UACES Facebook Community Development Professor Mark Peterson Retiring
skip to main content

Community Development Professor Mark Peterson Retiring

by Emily Smith - January 31, 2020

The realm of community and economic development will feel a little different in Arkansas come March 3. After more than 30 years serving rural communities across Arkansas, the nation, and the world, Dr. Mark Peterson will retire from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.Dr. Mark Peterson

To say one of Mark’s greatest passions is helping communities take control of their future is an understatement. Through a combination of experience, intellect, and humility, Mark inspires communities to come together to think strategically in times of rapid change.

Often, these partnerships result in full blown strategic action plans-- roadmaps that guide communities on their quest to improve quality of life, attract new residents, bolster the workforce, and strengthen marketing and branding. All of his work is tied up in the notion of empowerment; the idea that every community can reach their highest potential and achieve their goals when provided the right tools and opportunity to collaborate.

This work has been accomplished primarily through Breakthrough Solutions. With 21 partner organizations, Dr. Peterson and Breakthrough Solutions have engaged more than 10,000 citizens on projects with a value exceeding $83 million. Six strategic community brands and several state and national awards are just a few ways in which Breakthrough Solutions shines as a premier community and economic development program in the state.  

Collaboration is a central element of Breakthrough Solutions.  All of you have enabled us to touch so many lives and communities across the state; many more than one person could have done alone. Take a look at the amazing things we’ve accomplished together:

  • Breakthrough News – an e-newsletter that reaches more than 2,300 community leaders in Arkansas, some other states, and few other countries.
  • Our Annual Breakthrough Solutions Conference and pre-conference workshop, which always features a keynote speaker from out of state, eight hands-on workshops, over 30 speakers, and new technologies such as GIS, drones, 3D printers, and virtual reality in tourism.
  • Worked with 51 communities and 5 regions, a handful of other states, and Kalush, Ukraine.
  • With funds from the Arkansas state legislature, Breakthrough Solutions supported the Arkansas Economic Development Institute to conduct the first study of the internet in Arkansas.
  • Breakthrough Solutions Partner Ed Levy with Cromwell Architects Engineers with his incredible creativity, developed architectural renderings for several communities, including the re-purposing of an entire high school campus in Eureka Springs.

Whether we are partnering with Amy Whitehead and Shelby Fiegel from the University of Central Arkansas on Kick Start communities, tapping Ken Hubbell to do his amazing art at our conferences, or consulting with Roby Robertson on community projects, we are most indebted to our partners and funding sponsors to make breakthroughs happen.

“None of the work accomplished through Breakthrough Solutions would be possible without the active involvement and commitment of Breakthrough Solutions partners, our funding sponsors, Extension colleagues at the state and county level, and community leaders at the local level," Peterson said.  “I have been blessed to work in such a supportive environment and appreciate everyone’s willingness to work together to create vibrant communities and regions in Arkansas.” 

Mark will continue to be involved with community development in his Extension role until March 3. He anticipates being available after that time on an intermittent basis. Dr. Stacey McCullough, Extension's assistant director for Community, Professional and Economic Development, has committed to supporting Breakthrough Solutions going forward.

Be on the lookout for information regarding the 2020 Breakthrough Solutions Conference in the coming weeks.

Lastly, a big thank you for all that you do. I’m sure I speak for most when I say how grateful it has been to learn from Mark. I have learned a great deal about communities and what it means to serve others. I have not only learned how to identify community assets but, more importantly, I have learned to identify the assets I possess in myself. He brings out the best in all, helping us see a bright future and giving us the tools to get there.

 “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” –African Proverb