Rural Fellowship Program

Rural Fellowship logo


The Tennessee Rural Fellowship Program is a two-year professional fellowship aimed to give some of our state’s best and brightest  the opportunity to serve the most economically distressed and at-risk communities across Tennessee.

Tennessee is fortunate to have many public servants already working hard to make Tennessee a great place to live, work, and raise a family. This fellowship attracts recent graduates and others interested in public service the opportunity to serve alongside the state’s top executive leaders and rural local leaders. Fellows will gain intimate public service experience and directly contribute to the continued improvement of local governing and rural community development.

It is an exciting time in Tennessee, and I hope you’ll consider applying to serve this great state. 

Applications Open:    March 1, 2024
Applications Due:      April 15, 2024
Interviews Begin:       April 20, 2024
Offers Extended:       May 1, 2024
Program Orientation: July 8, 2024 

Applicants must:
Have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate program or completed a public service opportunity within two years of program start date.
Demonstrate excellence in academics, leadership ability, and show involvement in extracurricular activities.
Display a passion for rural communities and public service.
Demonstrate a genuine interest in serving the people of Tennessee.

All questions can be directed to

The Fellow’s involvement and placement is for the benefit of the Fellow’s experience and the rural community hosting the Fellow. Fellows are not a replacement of full-time employees.
Fellows will:
1.     Develop an understanding of the state government’s core rural services.
2.     Accomplish defined learning objectives in a particular area based on the community’s needs (grant writing/administration, asset-based planning, economic development, etc.).
3.     Meaningfully contribute to a community project, program, or service.
4.     Adhere to all state government policies and procedures.
5.     Conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times.

The Tennessee Rural Fellowship Program was formed in partnership between TNECD and Tech, as both of our missions align to strategically aid rural communities.  At a high level, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) works to develop and implement strategies that make Tennessee the number one location in the southeast for high quality jobs and to elevate rural economic opportunities across the state.  Tennessee Tech University’s Center for Rural Innovation (TCRI) works to harness science, technology and innovation to transform rural living.  The TCRI’s Rural Reimagined program is dedicated to developing and supporting the success of rural areas throughout Tennessee in a way that can be replicated to help rural areas throughout the country and the world.



Thank you for your interest in the Rural Fellowship Program. The application period is March 1, 2024 – April 15, 2024. Applications must include the following:

·       A completed application form
·       A PDF copy of your resume
·       A cover letter
·       PDF copies of your unofficial transcript(s)
·       Two letters of recommendation

More information about letters of recommendation can be found in the FAQs. Cover letters should be a maximum of 750 words and should explain to the committee why you are interested in the Fellowship, public service, and working in rural Tennessee. 


·       Applications are due March 15, 2024.
·       Applications are reviewed and ranked by an Executive Review Committee (which includes members of TNECD team, Governor’s Appointee, a County Mayor, and University team member). A meeting is held to discuss applicants and applicant scores.
·       Applicants will receive an email on their acceptance or non-acceptance into the program. Applicants will have two (2) weeks to respond to their acceptance email and secure their spot in the program.

Are there age restrictions?
No. To be eligible for the fellowship, candidates must meet the requirements listed in eligibility section.

How do I apply?
Applications will be made available beginning March 1, 2024 and can be accessed online by selecting “Apply Now” on the webpage. The application requires a resume, cover letter, unofficial transcript(s), and two letters of recommendation scanned and uploaded as PDF files. 

How are letters of recommendation submitted?
Letters should be submitted as part of your application or emailed to on or before the application deadline.  Recommendation letters should reveal information about you that is not necessarily included in your application. It is best to have recommendations from people who know you well; a recommendation from a prominent individual is not helpful if he or she does not personally know you.


What is the Rural Fellowship Program?
The Tennessee Rural Fellowship Program is a two-year professional fellowship aimed to give some of our state’s best and brightest  the opportunity to serve the most economically distressed and at-risk communities across Tennessee.

What is the purpose of the fellowship?
To expand partnerships, to build local capacity and to increase prosperity for rural communities.

What determines eligibility?
Eligibility is merit-based, will have demonstrated excellence in academics, proven leadership ability, involvement in extracurricular activities, and a commitment to public service.  Applicants must have graduated from an undergraduate institution or graduate program and are chosen without regard to race, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, or political affiliation.

What is the Fellowship Executive Committee?
The Fellowship Executive Committee is a team of government leaders who work with communities regularly and will score applications.  They will also play an integral part of the Fellowship Program.

What is the selection and program timeline?
The timeline for selection is approximately one (1) month and the program begins July 2024 and runs for two (2) years.

How many applicants will be selected for the program?
The inaugural year will have three (3) selected applicants.

What are the expected fellowship program costs?
There is no program fee for participation in the program.  The program will be responsible for paying an annual salary, benefits and all travel and lodging costs to attend the training sessions.

What is the compensation and benefits?
Compensation and benefits are commensurate of other competitive fellowship programs and will be determined based on applicants experience and qualifications. 

Does the program provide housing?
No.  The program provides full time employee pay, but housing expenses are not included.

What is the Orientation process?
Fellows are oriented to state government during the first few months of the fellowship.  Orientation includes a high-level overview of government operations, an overview of the Governor’s priorities and those of each department’s rural initiatives and an exposure to economic development, Federal, statewide and department-specific grant funding opportunities, and examples of various successful rural community projects.

What is involved in the leadership and economic development components?
The leadership and economic development components run throughout the 1st year of the fellowship and will consist of several full day summit trainings on competencies needed to maintain successful placement and understand state and local economic development.

How will fellows be placed?
The Executive Committee will match fellows with a rural community or multi-county region that has a need for increased capacity.  This will occur after the 1st phase of the program.  This will include interviews with community leadership and a regional mentoring organization to ensure the best placement is achieved. The program attempts to match Fellows with compatible assignments according to background, interests, and future goals.

Is there any opportunity for job placement following the program?
Yes. However, a job offer is not guaranteed at the end of the two-year fellowship. An expected outcome of the program is to increase capacity in a rural community.  Employment locally may achieve this outcome.

What is community capacity?
Community capacity is the combined influence of a community’s commitment, resources, and skills that can be deployed to build on community strengths and address community problems and opportunities. It includes the ongoing ability of a community to accomplish the goals they set for themselves, rather than the ability to accomplish one particular project through technical assistance.

Is there a residency requirement?
Yes. The program requires all fellows live in the state of Tennessee in the region of placement within three months unless otherwise approved.