GradImpact: Empowering Community to Kickstart Rural Recovery

    Sometimes a transformative moment in a graduate student’s career comes from the surprising intersection of the local and the global. A master’s student in international studies at North Carolina State University, Fatima Morys Barrios never expected to find parallels between her native Paraguay and Kinston, North Carolina. Through Rural Works!, a summer internship program connecting NC State students to rural North Carolina communities, Barrios discovered the commonalities between her home country and the rural communities around Raleigh, NC. “Paraguay’s…very similar to Kinston.” She said, “Our economy [in Paraguay] is based on agricultural products – we produce and export soybeans and corn and wheat and also beef.”


    Barrios’ impact on Rural Works! in Kinston was immediate. She launched “Kickstart Kinston” with funding from NC Rural Center’s Small Business Recovery Program as a resource to help local small businesses grow and modernize. Furthermore, she connected local small businesses to one another in a network of mutual support. “Let’s say business owners do not have a website. We connected them with a web developer here in Kinston. So you don’t have to go to Raleigh, and you don’t have to go to Greenville to do that.”


    Her community involvement went beyond “Kickstart Kinston,” however. Barrios worked with several local groups, including Kingston Economic Empowerment, where she organized an employment bootcamp for members of the community who had been incarcerated. She also worked on an oral history project for the African American Heritage Commission by interviewing senior citizens about their memories of Kinston.


    Her experience was transformative both professionally and personally. “It changed my career goals,” said Barrios. “I never considered economic development as a way of becoming a consultant or as a person that might work in the planning department of a city hall. But I realized I was really good at that.” Beyond her career, Barrios’ experience also changed the way she thought about the relationship between her work and those it impacted. “I wanted to learn from the people, to learn what they need,” she concluded. To learn more about Fatima, visit the North Carolina State University website.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.


    Photo Credit: Becky Kirkland

    The CGS GRADIMPACT project draws from member examples to tell the larger story of graduate education. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of graduate education not only to degree holders, but also to the communities where we live and work. Do you have a great story to share about the impact of master’s or doctoral education? Visit our WEBSITE for more information.


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