored by an Advisory Committee of experienced leaders in planning and executing a project in the U.P. that has been identified as a community economic development priority. The program is a public-private partnership with InvestUP, a non-profit economic development organization supported by the region’s major employers to drive prosperity across the U.P. It is funded by a rural capacity-building investment supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
At least three fellowships will be awarded annually through a competitive application process. Selected student fellows will receive a 100% tuition and fee scholarship as part of their financial aid package for the duration of the fellowship, which will include the Winter, Summer, and Fall 2024 semesters for the first cohort of the program. Student fellows will also receive a stipend up to $15,000* to assist with living expenses. The program is focused on graduate student fellows enrolled in the Masters in Public Administration and Masters in Business programs, but undergraduate students are eligible to apply and may be selected on a case-by-case basis.
As underscored in its Interim Strategic Plan’s “Rural Roots” focus area, NMU’s role as a rural-serving institution is critical to advancing the U.P.’s economy, including the acquired skills and experiences that students and alumni contribute as professionals, volunteers, and leaders in their communities.
This program will achieve several strategies designed to “serve rural communities by providing … economic models, workforce talent, and continuing education opportunities that specifically support rural communities,” including the following outcomes:
- Student fellows acquire real-world experience in developing and executing economic development projects of regional import
- Rural U.P. communities are supported in advancing key economic development priorities
- Student fellows grow professional networks and advance opportunities for placement in important public-serving roles in the U.P.
- NMU and InvestUP create a public-private partnership model for applied learning to support students with public service and economic development career aspirations while also improving the quality of life for U.P. residents
*The $15,000 stipend is taxable and not part of the student’s financial aid package. It will be distributed to student fellows who continue to complete the program requirements and remain in good academic standing in three (3) $5,000 installments as follows: (1) No later than 15 days after the start of the Winter, 2024 Semester; (2) No later than 15 days after the start of the Summer, 2024 Semester; and (3) upon final completion of the project during the Fall, 2024 Semester.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What are the academic requirements for participation in the Rural Leadership Fellowship program?
- Graduate Students: Maximum of 12 credits per semester | Minimum of 3 credits per semester for a directed study, internship course, or seminar course with learning outcomes assigned to the fellow’s assigned project.
- Undergraduate Students: Maximum of 16 credits per semester | Minimum of 4 credits per semester for a directed study, internship course, or seminar course with learning outcomes assigned to the fellow’s assigned project.
- How are the economic development/community projects being selected?
- NMU and InvestUP are issuing a public request for proposals to Upper Peninsula communities and economic development organizations. These proposals will be evaluated and selected by the Advisory Committee.
- The NMU Student Fellow Selection Committee and InvestUP will work together to align selected student fellows with selected projects.
- Will student fellows be required to relocate to the community in which their fellowship project is located?
- No – Student fellows will be required to participate alongside community project leaders and mentors for certain meetings and events, but they will not be required to relocate.
- What is the Advisory Committee and how will it work with the students?
- The Advisory Committee is a group of volunteer economic development professionals who are highly regarded in their field, many of whom are NMU alumni and/or current or former Upper Peninsula residents. Each member of the Advisory Committee has a special connection to NMU and/or the Upper Peninsula.
- Members of the Advisory Committee will become acquainted with student fellows at the beginning of their project journey. In addition to project supervisors /mentors and the faculty advisor, the Advisory Committee will serve as a resource to student fellows regarding project questions, economic development program expertise, and additional networking connections on an as-needed basis.
- How much time will student fellows be expected to work on their assigned fellowship project?
- Approximately 15-20 hours per week
- Will the student fellows be required to work on their assigned project through the summer semester?
- Likely, yes. The project RFP is intended to garner proposals of meaningful economic development significance and are intended to align with a year-long fellowship program. At a minimum, student fellows should expect to enroll in one directed study course during the Summer Semester, which will be 100% covered as part of the tuition and fee scholarship. Summer participation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, pending the result of project submissions.
- Depending on the nature of community economic development project proposals received, the Advisory Committee may consider pairing separate proposals together. In this scenario, it may be possible for a student fellow to be paired with two smaller projects, one for the Winter Semester and one for the Fall semester.
- Are students who complete the fellowship program eligible to apply for potential future cohorts?
Northern Michigan University, in partnership with InvestUP, is sponsoring eligible students to participate in Upper Peninsula community economic development projects for a period of one calendar year, starting with the placement of the first cohort of (3) students beginning in the Winter Semester (January) of 2024 and concluding at the end of the 2024 Fall Semester (December). Selected students will receive a 100% tuition scholarship for enrolled classes during the fellowship along with a stipend up to $15,000 to assist with living expenses.
Communities across the Upper Peninsula’s 15 counties have goals and aspirations requiring community and economic development or local government capacity. Many communities have dedicated staff for economic development programs or are linked with a local economic development organization (EDO). Many communities rely on multi-tasking staff or considerable volunteer effort.
Through considerable conversation with U.P. communities, our partnership has found that nearly every region in the Upper Peninsula is seeking additional capacity to expand economic development programming. Through the Rural Leadership Fellowship Program, students at Northern Michigan University will have the unique opportunity to gain meaningful hands-on economic development experience on a project of regional import. Student fellows will be supported by an advisory committee of volunteer professionals who are highly regarded in their field, providing additional opportunity for both project and career mentorship and networking, which may lead to a career path in U.P. economic development or local government. Retaining the next generation of community leaders is a primary objective of this program, which seeks to provide student fellows with practical exposure to issues and opportunities facing rural community development in the Upper Peninsula.
Expression of Interest
We seek expressions of interest from any U.P. unit of government or Economic Development Organization (or a partnership of both) regarding a current or future economic development project or opportunity that may serve as a capstone project for a student fellow. Responding institutions will be responsible for close and ongoing coordination with student fellows and her/his faculty mentor to develop a project objective, scope of work, proposed milestones, and cooperation regarding academic reporting requirements.
A total of three Qualifying Projects will be selected for the program. The Rural Leadership Fellowship Program Advisory Committee will assist faculty mentors in assigning projects to each of the three selected student fellows based on his/her interest. Once the student fellow is placed, the mentor group will serve as a standby resource for the student, faculty mentor, and the community for the duration of the fellowship.
The Advisory Committee will select “Qualifying Projects” for student selection from the responses to this Expression of Interest:
The Advisory Committee will select projects based on the overall quality of experience for the student fellows. Please note: This program is not a part-time staffing solution to assist with general office or clerical duties. An objective of the program is to achieve geographic diversity for selected projects. While projects will be selected based on a variety of factors, including the overall quality of experience for the student fellows, the Advisory Committee will strive to achieve geographic balance, where practical.
The Advisory Committee has set out the following objectives for reviewing projects:
- Respondent must provide evidence of a project of importance to the community where additional capacity is needed
- Respondents must demonstrate that it has the capacity to work directly with the student fellow and faculty mentor on the project.
- Respondents must demonstrate that the student fellow will be given meaningful responsibility for some aspect of the project they will be working on.
- Respondents must demonstrate that the student will have access to materials and resources required for the project.
- Respondents must demonstrate that the student will be exposed to proceedings and meetings of decision makers in the community (e.g., City Council meetings, Planning Commission Meetings, meetings regarding project funding opportunities, etc.)
In addition to the above, respondents acknowledge that this program seeks to provide students with exceptional applied learning opportunities while serving to advance a meaningful Upper Peninsula community economic development project for the duration of their fellowship. Respondents commit to supporting the student fellow through an onboarding process and continued mentorship and evaluation in partnership with NMU, InvestUP, and the Advisory Committee. At the completion of the fellowship, respondents commit to providing feedback to the program.
The Advisory Committee understands that respondents may have projects already underway that require assistance and that those projects may take longer to complete than the duration of the student fellowship. This will not be an issue for project review.
A few example projects below may help respondents frame their expressions of interest:
- A community wishes to revise its community master plan, but requires capacity assistance with research, writing, and holding public input meetings.
- Multiple communities are interested in collaborating to pursue a regional economic development opportunity and assistance is needed to help formulate goals, objectives, and a consensus charter.
- A county land bank is seeking opportunities to implement the use of new housing tax incentives and requires assistance with program development and tax incentive modeling.
- A city or village may wish to pursue state grant opportunities for downtown redevelopment or outdoor recreational facilities and requires assistance writing various pieces of the narrative for grant applications and presentations.
Community Development Director, City of Ironwood
External Affairs Manager, Eagle Mine
Retired CEO - The Right Place, Inc. Co-Founder and executive chair - New Community Transformation Fund
Director, Michigan Office of Rural Development
Chief Operating & Customer Experience Officer, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
President, Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation
Technology Activation Director, Office of Future Mobility and Electrification
Glenn Stevens Jr.
V.P., Detroit Regional Chamber | Executive Director, MICHauto
Economic Development Manager, Consumers Energy
Manager, Community Development Incentives, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
The Rural Leadership Fellowship is a Program in partnership with InvestUP and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.