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Emily Smith-CPEDPhone: 501-671-2138Email: email@example.com
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
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
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
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:
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
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