Rural Communities Institute

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Rural Communities Institute

Established in 2002 and housed within the MSW Program at California University of Pennsylvania


Is to seek improvement in the quality of life in small towns and rural communities through program development, research and outcome assessment for planning and evaluating, professional continuing education programs, and technical assistance to human service providers.


Is to enhance the quality of human and social work service delivery provided in rural communities, with special attention to Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Rural Communities Institute is a vehicle for enhancing collaborative partnerships between social work academic and practice communities.

Program Objectives:

  1. To promote exemplary services by providing the knowledge, skills and resources of a collaboration of social work professionals with diverse skills and professional expertise to include program development, grant writing, evaluation, and data analysis.
  2. To partner in the identification and development of collaborations within Southwestern Pennsylvania's social and community support systems.
  3. To advance competence and knowledge of nonprofit boards, professional and volunteer staff by offering a spectrum of social work seminars and workshops within the community and provider agencies.
  4. To support program and community development by providing professional resources and coordinating the development processes through strategic assessment and evaluation.

Five Broad Service Categories of Services

Continuing Education and Training

RCI provides continuing education seminars and training institutes related to effective delivery of human services in non-metropolitan communities.

Program Planning and Evaluation

Faculty working in conjunction with the Institute provides assistance in the areas of program planning and evaluation.

Provision of Technical Assistance

RCI provides assistance in such areas as research, grant writing and organizational development.

Policy Development

From time to time, RCI will focus on an issue and resulting policy initiatives of relevance to Southwestern Pennsylvania and other rural communities.  Such topical research will result in periodic publications by the Institute for dissemination throughout the region.

Rural Aging

The institute works across the spectrum of service needs in the region but has a specific focus on aging because of the populations needs in Southwest Pennsylvania. The specific focus in this area is competency based education, research and continuing education. 

Contact Info

Dr. Norma D. Thomas, MSW Program Director, California University of Pennsylvania 724-938-1597;

Related Links

Social Work Department.