Posted: January 4, 2022

The Center for Economic and Community Development invites you to join us for the Spring 2022 “Stories from the Field” conversation series. Join us to hear from and talk with speakers Allyson Muth, Walt Whitmer, and Janelle Larson about their community engagement and applied research.

Each "Stories from the Field" session will be open and conversational. Speakers will share a bit about their work to springboard conversations with attendees about the practice of community engagement and applied research. We hope you’ll join us!

January 26: "Working at the Intersection of People and Forests"

allyson sftf.png Join us for a conversation with Allyson Muth, Director of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, about her approach to engaging private landowners in forest stewardship learning and decision-making.

Caring well for the forests of the eastern US means helping the people who own the land understand their options, outcomes of their decisions, as opposed to telling them the "best" solution for the land. While trained to be an "expert" forester, experiences in the field led me to question that model of interaction, instead seeking out strategies to facilitate learning and decision making, and helping landowners engage differently with their land and those who can help them with the process.

Allyson is the Director of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State and an Assistant Research Professor in Private Forests Management. The Center for Private Forests operates at the intersection of people and forests - working out of a deep understanding of the people who own and care for the woods, and using applied research to meet the needs and advance the understanding of landowners, partners, and other stakeholders.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 from 12:00-1:00pm via Zoom - Register to join Allyson's session via Zoom.

February 24: "The Water for Agriculture Project: Building the Evidence Base for Engagement Research and Practice"

walt sftf.pngJoin us for a conversation with Extension Educator Walt Whitmer about insights on community-led stakeholder engagement from the five-year "Water for Agriculture" project.

This session will discuss insights from the five-year USDA-NIFA funded Water for Agriculture project – a collaborative research and engagement project designed to expand the evidence base for the research and practice of community-led stakeholder engagement in water and agricultural contexts. We’ll also discuss some of the lessons learned from implementing these types of projects in ways that are adaptive and responsive to the emergent needs and priorities of the communities with whom we work.

Walt is a Senior Extension Associate with Penn State Extension responsible for statewide economic and community development, teaching, research, and educational programs. He brings thirty years of community and economic development experience to the project, and his areas of expertise include community engagement and public participation, economic development, community and organizational development, strategic planning, public policy education, conflict management, and program evaluation.

Thursday, February 24, 2022 from 12:00-1:00pm via Zoom - Register to join Walt's session via Zoom.

March 29: "Zawadi Connection: Penn State in Kenya"

janelle sftf.pngJoin us for a conversation with Janelle Larson, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State Berks, about her community engagement work with international partners in Kenya.

Penn State has been partnering with a program for vulnerable children and youth in Kenya, the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre, since 2009. Through this collaboration, students collaborate with staff at the Centre to develop programming focused on youth and enterprise development. Our goal is to facilitate learning and growth for all the young people involved.

Janelle is an Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State Berks. She has extensive experience in research and training focused on gender and development. For the past 12 years she has co-taught a course at PSU as part of an initiative to develop livelihood options for former street-dwelling youth in Kenya, in collaboration with an organization there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022 from 12:00-1:00pm via Zoom - Register to join Janelle's session via Zoom.

With questions about the Stories from the Field series, please contact Alyssa Gurklis ( or 814-863-3536).