Fellows & Associates
The Center for Rural Strategies works with an extensive range of allied individuals who share our values and offer skills in media production, journalism, research, project management, and other disciplines. We rely on these partners to help us spot opportunities, develop our work, and remain focused on the issues that are most important for rural communities. Some of our key partners include the following:
Bill Bishop is an award-winning journalist who, with Julie Ardery, founded the Daily Yonder, Rural Strategies’ rural news platform. Bill got his start in the news business at the Mountain Eagle, the storied Eastern Kentucky weekly newspaper known for taking on destructive coal companies and corrupt politicians. He was special projects reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and associate editor of the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader. He is the author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of America is Tearing us Apart (Houghton Mifflin, with co-author Robert Cushing), a ground-breaking book that uses extensive data analysis to document the rise of political segregation in America. Bill continues as a Daily Yonder contributing editor, reporting on employment and community development. He lives in LaGrange, Texas.
Edyael joined Rural Strategies after serving as a consultant for our efforts in the Gulf Coast in the fall and winter of 2006-2007. She has worked with the Llano Grande Center for Research and Development, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educational pursuits and community youth leadership, beginning when she was a sophomore at Edcouch-Elsa High School in Elsa, Texas. Edyael is one of four founders of the Llano Grande Center’s Spanish Language Immersion Institute, and she led several community based research initiatives in her rural South Texas home town. She was born in México, and immigrated to the United States when she was 12. Edyael received a B.A. from Occidental College in Los Angeles and a master's degree in Latin American Studies at Ohio University in Athens. She is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Law School.
Her work with Rural Strategies included leading our telecommunications policy efforts and coordinating the Rural Broadband Policy Group, a national coalition of rural groups advocating for policies that increase access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet service in rural areas. She is active in the Immigration and Rural Communities Working Group of the National Rural Assembly and also helps steer the immigration advocacy efforts of the Center for Rural Strategies. Edyael was an Internet Rights Fellow with Public Knowledge in Washington, D.C.
Joel Cohen has earned numerous awards and critical acclaim over his almost 30 years as a video producer/director/editor. His national public television experience started with a three-year run of The 90’s, a magazine style show that featured the work of independent producers from around the world. He was also the co-creator and formally the co-executive producer of the five-time Midwest Emmy-award–winning series Check, Please!, a restaurant-review show featuring “citizen-reviewers”.
He has collaborated on numerous video projects with the Center for Rural Strategies across rural America, including a documentary about the recovery of rural Louisiana and Mississippi after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. With Rural Strategies he has also done video work for the Kellogg Foundation, Duke Endowment, National Rural Assembly, Rural LISC, NeighborWorks, Oprah’s Angel Network, Housing Assistance Council, and many local organizations.
Katharine Pearson Criss
Katharine Pearson Criss, a Senior Fellow since January of 2014, was a founding board member of the Center for Rural Strategies and continued in that role until January 2004. During that time she was employed as the Ford Foundation’s Representative for Eastern Africa. She was involved there in supporting the growth of Africa-based philanthropy including the Africa Foundations Learning Group, the Kenya Community Development Foundation and the East Africa Association of Grantmakers. Upon leaving Ford, she became vice president of the Center for Rural Strategies and helped in the creation of the National Rural Assembly, directed the “Donors Ourselves” video project, and edited a collection of essays of the same name. She also coordinated the Rural Development Philanthropy Initiative with partners from around the US. Since becoming a Senior Fellow, she has specialized in assisting communities and donors in looking at strategies to increase local philanthropic assets, especially in rural communities.
Karen Fasimpaur is an enthusiastic builder of communities including virtual ones. She runs the company K12 Handhelds and has worked in technology and education for over 20 years, with a recent focus on non-profit organizations. Previously, she ran an international technology integration company, worked in software development and textbook publishing, and taught elementary and adult education. After moving to an extremely rural area 10 years ago, Fasimpaur grew interested in the policy issues that affect rural communities. She works with the National Rural Assembly on communications and event coordination.
Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., a Rural Strategies Senior Fellow focusing on statistics and research on various data-driven reporting projects, is the Assistant Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development and a Purdue Extension Community & Regional Economics Specialist. He holds an electronics engineering undergraduate degree, a master's in economic development, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration. Gallardo has worked with rural communities over the past decade conducting local and regional community economic development, including use of technology for development.
He has authored more than 70 articles including peer-reviewed and news-related regarding rural trends, socioeconomic analysis, industrial clusters, the digital divide, and leveraging broadband applications for community economic development.
Adam Giorgi is a recent Master in Public Policy graduate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. While at the Kennedy school, Adam worked at the intersections of democracy and journalism, studying civic literacy and political communication as a student and research assistant, completing an internship in political reporting at NBC News and authoring a playbook on local news for his master’s thesis project. Prior to graduate school, he served as Deputy Communications Director at the Minnesota Department of Administration, where he managed digital communications projects, government websites, and various other strategic initiatives for the state of Minnesota. Previously, he worked as a communications professional in the office of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, for public relations firm PadillaCRT, and at the corporate headquarters of electronics retailer Best Buy. He is assisting Rural Strategies in our efforts to create a news and culture platform building on common interests and shared aspirations across America.
Timothy Lampkin is an emerging Mississippi Delta leader who returned to his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, after working for a national corporation. He is CEO of Higher Purpose Co., focused on community wealth building in underserved areas across the Northwest Region of the Mississippi Delta. He is working with Rural Strategies to produce a multimedia series on creative rural leaders in the Mississippi Delta region, and advises Rural Strategies on content and messaging for young people.
Kim Phinney is an independent consultant living in Westford Vermont. She was formerly senior director of the Rural and Native Initiative for YouthBuild USA. Kim joined YouthBuild USA in 2001 to design education and career pathways for rural and Native Opportunity Youth. She directed technical assistance and training to the national field of over 70 rural and Native YouthBuild programs.
Shawn Poynter has worked as a photojournalist at newspapers across the country. He joined the Center for Rural Strategies in 2002 as a communications associate and has gone on to develop photography and photo archive projects for Rural Strategies. In his spare time, Shawn shoots assignments across the Southeast for national and regional publications. Shawn graduated with a B.A. in photojournalism from Western Kentucky University in 1999.
Michelle Basso Reynolds
Michelle Basso Reynolds was the first employee hired when Center for Rural Strategies opened headquarters in Whitesburg, Kentucky in 2001. As a program associate Reynolds coordinated public information campaigns including Rural Strategies’ efforts that stopped CBS from airing the reality series, The Real Beverly Hillbillies. Michelle went on to work as an independent communications specialist in Sacramento, California with Lincoln Crow Strategic Communications starting in 2004. In 2006 She became administrative director at Phil Giarrizzo Campaign Consulting. She was project manager at the Sacramento Bee from 2006-2008 as the paper launched new digital projects including a state-wide political insider edition. From 2008-2011 Michelle served as a management analyst for CalPERS, the state’s retirement system. And in 2013 she became a communications officer at the California Department of Rehabilitation where she was appointed deputy director in the Office of Legislation and Communication by Governor Jerry Brown.