Building Rural Innovation, Designing Educational Strategies (BRIDGES): How might we strengthen the capacity of rural community colleges to serve as critical economic growth engines for their learners and communities?


The Lab will lead a cohort of 5 rural community colleges in the BRIDGES Rural Design Challenge, a multi-year initiative to create new pathways to postsecondary attainment and economic opportunity in rural communities. Throughout the design challenge, engagement of regional collaboratives and dissemination of learnings, models, tools, and practices will ensure that the impact of this work extends beyond the initial pilot programs. 

BRIDGES Rural will: 

  • produce outcomes-focused prototype models and pilot designs ready for implementation by rural community colleges
  • build the capacity of participating community colleges to better serve rural learners through human-centered design, change management and innovation strategies, consultation of subject matter experts, and exposure to promising models. 
  • publish and broadly disseminate new knowledge and thought leadership on rural learners’ goals, challenges, and experiences related to their careers and postsecondary education and training.
  • establish lasting infrastructure for effective regional collaboration between educators, employers, funders, government agencies, and other community organizations.

The Cohort

College of Eastern Idaho

College of Eastern Idaho (CEI, formerly EITC) is Idaho’s newest comprehensive community college. CEI now offers academic associate of arts and science degrees with transferable general education credits. Another new opportunity is Early College Programs for high school students. CEI continues to offer career technical programs, basic skills instruction, workforce training and continuing education, and online learning. CEI maintains its fully accredited status by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The College was created in 1969 to serve citizens in a nine-county service area. Now CEI’s mission enlarges to provide affordable, open-access, and quality education for all of eastern Idaho.

Eastern Maine Community College

Eastern Maine Community College provides the highest quality post-secondary technical, career, and transfer education, and serves as a dynamic community and economic resource. They offer over 30 one- and two-year program options, as well as short term and specialized training and retraining courses for business, industry, and community. From Automotive Technology and Plumbing to Criminal Justice and Fire Science, from Nursing and Surgical Technology to Culinary Arts and Liberal Studies, Eastern Maine Community College is dedicated to providing all students with a well-balanced education focused on problem-solving, decision making, communications, social understanding, computer applications, mathematics, and science.

Finger Lakes Community College

Finger Lakes Community College is a place where opportunity awaits. It is a vibrant community that prepares students for lives and careers that are successful and fulfilling. At FLCC, students receive an affordable education that has so much to offer. They provide opportunities to be involved in coursework, research, activities and student organizations. Their educational experience challenges their students to work hard, persevere, and be their best. FLCC is ideal for exploring  interests as it offers a variety of academic programs, and it is a hub for attaining knowledge and building skills.

Washington State Community College

Washington State Community College (WSCC) is a two-year college in the Mid-Ohio Valley offering more than 40 certificate and associate degree programs.  They opened their doors in 1971 with a  first graduating class of only four graduates. They  have grown since then and today boast more than 10,000 alumni. One constant has remained during their 50 years in education– their commitment to fuel the community’s future. They do this through education, workforce development, cultural enrichment, and community service.

Zane State College

Zane State College, established in 1969, values people through their commitment to quality, equity, and stewardship. Zane State College has 29 programs that lead to an associate degree, and an Electrical Engineering Technology Bachelor’s degree. They have seven degrees fully online, industry centered short-term IT training, selective health programs, and more. Students wishing to earn a bachelor’s degree can also receive an affordable start at Zane State College through their transfer degrees.

The BRIDGES Rural Impact Showcase

The July 2023 showcase highlighted each institution’s learnings throughout the two-year design process and the next steps as the BRIDGES project concludes.

The National Pilot Design Convening

The Lab’s BRIDGES Rural initiative aims to design, test, and scale postsecondary approaches that support the economic agility of rural learners and the capacity of rural community colleges to drive economic growth in their communities. See how we engaged five leading, rural community colleges in a design experience to move from prototypes to pilots in July 2021.

To get in touch, contact our team at

Follow our BRIDGES Rural work on Twitter @eddesignlab #BRIDGESRural and @bridgesrural for an inside look


Join our Innovator Network + never miss an update on our BRIDGES Rural work.