MSU professor invited to White House conference

November 16th, 2015 Comments Off on MSU professor invited to White House conference

John Poros will attend a conference on rural development at the White House Nov. 17. (Photo by Megan Bean)

John Poros will attend a conference on rural development at the White House Nov. 17. (Photo by Megan Bean)

By Zack Plair | Mississippi State University

A Mississippi State University faculty member has earned an invitation to the White House for a conference focused on better rural development.

John Poros, an associate professor of architecture and director for the Carl Small Town Center at MSU, will attend The White House Convening on Rural Placemaking on Tuesday [Nov. 17]. The event will include federal, state and local public sector officials, national non-profit organizations, foundations and individuals to better align federal, state and philanthropic work to support and leverage the power of “placemaking” – a citizen-led process that helps activate downtowns and community gathering places.

The Carl Small Town Center has worked with Mississippi communities for more than 30 years, said Poros, the center’s leader for the last eight years. He said his team – which includes an assistant director and roughly a dozen undergraduates from the College of Architecture, Art and Design – work on designs for several community projects each year, ranging from parks, plazas and public buildings to improvements to historic structures and entire downtown districts.

“There are so many places in a rural environment that are important and can provide a sense of place,” Poros said. “When you’re talking about public spaces, you’re talking about quality of life issues.”

Most recently, Poros noted, the center designed a park and pavilion for the town of Houston, Mississippi, to anchor the Tanglefoot Trail, a 44-mile bike trail that runs from Houston to New Albany and helps drive tourism in the area. He said the center also has worked with communities such as Corinth, Laurel, Cleveland, Greenwood, Pass Christian and Jackson.

The White House Rural Council is partnering with Project for Public Spaces and the National Main Street Center to host Tuesday’s convening. It represents a new approach, said Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Shaun Donovan, in partnering communities with federal resources to create public spaces that generate pride and economic development.

“It’s pretty simple. First, we partner with communities by seeking out their plans or vision. Second, we take a one-government approach that crosses agency and program silos to support communities in implementing their plans for improvement,” Donovan said in an email statement about the program. “Finally we focus on what works, using data to measure success and monitor progress.”

At the Washington convening, Poros said he hopes to share MSU’s knowledge and experience in dealing with rural communities, as well as learn about “common problems” and “common goals” among others attending from across the country. He called it “very heartening” to see the White House administration involved in advancing rural placemaking.

“These types of projects could have an enormous impact on the survival of some of these rural communities,” he said.

For more information on the Carl Small Town Center, visit