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The Center for Applied Research and
Rural Innovation


The Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation will bring faculty and students together with business, industry, education, and community partners in dynamic, interactive environments. Through these interactions, students will learn how to use their skills to work in teams with other students from multiple disciplines in order to solve complex real-world problems for rural and smaller communities.

Project Showcase

View the exciting research projects underway by joining us at the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation showcase presented by SFA Provost Lorenzo Smith and Dr. Steve Cooper, chair of the CARRI steering committee.

Thursday, May 12 at 5:30 p.m.
Baker Pattillo Student Center, Twilight Ballroom

Contact Sharon Brewer at to RSVP by May 1.

2022 Grant Recipients

The CARRI Steering Committee selected 10 proposals with monies totaling slightly over $256,000. Grant recipients and their research are as follows:

Dr. Dan Bruton — Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, College of Sciences and Mathematics - $17,363

Rural Mobility: Engineering Design of Durable Off-Road Vehicles

The primary goal of this project is to involve undergraduate engineering students in the design and construction of a small vehicle that meets design constraints set by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE Baja competition requires collegiate teams to design and construct a lightweight, off-road vehicle over the course of two semesters. The engineering faculty at SFA will select approximately 20 students interested in mechanical or electrical engineering for the first cohort for this competition. This project should result in students receiving certification through the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as connections to local employers seeking engineers with practical design and manufacturing experiences.

Dr. Gina Fe Causin — School of Human Sciences, James I. Perkins College of Education - $20,609.44

Deep East Texas Travel and Tourism Collaborative

The COVID-19 pandemic created havoc for small businesses, which caused them to shut down and cease all economic activities, particularly in rural areas. This project will revitalize economic activities in the Deep East Texas rural communities by helping revive travel- and tourism-oriented small businesses through development of new travel packages to promote to external guests to the region. It also will improve existing travel and tourism practices and services, or strengthen and diversify the regional economy of the El Camino Real trail and routes.

David Creech, Professor Emeritus and Director of SFA Gardens $18,691

A Research Platform for Woody Ornaments at the Science Research Center

This project will impact the nursery/landscape industry in Texas, diversify and improve the campus landscape at SFASU, enhance and beautify the Science Research Center (SRC), provide valuable information on potential new landscape trees for Texas, and, if our projections are correct, create a fiscally sustainable operation in the years ahead. The project is well leveraged by SFA Gardens and SFA Grounds resources. We propose to resurrect two acres of nursery at the Science Research Center (SRC), 7308 NW Stallings Dr., Nacogdoches, TX 75964 (Figure 1). This project has two components: 1) Renovating the tree nursery evaluation plot, a space occupied 2010-2020 by the in-ground tree nursery described below. In early 2022, we will renovate that plot (land smoothing, irrigation renovation and planting). The project will have a focus on species that are relatively unknown in the nursery or landscape trade but have shown promise in the SFA Gardens program for many years. 2) We propose to enhance the landscape at the SRC with collections of interesting trees, new or uncommon in the trade, many worthy of introduction with a reputation for water savings. Candidates for planting will be selected by SFA Gardens and Grounds, with input from several nursery collaborators.

Dr. Bill Forbes — Department of Anthropology, Geography and Sociology, College of Liberal and Applied Arts - $4,590

Fostering Renewable Energy Access, Efficiency, and Entrepreneurship in Deep East Texas

This project will work with regional programs to increase access, efficiency and entrepreneurship related to clean energy and energy conservation in Deep East Texas. Six graduate and undergraduate students will work with one to two faculty members and select community leaders to increase access and use of a weatherization program for low-income residents; have clean energy financing programs and a microloan small business program adopted by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, counties or cities in the region; and create linkages between solar panel installers, weatherization contractors and students/workforce members interested in training in this field.

Dr. Alyx Frantzen — Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Sciences and Mathematics - $35,000

SFASU Fermentation Laboratory

The number of craft breweries and wineries in Texas has risen exponentially during the last decade to more than 430 wineries and over 300 breweries. While shown to be robust industries, they have been impacted by the pandemic as most rely on restaurant and bar sales, taprooms and tasting rooms. These industries are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Both industries are required to follow mandatory labeling requirements and procedures. Much of what is found on the label is determined by beverage alcohol laboratories. The cost of testing is quite expensive; a total chemical profile for a single beer is $350 and for a single wine $175. The development of a Fermentation Laboratory at SFA can help alleviate these costs.

Dr. Jane Long — Department of Mathematics and Statistics, College of Sciences and Mathematics; JacksTeach director - $23,672

Laboratory Science Enrichment for Secondary Teachers of Deep East Texas

This project focuses on enhancing student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields through two weeklong workshops training secondary teachers to incorporate engaging, hands-on laboratory experiences in their classrooms. We will directly support teachers by providing hands-on experience with laboratory exploration activities, funding to support their participation, laboratory supplies specific to workshop activities and Continuing Professional Education credits. These efforts will expand student interest in postsecondary STEM study, prepare students for success in STEM careers, and support economic development in the Deep East Texas region by contributing to the workforce of highly trained STEM professionals.

Dr. Mary Olle — School of Human Sciences, Perkins College of Education - $34,319

A Needs Assessment of Competencies for the Restaurant Industry in Deep East Texas

SFA is seeking support for a needs assessment of competencies that will inform the development of a Bachelor of Science in hospitality administration with a focus in restaurant management. This degree program seeks to reach Texans ages 25 to 34 who have some coursework toward a degree or certificate but have not competed the degree. This program focuses on competencies and marketable skills that will prepare students to enter the workforce at a managerial level. By conducting a needs assessment, we will be able to more accurately develop a CBE program that is meeting the needs of employers in East Texas.

