Geoff and Sky Marietta, local business owners and employees at University of the Cumberlands, have written a book entitled Rural Education in America: What Works for Our Students, Teachers, and Communities. The book is under production with Harvard Ed Press and should be available for pre-order in July.

Sky Marietta grew up in Appalachian Kentucky before attending college at Yale, and Geoff was born on the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota, completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Montana.  Both earned graduate degrees from Harvard.

Rural Education in America not only challenges the presumptions about the bedrock of rural America — its education system and the children it serves — but it also presents a framework to understand the complexity of rural education in America.

The book asserts that “rural” is not a simple term splitting a geographic area into clearly-defined, separate camps, but rather a complex situation which is unique to individual communities. Along that vein, unique struggles call for individual solutions. An area’s educational system is an integral component of initiating positive solutions, but in order for changes to take lasting effect in an area, educational systems have to get creative. There must be instruction, interventions, and programs which address the needs and strengths of each individual rural community, rather than one overarching solution which attempts to “fix” many areas at once. The efforts that have the highest chance of succeeding are those which are place-based, responsive to the current economic needs, and promote collaboration beyond the school walls.

The Mariettas argue that rural communities have value, and solutions should fit the sociocultural and historical reality of the community, rather than proposing strategies that fundamentally support out-migration. They show how rural communities have been left out of the dialogue on educational policy and improvement over the last decades. Throughout the book, they integrate their own experiences growing up, working, and raising their family in rural communities as well as 15 years of unpublished research they conducted across rural America.  In doing so, they uncover the vitality of rural communities and schools, and how they support the success of their children.

Faculty and staff at University of the Cumberlands have conducted research in more than 200 professional organizations. In line with the University’s mission, Cumberlands encourages the campus community to continually pursue excellence outside the classroom through ongoing education in their fields of interest and participating in opportunities that serve their local communities.

Geoff and Sky met while teaching on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico prior to pursuing degrees at Harvard. Geoff is the founder and CEO of Mountain Tech Media, a diversified front-end digital media company based in Eastern Kentucky, and Trillium Ventures, a community development real estate company. He is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at University of the Cumberlands. Sky is an Assistant Professor at the University and Director of the Learning Commons on campus. She also owns Moonbow, a group of three small businesses that support Appalachian artists and suppliers in Corbin, Harlan, and Williamsburg. The couple currently lives in Williamsburg, Kentucky, with their two sons.