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ExCEED graduate researcher accepts prestigious position in Scotland 

Elliot Meador made a promise to his wife of five years that someday they would fulfill her lifelong dream of living in Europe. Now that promise is a reality as the couple, along with their two young children, made the move from Columbia, Mo., to Edinburgh, Scotland on Nov. 4.

Meador, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, recently accepted a position at Scotland’s Rural College as a quantitative researcher in the college’s Rural Policy Center. In his position, Meador will use his quantitative research experience in projects at the Center, working alongside qualitative and mixed methods researchers to advise politicians on challenges affecting rural regions.  

He also hopes to strengthen the relationship between University of Missouri Extension’s ExCEED (Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Development) program and the University of Edinburgh, an existing relationship that paved the way for him to apply for the position at Scotland’s Rural College.

During his time as a student in the rural sociology department at the University of Missouri, Meador worked as a graduate research assistant for the ExCEED program. Program director Sharon Gulick formed a relationship with Scotland’s Rural College beginning in 2013. Since then, the two universities have exchanged ideas and learning strategies for rural community development through a series of quarterly webinars and potential research collaboration.

“Our hope is that with Elliot being employed by Scotland’s Rural College, we will have greater access to each other’s goals and interests in research and that his presence will further expand our opportunities for collaboration,” Gulick said.

Through his work with ExCEED, Meador learned skills that will transfer to his full time position, including how to measure project success, conduct evaluations, design methodologies to measure social and economic phenomena at the community level and report findings both to an academic and public audience.

“Undoubtedly, ExCEED is the best community development training program for students in the county,” Meador said. “What ExCEED offers is an intimate apprenticeship where you gradually take on real responsibilities and work with community members directly, and you aren’t shielded from some of the challenges facing communities. ExCEED has prepared me to excel in this new role as a researcher of economy and society in a prestigious position at Scotland’s Rural College.”

Meador also credits his success to the tight-knit cohort of graduate students working for ExCEED and faculty in the rural sociology department at the University of Missouri, he said.

“Elliot is one of the most talented and hard working students with whom I have had the pleasure of supervising,” said Meador’s academic advisor David O’Brien.  “Elliot is very bright, as are many of our students, and he has an exceptional ability to take risks in learning new and often difficult methodologies and approaches to research questions. He has an exceptional background in statistics and is quite comfortable working with and learning from other sociologists whose expertise falls more along the lines of qualitative methodologies.”

Meador, a native of Cleveland, Miss., developed an interest in sociology and community development as a profession while living in Mississippi among groups of people who are often misunderstood by the rest of the United States and negatively stereotyped, he said.

“The point of sociology is that you aren’t necessarily interested in the particular social phenomenon, but you’re interested in what caused it and if there is any room for change,” Meador said.

He graduated from Delta State University in 2010 as a Hearin Scholar with a master’s in community development. After completing his master’s, Meador worked for the Institute for Community-based Research, now housed at the University of Mississippi, where he learned to do quantitatively based program evaluation.            

Meador enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Missouri in 2011 in the department of rural sociology with an emphasis in applied statistics. He defended his dissertation, which focused on the impacts of social networks on community development programs, on Oct. 26 and will officially graduate in May. Meador hopes to continue his study of social networks in his position in Scotland.

Meador and his wife Brittany married in 2010 and have two children, Maddie (3) and Emerson (7 months). Brittany Meador is currently completing doctoral coursework in English education at the University of Missouri and taught high school English in Jefferson City, Mo. Brittany dreamed of living in Europe and sent her husband the link to apply for the job at Scotland’s Rural College, Elliot said.

“I didn’t set out to work in Europe, but my wife has a fascination with British literary history and it has been a lifelong dream of hers to live over there,” Meador said. “I told her that if she actually wanted to live that dream, I needed to get a Ph.D. in order to be hired anywhere in Europe. I always told her I would get her to Europe someday.”  

ExCEEDing expectations

Communities in Missouri have regained a voice at the local, regional and national level, through MU Extension's ExCEED program. As a nationally recognized, multi-disciplinary program focused on partnership with communities and regional collaboration across the state of Missouri, ExCEED enables the revitalization of economies through innovative engagement techniques designed to jumpstart community development.

Building resilience in Missouri communities

ExCEED ignites a sense of ownership and resilience within the community, enabling active participation representative of the whole community, during all phases of the process. The program encourages communities to analyze and synthesize their assets (rather than focusing on needs or shortcomings). In short, ExCEED fosters more informed citizenry and increases local community capacity for sustained development. By targeting activation of core community assets, ExCEED empowers Missouri communities to engage with funders, foundations and stakeholders — in pursuit of resilient economies.

At all phases of the engagement process, ExCEED works with communities, one-on-one, to discover the central vision articulated by the people on the ground — local citizens and neighbors — what we call "the well-springs of community knowledge and history." With respect for local context, ExCEED infuses concepts of economic sustainability and resilience into each community-based strategic visioning session and all action-planning workshops. Participants of these ExCEED workshops invest quality time into the long-term planning process; after all, project implementation takes place by community, for community while ExCEED remains dedicated to providing auxiliary support, tracking progress and celebrating transformative change triggered by local constituents.

Capturing the Show-Me spirit

The ExCEED program uses a grassroots community engagement model that emphasizes regional collaboration and cooperation, galvanizing citizens across county lines to rediscover Missouri's potential for renewal. The program's magnetic, bridge-building initiatives stoke momentum on the ground and animate the combined energies of local, regional and national stakeholders, strengthening economies across the greater Missouri area. ExCEED joins with communities just like yours — celebrating renewed "Show-Me" spirit across our region.

For more information on ExCEED's community-based efforts, please feel free to read the ExCEED 2013 Annual Report (PDF) and visit our Services page to learn more about our engagement techniques. We welcome your inquiries and hope to meet your community soon!