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Susan Odum

Susan Odum
Community and Economic Development Specialist

PO Box 158, 208 E Main Street Vienna IL 62995

Program Areas
Community and Economic Development

Susan’s community development education programs provide rural residents with the knowledge needed to break the cycle of decline impacting many of Illinois’ small, rural communities. Her programs help community groups better understand their individual role in community development and planning; the importance of using a data-driven decision making process; the significance of strategies focused on providing support for entrepreneurs, existing businesses and new business start-ups; the basis for using the community’s unique assets; and the importance of pursuing community economic development from a regional perspective.

Within the specialization, Susan has translated research on rural economics into programming, empowering residents of small, rural communities with information and the opportunity to make informed decisions. As a result, attitudes and behaviors are changing in support of regional thinking and ecosystems that recognize the importance of small business and entrepreneurship as drivers of rural economies. As a result, small business, entrepreneurship and innovation will be the key drivers ensuring a financial future for rural Illinois.


Susan graduated summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2003. Susan began her career with the University of Illinois Extension in 2005. In July of 2019, she accepted a new position as the Extension Specialist in Community Economic Development for Region 3. 

Professional Certifications & