New rural computing consortium taps talent and MSU's land-grant mission

A group of scholars at Michigan State University has banded together to advance research, outreach and collaboration related to rural computing.   

Launched in August 2021, the Rural Computing Research Consortium seeks to unite faculty and students university-wide in increasing the visibility of technological research in rural areas in Michigan, the Midwest and world-wide. Founder and director Jean Hardy, an assistant professor of media and information, said the consortium builds on MSU’s strength as a land-grant institution by promoting opportunity in rural communities.

Housed in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, the consortium will facilitate collaboration across campus units, and secure MSU’s presence in the U.S. as a premier place for rural computing research.  

“Many people do research in computing and the tech sphere related to rural areas,” Hardy said. “But there isn’t a lot of opportunity for us to come together and interface. This is a space for all of us to develop an intellectual community around these topics, and, more specifically, to promote collaboration.”  

Sixteen research scholars, faculty and graduate students have joined the consortium to-date, representing five colleges at MSU: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering,Human Medicine, and Social Science. Broad areas of interest include systems development, software design, big data applications, developing new computational techniques, improving economic outcomes, social and educational impacts, resource access and equity, and healthcare. Members have tackled research related to rural broadband, high-tech entrepreneurship, telehealth and precision agriculture.   

Hardy is building momentum and interest through a speaker series and research events to bring interested collaborators together around specific topics. Led by consortium members, activities are open to the public, including individuals from higher education and the public and private sector.   

 “We’re seeing lots of energy and excitement around the consortium and building a centralized community of people who research and study rural computing,” Hardy said. “MSU has such an important presence in rural communities because of our land-grant history and our extension services. Rural tech and computing is just another logical facet of what MSU does, and what makes us stand out as a university.”  

 The following sections highlight three scholars affiliated with ComArtSci who are networking and helping to shape the direction of the consortium. To find out more about the Rural Computing Research Consortium, visit the website at or email  

Learn more about the research being done by some of the consortium's scholars: HardyBree Holtz and Ava Francesca Battocchio.

By Ann Kammerer