MSU administrator to lead rural development center

MSU administrator to lead rural development center

A longtime department head at Mississippi State University has been named the new director of the Southern Rural Development Center.

By: Robert Nathan Gregory

Steven Turner, who has served as head of the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics for 12 years, will officially begin as the center's director Jan. 1.

MSU Extension Service Director Gary Jackson said Turner will work with 29 land-grant institutions in 13 states to address critical contemporary rural development issues affecting the well-being of people and communities in the rural South.

"As evidenced by the progress shown in the Department of Agricultural Economics since his arrival, Steve has been an outstanding leader and administrator," Jackson said. "His commitment to research and service will be as instrumental to the Southern Rural Development Center in his new role there as it has been in the Department of Agricultural Economics at MSU."

Housed at the main campus in Starkville, the Southern Rural Development Center is one of four regional centers coordinating rural development research and Extension education programs cooperatively with land-grant institutions regionally and nationally. The centers are supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The development center forms multistate research and Extension teams throughout the South to address issues unique to rural areas. Priority areas include fostering civic-minded communities, building economically vibrant communities, and enhancing opportunities in distressed and low-wealth communities.

Turner, a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, came to MSU in 2003 after a 17-year career at the University of Georgia as a professor in its Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

During Turner's tenure, the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics has averaged seven awards, 104 undergraduates, 20 graduate students, 24 refereed journal articles, and $664,161 in external grants and contracts per year.

His previous organizational leadership appointments include one year as president of the Southern Agricultural Economics Association and three years as chair of the Board of Directors for the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics.

"Improving the capacity of land-grant universities across the South to address rural development issues improves the quality of life for the people those universities serve," Turner said. "I am honored that I have been asked to lead that charge."

The Southern Rural Development Center includes faculty and staff in the university's Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. To learn more about the center, visit

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