Thaddeus “Thad” Guldbrandsen is the director of Plymouth State University’s new Center for Rural Partnerships (CRP). Having assumed his post on November 20, Guldbrandsen is still settling in, getting to know PSU, the Plymouth community and the North Country.
The CRP was established, in part, as a result of ideas and discussions following a Rural Matters Summit Conference PSU co-hosted last November. “The goals of the new Rural Matters Center are to promote and preserve rural New Hampshire’s positive quality of life, and to be a
voice for rural opportunities, concerns and aspirations across the state,” PSU President Donald Wharton says. To do that, Guldbrandsen wants to position the CRP as a “rural lens.“
“What I mean by ‘rural lens’ is a way of understanding the issues of the state from a rural
perspective,” says Guldbrandsen. “That plays out in terms of being a resource for decision
makers and legislators. To provide research and analysis on key issues so town planners
and government can know the impact their decisions have on their communities.”
Key subject areas the CRP expects to focus on initially are sustainable economic development, education and livable communities.
“These are all huge issues, and we would probably choose a few core projects each year to focus on,” suggests Guldbrandsen. “Part of sustainable development is finding ways to serve those who are underserved. This issue ties into having a livable community. You can’t promote or foster an ideal quality of life if people’s more basic needs aren’t taken care of.”
What does livability and sustainable economic development mean? Guldbrandsen explains by way of example. He says, “Livability refers to being able to live in a particular area in the basic sense. Communities in the southeastern part of the state are increasingly becoming a more difficult place to live because of the cost of housing. In the North Country, jobs are fewer.
“In terms of sustainable economic development,” Guldbrandsen continues, “I mean development that supports and strengthens the existing fabric of community, such as Main Street development, locally owned businesses supporting the local economy and development that is mindful of the municipal infrastructure.”
So where does the CRP focus first? Guldbrandsen says the first step is to identify potential partners and form advisory committees to help set direction for the CRP. Both a faculty committee and an external advisory committee will help guide the CRP in terms of its research, outreach, public policy and grant support.
Guldbrandsen sums it up by saying, “The CRP is an example of the vision of PSU becoming a regional university. In becoming PSU, an expanded mission for applied research and regional service was outlined, and one of the critical ways Plymouth State is doing that is through the establishment of research centers. By being engaged in collaborative research, we can connect people and information to one another. I’m excited to be here because I wanted to help address the challenges facing the North Country and other rural areas in New Hampshire. The CRP gives me a structure and forum to achieve that.”
Guldbrandsen comes to PSU from UNH where he was a research assistant professor of anthropology and served as the director of the Center for the Study of Community at Strawbery Banke. A native of Alton, N.H., Guldbrandsen received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UNH in 1995, and his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2001.