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Signature Areas

Students in our graduate program will develop conceptual expertise in rural sociology and in one or more of these four signature areas.

Agriculture & Food Systems

We examine social organization and change in agriculture and food systems in the U.S. and internationally. Our focus ranges from individual farmers and local farming communities to global institutions that intersect with agriculture and food systems.  Recent work has addressed food system inequalities, the role of science and technology in agriculture, regional supply chains and agricultural clusters, global agrifood restructuring, knowledge systems, and multifunctionality.

Community & International Development

We seek to provide new understanding of the social and economic well-being of people and their communities in rural and urban areas of the United States and in the Global South, especially as this is affected by development policy and regional context.  Regional specializations include Latin America and Africa. This work contributes to the Department's graduate program in Community and Economic Development, and undergraduate program in Community, Environment and Development.

Natural Resources & Environment

We explore the intersection of people, communities, and natural resources and how these relationships come together to address the social issues related to sustainability. Our focus is on land use, forests, water, soils, wildlife, and energy and the decisions societies make regarding their use. Applications of this research occur at the individual, community, state, national, and international levels.

Rural Social Demography

We develop and extend knowledge of population processes such as family formation, fertility, population health and (im)migration that contribute to change in both rural and urban areas of the US and the world. Recent emphases include rural youth outmigration, new patterns of immigration to rural areas of the US, consequences of HIV/AIDS on labor availability in Africa, and agricultural household labor decision-making processes.