Nov 12, 2018 6:00 PM - Nov 13, 2018 4:30 PM (Add to calendar)
1002 George Bush Dr. West College Station, TX 77843

The Texas Tribune is pleased to present a symposium on rural policy and affairs in Texas. Join us as we dive into the future of rural education, health care, natural resource preservation and infrastructure investment, and explore the current political climate in rural Texas and the state's economic future. Also on the agenda — a keynote conversation and reception with state legislators from across Texas on the rural agenda heading into the 86th legislative session.

Monday, Nov. 12

Annenberg Presidential Conference Center
at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library
1002 George Bush Dr. West
College Station, TX 77843

5:30pm Registration Opens

6pm Introduction: John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System

6-7:15pm The 86th Legislative Agenda
Presented by Texas A&M Agrilife

  • State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin
  • State Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo
  • State Rep. Mary González, D-Clint
  • State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass
  • State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo
  • Moderated by Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO of The Texas Tribune

7:15-9pm Opening Reception
Presented by Texas A&M Agrilife

Tuesday, Nov. 13

Century Ballroom 
at the Texas A&M Hotel & Conference Center
177 Joe Routt Blvd.
College Station, TX 77840

7:30am Breakfast & Expo Open

8:20-8:40am Setting the Table: What is Rural Texas?
Presented by Texas Rural Funders Collaborative

  • Tom Luce, founder and chairman of Texas 2036

8:45-9:05am Public Opinion and Rural Texas
Presented by Texas Rural Funders Collaborative

  • Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project

9:15-10:05am Educating the Next Generation
Presented by Texas Tech University System

  • Kim Alexander, superintendent of the Roscoe Independent School District
  • Jimmie Don Aycock, former state Rep. and former chair of the House Public Education Committee
  • Sylvia Leal, senior program officer for Education and Economic Development at the T.L.L Temple Foundation
  • Cheryl Sparks, president of Howard College
  • Moderated by Alana Rocha, multimedia reporter for The Texas Tribune

10:15-11:05am Investing in Infrastructure
Presented by Oncor

  • Will Conley, chairman of CAMPO and a former Hays County commissioner
  • State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin
  • State Rep. Ben Leman, R-Anderson, and former Grimes County judge
  • Bill Stockton, executive associate agency director for the Interdisciplinary Research Group at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute
  • Moderated by Brandon Formby, urban affairs reporter for The Texas Tribune

11:15am-12:05pm Preserving Natural Resources
Presented by Corteva Agriscience™ The Agriculture Division of DowDuPont

  • Blair Fitzsimons, CEO of the Texas Agricultural Land Trust
  • State Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station
  • Roel Lopez, director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute
  • Lara Zent, executive director and general counsel of the Texas Rural Water Association
  • Moderated by Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University

12:05pm Lunch

12:40pm Introduction: Bruce Esterline, senior vice president for strategic initiatives and grants at the Meadows Foundation

12:45-1:35pm The View from Rural Communities
Presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas

  • Donnie Allred, Oldham County judge
  • Shelley Brophy, mayor of Nacogdoches
  • Alma Moreno, San Patricio County commissioner
  • Ramiro Rodriguez, mayor of Palmhurst
  • Moderated by Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO of The Texas Tribune

1:45-2:15pm The State of the Rural Economy
Presented by Texas Association of Dairymen

  • Glenn Hegar, Texas comptroller of public accounts

2:25-3:15pm Building an Economic Future
Presented by WGU Texas

  • Becky Garlick, executive dean of Blinn College
  • Marilu Hastings, vice president for sustainability at the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation
  • Arleene Loyd, executive director of the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation
  • Ines Polonius, CEO of Communities Unlimited
  • Moderated by Alana Rocha, multimedia reporter for The Texas Tribune

3:25-4:15pm Ensuring Rural Health
Presented by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas

  • Debra Flores, director of the West Texas Area Health Education Center at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health
  • John Henderson, president and CEO of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals
  • Susan Rushing, CEO of Burke
  • State Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville
  • Moderated by Marissa Evans, health and human services policy reporter for The Texas Tribune

Event Details

This event will be held on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, and is free and open to the public. On Monday, Nov. 12, the event will be held at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. The opening reception will include complimentary light bites and a cash bar. On Tuesday, Nov. 13, the events will be held in the Century Ballroom at the Texas A&M Hotel & Conference Center. A light breakfast and lunch are included.

Attendees can reserve a room at the Texas A&M Hotel & Conference Center here. Paid visitor parking will be available Cain Garage (parking fee not included in registration).

All panels from this event will be livestreamed here.

We Also Want to Hear from You

In tandem with this live event, The Texas Tribune has produced a Community Conversations toolkit on Texas rural issues to help you bring the event to your community and catalyze a constructive dialogue on the most pressing issues faced by rural Texas communities.

We know that many Texans interested in these issues may not be able to travel to College Station to attend the event in person nor be able to view the livestream or video. That’s why we’ve created the “Future of Rural Texas Community Conversation Toolkit” — a step-by-step guide to hosting event watch parties in your community and sparking meaningful conversations on how the issues discussed at the event impact you.

Download our Future of Rural Texas watch party and community conversation toolkit here and find a watch party happening near you here.


The Tribune's symposia are modeled on the celebrated Texas Tribune Festival. These events bring together experts to present and generate productive conversations on major issues of the day.


This event is presented by Educate Texas, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation, Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation, Meadows Foundation, St. David's Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Rebuild Texas, T.L.L. Temple Foundation and Texas Pioneer Foundation. Major sponsors include Texas A&M Agrilife, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Episcopal Health Foundation, Texas Central, Texas Farm Bureau, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Texas Association of Community Colleges, the Texas Wildlife Association, Oncor, Texas Agriculture Council, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Texas State University System, Texas Municipal League, Corteva Agriscience™ The Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, WGU Texas, Texas and Southwestern Cattleraisers Association, Texas Association of Dairymen, Texas Rural Water Association, Texas Corn Producers Association, the Texas Tech University System, Texas Living Waters Project, Texas Electric Cooperatives, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and Pearson. This event is supported by Texas Citrus Mutual, the Farm Credit Bank of Texas, the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas, Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council, Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, Texas Poultry Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Western Equipment Dealers Association, Texas Grain and Feed Association, Texas Forestry Association, Association of Rural Communities in Texas, the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Texas Agricultural Aviation Association, the City of Bryan, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, Bob Turner-Rural Issues Consulting and AgWorkers Insurance. The event is hosted by Texas A&M University. Media support is provided by Marfa Public Radio, GateHouse Media, KBTX, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, KACU and The Eagle.

Tribune events are also supported through contributions from our founding investors and members. Though donors and corporate sponsors underwrite Texas Tribune events, they play no role in determining the content, panelists or line of questioning.

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