Faculty Research Program

The IC² Institute engages with and supports UT Austin faculty research projects related to the institute’s focus on catalyzing communities beyond urban corridors.  IC² seeks to stimulate a broad-based research program that can reveal new avenues for business, government, and the education sector to collaborate to enhance economic opportunities in communities. Awards are for $100,000 (1-3 PIs) or $150,000 (+4 PIs) for a two-year research project.

2021 IC2 Faculty Research Program (FRP) Awarded Teams

Congratulations to the 2021 Faculty Research Program Awardees. The three funded research proposals propel the Institute’s mission to better understand and support regional economic development through rigorous research. Like last round, the recipient group is diverse and multi-disciplinary – seven lead researchers from five schools (Policy, Communications, Engineering, Liberal Arts, and Education) and three centers across UT. Their research will commence this fall for a two-year duration (2021-2023).

1- Assessing Black Social Well-Being in Rural Texas. Danielle Wright, Steven Pedigo, Ricardo Lowe. IUPRA.

2- Disaster Continuity for Businesses and Communities in Rural Texas: Investigating Infrastructure, Communication, and Planning Needs. Keri Stephens, Kasey Faust, Sharon Strover.

3- Building Rural Journalism: Leadership & Training. Kathleen McElroy.

4- Building Equitable Healthcare in Rural Texas. Sharmila Rudrappa, Matt Kammer-Kerwick, Deborah Parra-Medina, Joshua Barbour, Craig Watkins, Kara Takasaki.

5- Project Organizational Resiliency: Domestic Violence Impact & Measurement. Noël Busch-Armendariz, Caitlin Sulley.

2019 Funded Research

In 2019, after reviewing many proposals, the Institute’s Faculty Advisory Board awarded 10 UT Austin faculty research projects from across campus including schools of Business, Policy & Public Affairs, Journalism, Communications, Architecture, and Engineering. In addition, the Institute is funding three additional faculty on related research. Funds are provided from the Institute’s research endowment and matching funds from generous donors. 

Funded research includes economic resilience, transitioning industry areas, urban migration, rural innovation incubators, and the leveraging of data science and machine learning.  Factors impacting rural entrepreneurial success, such as broadband access, social learning, digital media, and co-working options, are also addressed by some of the studies.

Read more about the projects in this news release: https://news.utexas.edu/2019/06/12/rural-entrepreneurship-in-texas-gets-boost-from-ut-austin-research-projects/


1- Big data strategies to map social networks in co-working spaces

John S. ButlerProfessor of Management and Sociology, McCombs School of Business

2- Digital media and venture creation in selected rural communities in Texas

Wenhong Chen, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, Moody College of Communication

Joe Straubhaar, Professor of Communication, School of Journalism


3- Social learning in small farm settings using western Kenya as a model

Raissa Fabregas, Assistant Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs


4-  Developing an online system to evaluate the rural entrepreneurship environment in Texas

Jason Abrevaya, Professor and Chair of Economics Department, College of Liberal Arts

Jungfeng Jiao, Associate Professor in the Community and Regional Planning program, School of Architecture

5- Rural Innovation Incubator model relative to energy workers in transition

Sheldon LandsbergerProfessor in Nuclear and Radiation, Chair in Mechanical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering

6- Return to rural regions after urban migration in China

Ji Ma, Assistant Professor in Philanthropic and Nonprofit Studies, LBJ School of Public Affairs 

7- Innovation and entrepreneurism ecosystem blueprint for selected rural regions

Steven Pedigo, Professor of Practice, Director of the LBJ Urban Lab, LBJ School of Public Affairs 

8- Economic booms, entrepreneurial activity, and economic resilience of rural Texas

Varun Rai, Associate Dean for Research; Professor of Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs 

9- Broadband access and entrepreneurial outcomes in rural regions

Sharon Strover, Professor at School of Journalism and Media, Department of Radio-Television-Film

10- Co-working spaces and innovative enterprises in rural and urban centers

Craig Watkins, Professor at School of Journalism and Media, Department of Radio-Television-Film

Additional Funded Faculty

Marcelo J. P. Paixão, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, College of Liberal Arts

Clay Spinuzzi, Professor and Associate Chair in Rhetoric and Writing, College of Liberal Arts

Michael Pyrcz, Associate Professor in Petroleum Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering 

For more information on the Faculty Research Program or the Institute’s mission and catalyzing research, please contact Riffat Manasia, Director of Strategy and Engagement: riffat.manasia@austin.utexas.edu.