Teaching & Learning

USU Extension Remote Work Program Receives Award for Excellence in Community Development

By Shelby Ruud Jarman |

A Utah State University Extension program designed to prepare rural residents for remote work opportunities recently received a national award for excellence in community development programming.

The Rural Online Initiative was created by USU Extension in 2018. Under this program, USU Extension developed the Certified Remote Work Professional course, aimed at preparing rural residents for remote work opportunities. In addition, the Certified Remote Work Leader course was also created to teach business leaders the skills and best practices for managing remote employees.

Through these courses, the ROI program works to increase the demand for remote jobs among rural residents and increase the supply of remote jobs among businesses in urban areas.

The CRWP course has enrolled 2,178 participants, and the CRWL course has enrolled 220 participants since the creation of the ROI program.

This program allows communities to provide ongoing education, use existing talent and infrastructure, and strengthen county economic bases without requiring residents or businesses to relocate, according to Paul Hill, USU Extension professor and ROI program director.

“The ROI program takes an innovative approach to the community and economic development of rural communities,” he said. “It is a unique way to reduce unemployment, diversify economies, reach diverse populations, support clean air quality and increase median incomes throughout rural Utah.”

The ROI program was recently honored by the National Association of Community Development of Extension Professionals with their 2023 Award for Excellence in Community Development Work.

“Recognition from our national association is meaningful because it validates our program's unwavering dedication to training rural residents and fostering economic growth through remote work opportunities,” Hill said.

Hill also said that the support from USU Extension administration, rural county commissioners, legislators, partners and stakeholders has been instrumental in championing and advancing the ROI program over the past five years.

“Their dedication and vision have allowed us to empower rural residents, change communities and create a brighter future for rural Utah,” he said. “Together, we have shown how innovation and collaboration can truly make a difference.”

Remote Online Initiative team members include Abbey Bean, Amanda Ali, Annette Mutenyo Saxton, Becky Newman, Dominic Bria, Emy Swadley, Eric Aikens, Genesis Schaerrer, Jacob Webb, Jake Marino, Jordan Leonard, Katie Christensen, Kaylee Hanks, Marta Nielsen, Mike Sarles, Paul Hill, and Trenton Willson.

For more information about the Remote Online Initiative, visit https://extension.usu.edu/remoteworkcertificate/.


Shelby Ruud Jarman
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences


Paul Hill
Extension, Washington County

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