Dr. Pamela Rogers — Department of Management and Marketing, Rusche College of Business - $8,870

Training for Manufacturing Supervisors

The purpose of this proposal is to develop a manufacturing supervisor training that could be offered through the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation in cooperation with the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance. Participants would be new or aspiring front-line supervisors in local manufacturing organizations.

Dr. Anusha Shrestha — Forestry and Spatial Science, Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture - $38,697

Logging sector in Deep East Texas: Current status, issues, and future outlook

The purpose of this study will be to determine the current status of the logging sector and its economic contribution by surveying logging contractors and other industry stakeholders, and employing an economic model using IMPLAN data. The results from this study will be crucial to identify concerns and needs of the logging sector. Enhancement of this sector will ensure a continued supply of wood products to the forest products manufacturing facilities, better logging practices on forest stands ensuring appropriate management and protection of forest health, and continued employment and income for people in the region. In this project, students will learn various research methodologies and analyses and will collaborate with various forestry stakeholders.

Dr. Sarah Straub — Department of Education Studies, Perkins College of Education - $21,900.50

Leadership Initiative for Supporting (Bilingual) Teacher Acquisition

The Leadership Initiative for Supporting (Bilingual) Teacher Acquisition is the first step in a multi-year effort to empower district bilingual coordinators across East Texas, increase the number of qualified bilingual teachers, and create a pipeline through undergraduate and graduate programs to support this growth. LISTA will work to develop a community of united and informed bilingual coordinators who will, in turn, develop a pathway for success for future bilingual educators. LISTA aligns with this mission through an investment in the quality of bilingual coordinators and future educators. Phase one will focus on needs assessments, community building and planning. Future phases will result in a successful bilingual educator pipeline.

Sally Ann Swearingen — School of Human Sciences, Perkins College of Education - $51,218.75

Students in Action — Building communities one building at a time with "Building Jacks"

Construction management students will build tiny homes for individuals and families in need of shelter. Students will gain a greater understanding of the field while applying lessons learned in the classroom to real life projects using a unique mobile classroom. The goal is to teach and train leaders and managers in the field through hands-on projects. Construction management labs are set up to give large blocks of times to ensure students understand construction and have an opportunity to meet and get to know their clients. This innovative mobile classroom will change how construction management is being taught and provide numerous opportunities for students and clients throughout East Texas.


The center, in concert with the work being done by colleges, universities, and public and private entities throughout our region, will help realize the vision for growth that has been developing for more than a decade by supporting these primary goals:

people having a group discussion

Generate a creative economy and engine for vitality and growth that attracts business and industry and encourages talented individuals to stay and invest in the region.

smiling student

Create a unique innovative culture that builds on local strengths and creates a distinctive advantage for the region, including generating jobs and improving the quality of life.

people planning a project

Increase the capacity of the regional workforce in key areas such as data analytics, digital media, and tech commercialization and transfer.

working together

Foster collaboration among higher education, business and industry, and local agencies to address issues and solve problems that no one entity can address by itself.


Develop regional leaders in business and education who understand the challenges and opportunities of this swiftly changing environment.

Location and details


Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) is proposing to locate the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation (project) on a site of approximately 15 acres of currently developed property owned by Stephen F. Austin State University. The former home of the Science Research Center, this property is located at 7308 NW Stallings Dr, otherwise known as lot 14 block 72 of HWY 59N, within the City of Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County, Texas. Additionally, the property is located for prime access to the future I-69 corridor expansion project.

The Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation will serve the Deep East Texas Region, which covers 9,906 square miles and is comprised of the following 12 counties: Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, and Tyler. Deep East Texas region is located south of Tyler and Longview, north of Houston and Beaumont, and adjacent to Louisiana’s western border. It is important to note that the entire region is rural per the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition. There are no urbanized areas within the region.

Steering Committee Members

Name Unit Term
Dr. Steve Cooper, Chair College of Liberal and Applied Arts, SFASU 2021-2023 (2 yrs)
Dr. Todd Brown, Vice Chair College of Business, SFASU 2021-2022 (1 yr)
Dr. Summer Pannell College of Education, SFASU 2021-2023 (2 yrs)
Dr. Candace Hicks College of Fine Arts, SFASU 2021-2022 (1 yr)
Dr. Stephanie Jones College of Forestry and Agriculture, SFASU 2021-2022 (1 yr)
Dr. C.J. Aul College of Sciences and Mathematics, SFASU 2021-2023 (2 yrs)
Dr. Kim Childs College of Sciences and Mathematics, SFASU 2021-2022 (1 yr)
Beverly Morehouse Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, SFASU 2021-2022 (1 yr)
Jessica DeWitt Physical Plant, SFASU 2021-2023 (2 yrs)
Larissa Philpot Nacogdoches EDCO (Community Member) 2021-2022 (1 yr)
Nancy Windham Texas Forest Country Partnership (Community Member) 2021-2023 (2 yrs)
Open Community Member  
Open Community Member  
Dr. Lorenzo Smith Academic Affairs, SFASU Ex-Officio
Erma Brecht Enrollment Management, SFASU Ex-Officio
Trey Turner Office of Development, SFASU Ex-Officio

For more information

Dr. Steve Coooper
CARRI Steering Committe Chair