Nationwide Foundation grant supports leadership training program

July 24, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A $20,000 grant from the Nationwide Insurance Foundation will support a leadership-education program in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

The Pennsylvania Rural-Urban Leadership program, known as RULE, is a two-year leadership development initiative administered within the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education. RULE is open to all adult Pennsylvania residents who want to develop their leadership skills and improve the quality of life in their local communities.

The program focuses on developing proficiencies in four target areas: communication skills, group process, personal leadership and specific community issues, according to J.D. Dunbar, RULE program manager and senior extension associate.

"One of the issues Nationwide was interested in addressing was crisis communication in leadership," Dunbar said. "That's an area that we believe should be a benchmark in leadership development, so we have begun to incorporate crisis communication into our curriculum. This grant will help us to enhance and better integrate our offerings on this important topic."

She said the funding will help cover program costs for RULE study institutes. The three-day institutes explore rural and urban issues and help participants expand their skills and knowledge while learning how to take part in public decision-making more effectively.

Since its inception in 1985, RULE has graduated nearly 600 leaders. Alumni include local, state and federal elected officials, business and community leaders, higher education administrators, agricultural professionals and government agency personnel.

"RULE alumni are influencing public policy at all levels of local and state government," Dunbar said. "Many graduates credit the program for their success. It's a transformative experience."

Among those graduates is Keith Eckel, a leader in the Pennsylvania agricultural community and chairman of the board of directors for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

"The Rural-Urban Leadership Program made such a huge difference in my life -- immeasurable," said Eckel, who also is a member of the Penn State board of trustees. "I am very excited Nationwide's contribution will help make a positive difference in the lives of young Pennsylvanians. Their leadership will positively impact the future of this country."

More information about RULE is available at the program's website.

The Nationwide Insurance Foundation is an independent corporation funded by contributions from Nationwide companies. Founded in 1959, the foundation has committed more than $310 million since 2000 to help nonprofit organizations in communities where Nationwide customers, associates, agents and their families live and work. Just as Nationwide supports its customers in their moment of need, the company's involvement in its home communities is focused on supporting organizations that help people facing critical or immediate need. For more information, visit

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Last Updated July 24, 2013