Extension at N.C. A&T’s Eley Named First SRDC 1890 Fellow


Michelle Eley, Ph.D., community and economic development specialist with Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, addresses attendees at a 2023 Small Farms Week event.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 5, 2024) – Michelle Eley, Ph.D., community and economic development specialist with Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has been named the first 1890 Fellow of the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC).

As an 1890 Fellow, Eley provides guidance on existing and new project developments to ensure they are relevant to the interests, needs and assets of 1890 land-grant institutions. She will contribute to research reports and assist in developing and delivering educational and Extension training materials.

Additionally, Eley works to identify opportunities for mentoring and teaching students from 1890 universities, participate in SRDC’s Board and Technical Operating and Advisory Committee meetings, and support coordination, growth, direction and development of the SRDC’s Plan of Work.

“I’m honored to accept this opportunity from SRDC,” said Eley. “This is a chance to make an impact and help all of our 1890 institutions address critical issues that impact the well-being of people and communities in the rural south. This puts N.C. A&T and Extension at A&T in a leadership role in the center’s efforts to build community partnerships and deliver high-priority, high-impact programs.”

The SRDC, hosted at Mississippi State University, receives base support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA). It seeks to strengthen the capacity of the region's 30 land-grant institutions to address critical contemporary rural development issues.

As community and economic development specialist with Extension, Eley develops, implements and evaluates programs aimed at strengthening rural underserved communities that are challenged by poverty, a lack of community services and limited access to information on how to build the capacity of their farms and communities.

She has secured more than $2 million in external funding to support her programs and expand the reach of Extension at A&T in underserved communities. Among her recent funded projects is Youth Stepping Forward, funded through the National 4-H Council, which teaches youth in six underserved counties the decision making and problem solving skills they need to address the issues their communities face.

Eley plays a lead role in Extension’s yearly Grassroots Leadership Conference, a one-day event that brings together local community leaders, Extension staff and government officials to discuss local issues and develop strategies for positive change.

She is also part of a national team of Extension professionals involved in the program Coming Together for Racial Understanding, which received the 2021 National Extension Diversity Award. The team includes Extension professionals from 22 land-grant universities in 17 states and other organizations. Team members train facilitators who then guide community dialogue on topics related to race. The program seeks to build a nationwide team of facilitators who can help communities engage in civil dialogues on racial issues. Extension at A&T has been a strong supporter of the program and has so far trained 43 Extension staff and six community-based leaders in 23 counties as facilitators.

“We are lucky to have a professional like Michelle Eley out in our communities working hard and putting a positive face on this university and Cooperative Extension,” said Extension Director and Associate College of Agriculture and Environmental Services Dean M. Ray McKinnie, Ph.D. “She will be a strong addition to the SRDC leadership team, and I look forward to her accomplishments there.”

Eley began her duties as an SRDC Fellow this fall.

Media Contact Information: llbernhardt@ncat.edu

All News, College News, Headlines