Mark Peterson

Photo of Mark Peterson
Award Year

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Dr. Mark Peterson as the 2020 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Lifetime Achievement Award. Before retiring in March 2020, Dr. Peterson served as a Professor of Community and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.

Dr. Peterson began his career in Community Development as an Area Specialist with the University of Missouri Cooperative Extension Service. After 14 years he made the move to Arkansas where he served as the Interim State Program Leader for 4-H Youth Development, the State Program Leader for Community Development, and finally Professor of Community and Economic Development. While working in Missouri, Dr. Peterson was heavily involved in Community Development and at the state level served as Co-chairman of the Community and Economic Development Initiative Team.

After moving to Arkansas, Dr. Peterson launched what is now called Breakthrough Solutions, a collaborative effort that involves community leaders and citizens in developing a community blueprint and action plan to realize their desired future. This program has been successful in 26 communities and regions since 2008 and has led to projects and initiatives valued at $76.7 million. One such success was the group dubbed ‘Moving Manila Forward’ in Manila, Arkansas. Through Dr. Peterson’s leadership, Manila was able to complete 32 community projects and start five new businesses. At the state level, Dr. Peterson served on the Arkansas Rural Policy Team which led to the formation of the Arkansas Department of Rural Services.

During his tenure, Dr. Peterson has been published in multiple Community Development journals and presented at numerous national conferences including the Community Development Society and National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals. He has also taught workshops in five different countries including a consultation with the U.S. Ukraine Foundation where he created a strategic visioning toolkit for various Ukrainian cities. Dr. Peterson has also served as a board member and instructor for the University of Central Arkansas’s Community Development Institute since 1988.

On behalf of Dr. Peterson’s nomination, Dr. Stacey McCullough, Assistant Director - Community, Professional, and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas, states that “He generates enthusiasm, gives people hope and motivates them to take action”. Ray Benson, Staff Chair at University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, also stated about Dr. Peterson that “Without question he has helped communities discover new ideas and applying new strategies to solving problems, and he has certainly helped strengthening the capacity of communities in Arkansas”.

Without a doubt, Dr. Peterson’s body of work in the field of Community Development demonstrates the spirit of this prestigious award. Therefore, it is most fitting that Dr. Mark Peterson be honored as the Southern Rural Development Center’s 2020 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Lifetime Achievement Award.

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