David Peters

david peters headshotThe university’s connectivity to the people of Iowa is one of the things David Peters appreciates most about working for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“I like the idea that I can get calls out of the blue from someone in a town or a farmer who wants to talk about an idea,” said Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist at Iowa State. “It’s the idea that Iowans feel they can call Iowa State and talk about an idea they have to help their community. That connection people feel, that’s something I like about Iowa culture and the relationship Iowa State has to the people of the state.”

How long have you worked for ISU Extension and Outreach?
I started in 2008, so I’ve been at Iowa State for 10 years.

What do you do for ISU Extension and Outreach?
I primarily do three things. I do demographic analysis to help communities deal with either growing or declining populations; I help communities understand social and economic changes; and I help local leaders try to maintain community traditions, maintain a high quality of life and encourage social interactions when they are encountering demographic changes.

What is the best part of working for ISU Extension and Outreach?
Definitely working with Iowans. Every time I go into a community and hear about what they are doing, it’s thrilling because these towns are innovative and motivated to address their changes. Their solutions to issues are very creative and it’s great to work with people who care so deeply about their towns.

What drew you to Iowa State?
Iowa State’s Land Grant tradition. In rural sociology, Iowa State is one of maybe four universities in the country that have a tradition of strong sociology extension. When people think of innovative Land Grant universities they think of Iowa State. That’s where I wanted to be.

Do you have any big upcoming projects or events?
I am working on a series of upcoming publications on how rural towns can deal with the social and economic impacts of a large processing plant opening in their community. We have been tracking towns since the mid-1990s and can now make statements on good things to do and what to avoid.

I am also part of a national project that deals with the opioid epidemic facing many communities. The project looks into how communities can address the epidemic and what they can do to empower themselves to minimize the results of the epidemic and its impact.

With your time with Extension, what is one thing you are especially proud to have accomplished?
I am most proud of, and also hope to continue, helping shrinking rural communities adapt to the challenges of providing services for people who remain in their town. I’ve been privileged to help share the story that there is nothing wrong with a town just because their population has declined.

Name one fun thing about yourself that not many people know.
I’ve been an amateur goalie in the men’s adult hockey league in Des Moines. I’m a Minnesotan, so hockey was a big part of my life growing up. These days I just watch my son’s games.

What do you do in your free time?
I mostly spend my time with my 15-year old son and my wife. My wife is from Colombia so we host Colombian parties with plenty of good food and dancing. I didn’t do much dancing growing up in Minnesota, but I’ve learned a few Latin dance steps.

How do you create a #StrongIowa?
Making sure rural communities are vibrant economically and socially to help them be as strong for the next 100 years as they have been for the past 100 years.