Project CENTRL (Center for Rural Leadership)

Research Year: 

Leaders of rural communities continue to seek solutions to complex problems such as rural urban interface, the management and use of natural resources, economic development, regional planning, and communicating information on key public policy issues. Now more than ever, it is apparent that rural and agricultural leaders must be more knowledgeable and better trained to meet the growing demands and challenges facing Arizona.

Description of Action: 

The Center for Rural Leadership (Project CENTRL) was developed by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension under a seed grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Its mission is “To assist highly motivated leaders improve and expand their leadership skills to become more effective and responsive in meeting the needs of rural people in public affairs." Toward this end, Project CENTRL is an intensive two-year educational program focused on developing the leadership and problem-solving skills needed for handling complex contemporary issues. The CENTRL experience includes six highly interactive seminars in Arizona, an international study tour in Sonora, Mexico, and a final national seminar in Washington D. C. An assigned internship project, which is designed to apply the leadership skills learned in Project CENTRL, is also an integral part to the CENTRL experience. The program creates a statewide network with over 500 graduates in communities throughout rural Arizona.


A comprehensive follow-up study to measure the effectiveness of the two year leadership program over the past 25 years served as an internship project for a recent graduate of CENTRL Class XIX. An alumni survey instrument was developed and distributed to 446 graduates of Class 1-18 with a 43.7 percent response rate that included representation from all previous classes.

  • Survey results indicated 98 percent of graduates rated their Project CENTRL experience as "Excellent" (77 percent) or "Above Average" (21 percent).  More importantly, over 80 percent of graduates indicated their understanding of rural issues "Increased greatly" after completing the two-year program.

  • A strong indicator of achieving CENTRL's vision of inspiring a life-long journey of leadership is the number of graduates who are serving in elected and appointed offices.  Two graduates were recently re-elected to the Arizona House of Representatives and one into the Arizona Senate.  A rancher and graduate of Class I who moved to South Dakota was recently re-elected to that state’s House of Representatives and also chairs their Appropriations Committee.  

  • A request in the 2010 Fall Edition of CENTRL Connections Newsletter to identify CENTRL Alumni serving in elected offices revealed a total of 34 currently serving as state legislators, county supervisors, mayors, city council members, school board members, constables or commissioners in communities throughout rural Arizona.  

  • In addition to these elected positions, a growing number of graduates are volunteering their time in a variety of other leadership roles. More than 200 alumni attended a CENTRL Regional Connection or "CRC" in 2010, greatly strengthening the Project CENTRL network in rural Arizona. The distinguished list of over 500 alumni and the evidence contained in the published 25-year follow-up study are strong indicators of Project CENTRL's growing level of civic engagement and lifelong legacy of leadership for rural Arizona.

Conact Name: 
Everett Rhodes
Contact E-mail: 
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