Mallory Rahe enjoys thinking about how to build wealth in rural communities. The traditional approach to rural economic development has focused on what the community is lacking and developing financial capital. Rahe, however, has a broader view on this issue, building upon assets communities already have, but are underutilizing, and investing in multiple, diverse streams of capital to build wealth. Through her role in OSU’s Rural Studies Program and as an extension community economist for Western Oregon, Rahe is active in the WealthWorks Northwest (WWNW) collaboration in Oregon. Spearheaded by Rural Development Initiative nonprofit organization, WWNW’s approach to rural economic development includes assessing eight categories of investments, including intellectual, individual, social, natural, built infrastructure, political, financial, and cultural capital. Investing in diverse streams of capital can help to make these communities more resilient and sustainable over the long term. This program promotes locally-defined strategies to maximize the sustainable use of rural community assets.
Rahe is from a small town in a declining region in the Midwest, so she has experienced firsthand the effects of a dwindling population and weakening economy on a rural community. She grew up on crop and livestock farm and studied Agricultural Economics and Regional Planning in her graduate studies. Rahe began in OSU’s Department of Applied Economics (formerly Agricultural and Resource Economics) in 2009, took a leave of absence to finish her Ph.D., and returned to OSU in 2013. About Oregon’s rural communities, Rahe noted many differences from the Midwest. While Oregon has a greater diversity of crops and more amenities, communities are far more isolated, which creates a unique set of challenges to overcome.
When asked about role models in her field, Rahe talked about her late dissertation advisor, Andrew Isserman. Isserman, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, shared with Rahe what it meant to be a university faculty member. Rahe noted that Isserman was committed to excellence in research and academics, which she now tries emulate in her career. As she now serves on committees for graduate students, Rahe uses Isserman’s perspective on research design, thinking of it as a puzzle, and asking students to justify their decisions.
Rahe’s future research plans include investigating the economic impact of local foods systems in Oregon and “continuing to examine how communities leverage different resources and the fungibility of capitals in the development process.” In the classroom, she works to spend less time lecturing and more time engaging students in problem-solving with real-world applications. Rahe teaches two rural economics courses on-campus and is planning on adding an online version of these courses as well. Rahe urges her students to stay curious: “The world is full of interesting people, ideas, and issues. Stay curious and you will continue to find new opportunities throughout your life.”