Cordes, Sam


Sam Cordes is a Former Associate Vice Provost for Engagement, Purdue University. Sam Cordes’ impressive career in higher education has spanned four decades, both as a distinguished scholar and as an administrator known for his vision, integrity, and ability to bring about change. Since retiring from full-time employment at Purdue University (in 2011) he has worked on a number of consulting projects, including that of Senior Advisor to the University of Nebraska in creating the Rural Futures Institute and in leading the Spatial Analytics Initiative of the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) at the University of Iowa.

During his eight years at Purdue University, Cordes served as (a) Associate Vice Provost for Engagement (b) Founder and Co-Director, Center for Regional Development (c) Assistant Director and Program Leader, Cooperative Extension and (d) Professor of Agricultural Economics.

In these various roles, Dr. Cordes provided leadership and administrative oversight for an extensive applied research and outreach/engagement program. Most of the programmatic focus was on regional economic and rural community development. Many of these programs received statewide and national awards/recognition as well as significant external funding from a variety of sources, e.g., a $15 million Workforce Innovation and Regional Economic Development grant from the U. S. Department of Labor; and several million dollars in funding from the U. S. Economic Development Administration. Additional external funding led to the creation of (a) a vision and strategic framework for rural Indiana (b) programs to meet the educational needs of Indiana’s rapidly growing Latino population and (c) initiatives to enhance entrepreneurship and small business development.

Dr. Cordes has written or co-authored approximately 250 publications, including books/monographs, book chapters, and refereed journal articles; has presented formal papers at countless professional meetings; has served as speaker, discussant, panelist, or organizer at innumerable conferences and workshops; and has been invited to provide Congressional testimony on more than a dozen occasions.

Honors include: first recipient of Washington State University’s (WSU) Graduate Alumni Achievement Award; Distinguished Researcher Award from the National Rural Health Association; RUPRI Founders Award; and the Distinguished Alumni Award from South Dakota State University (SDSU).

In addition to his scholarly work and administrative leadership, Dr. Cordes is known as an institutional innovator and social entrepreneur. For example, he has played a major leadership role in the  creation/development of several major organizations and initiatives, including the following: Purdue Center for Regional Development; Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs; Indiana Cooperative Development Center; Nebraska Cooperative Development Center; Nebraska Development Network;  RUPRI; Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics; National Association of Agricultural Economics Administrators; and the  Journal of Rural Health.

Dr. Cordes was born in western South Dakota. He attended a one-room school near the family’s cattle ranch for grades 1-8, before attending Sturgis (SD) high school where he received all-state honors as a wrestler. He was a member of the SDSU rodeo team and remained heavily involved in rodeo competition (as a bull rider) until joining the faculty at Pennsylvania State University.

His undergraduate degree is from SDSU and his PhD from WSU. Prior to Purdue, Dr. Cordes spent time in faculty and/or administrative roles at Penn State, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Nebraska.  Sabbatical leaves were served as a Visiting Professorship at the University of Wisconsin and a Visiting Scholar at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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