Arlington and Arlene Seymour Center for Rural Education

Honoring its roots as a normal, or teaching, school, Western Illinois University established the Arlington & Arlene Seymour Center for Rural Education for Advocacy, Policy, and Research. The Center for Rural Education (CRE) provides a unique opportunity to serve an area of education far too long overlooked: rural educational settings, which have all too often taken a back seat to issues concerning urban and suburban contexts in advocacy, policy, and research.
The opening of the CRE makes it the only “rural education center” with a sole focus on the topic in the state of Illinois. The Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools (AIRSS) is proud to have cultivated a stronger partnership with WIU in recent years, and the opening of the CRE signifies the next step forward in this collaborative partnership to support schools and uplift education state-wide.

The Center for Rural Education is made possible through the generosity of Arlington and Arlene Seymour, who outlined the creation of the CRE in their estate. The Seymours were lifelong educators, having taught in K12 classrooms around the country for a combined nearly 70 years before retiring in Macomb, IL. Mr. Seymour, a WIU Class of 1953 graduate, had fond memories of his alma mater, and wanted to do what he could in the memory of his late wife to continue the tradition of strong educator preparation at the University, remarking: “We felt that Western provided a personal association for what we wanted to do with our estate for the immediate and long-term future.” After the passing of Mr. Seymour earlier this year, his and his wife’s vision for supporting the growth of young rural teachers was realized as funds from their estate were invested into the Center.

Although Western Illinois University serves a specific geographic area covering the west central part of the state, the CRE is a truly a state-wide actor, and signals WIU’s commitment to strong schools and teachers everywhere. Specifically, the CRE aspires to:

  1. Expand rural teacher applicants through the Great River Teacher Corps
  2. Support rural teachers, schools, and school districts
  3. Develop a network of rural educators and leaders
  4. Research rural schools and rural education issues
  5. Advocate for rural schools and education on a local, state and national level

AIRSS is thrilled to join in supporting the future growth and success of the CRE as a research and advocacy partner, working with WIU and CRE faculty and staff to be the unified Voice for rural education across the state. Already, AIRSS and the CRE have worked together to launch a number of rural education projects, including the Rural Illinois Career & Technical Education Grant and the rural MAT Residency program.

Learn more on WIU’s website.


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