NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration that will support the center’s mission of boosting regional industries and communities.

The grant is part of the 2023 University Center Economic Development Program Competition, which will provide a total of $16.5 million in grants to 23 colleges and universities in 14 states to administer programs that leverage their assets, promote innovation and strengthen regional economies. SFA will receive $130,000 annually for five years beginning in the 2023 fiscal year. 

“This grant is particularly significant because it contributes to CARRI's capacity to serve the region with excellence as a financially strong, relevant and vibrant center,” said Dr. Lorenzo Smith, SFA provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This award will further raise SFA's national visibility as a leader among regional, public universities seeking to strengthen the economic fabric of the surrounding rural community.”

SFA established CARRI in fall 2021 to engage faculty, staff and students in research projects that support academic programs and boost regional economic development. Since its establishment, the university has awarded numerous scholarships to rural SFA students and stipends to faculty members for innovative research projects. It also was rated the top rural-serving higher education institution in Texas by The Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges in 2022.

According to MaryAnn Rojas, CARRI executive director, the EDA grant funds will provide enhanced student engagement and better collaboration with SFA’s regional industry, education, community and economic development partners when creating approaches to regional economic challenges. 

“There has been aggressive outreach to rural counties that has bolstered confidence in our region,” Rojas said. “This award will fortify SFA's capacity to build upon and support our rural counties by continuing to leverage assets for the benefit of our entire deep East Texas region.”  

According to EDA, the administration prioritizes economic development planning or implementation projects that advance equity across America through investments that directly benefit traditionally underserved populations. The 23 university centers to receive grants include a historically black college and university, Native American-serving nontribal institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions and minority-serving institutions.

First housed in an on-campus office upon its inception, CARRI staff members will move into the center’s new facility on Northwest Stallings Drive after ongoing renovations of the structure are complete.

For more information about CARRI, visit the website

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 36 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at the SFA website