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University of Minnesota Extension

Ben Winchester


Extension educator, community economics



Extension Regional Office, St. Cloud
3601 18th Street South Suite 113
St. Cloud, MN 56303



  • B.A., Mathematics, Concentration in Statistics, University of Minnesota-Morris
  • Master's in Rural Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia

Work experience

Ben has worked in and for small towns across the Midwest since 1997 — with a focus on his home state of Minnesota. He joined the Extension Center for Community Vitality in 2008. As rural sociology and evaluation educator for the center, Ben manages evaluation studies that monitor the effectiveness and outcomes of leadership, civic engagement, tourism, resident recruitment, and community economics programs for center activities. Ben also conducts research on topics relevant to community vitality. Currently, he is documenting a rural "brain gain" — the trend of 30-49 year-olds moving to rural areas — to identify the social and economic opportunities of this migration. He is also analyzing rural community leadership, especially as it affects community-wide requirements to support the public sector to "keep the town running. Before joining Extension, Ben was on staff with the Center for Small Towns at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Affiliations, honors and community service

  • Award: Minnesota Association of Community and Leadership Education Professionals, Excellence in Research, 2012
  • Member: Community Development Society, Rural Sociological Society, Minnesota Evaluation Association
  • Award: Community Development Society, Current Research Award, 2017
  • Award: Oklahoma State University, National Rural Renewal Research Prize, 2021

Selected publications

Page survey

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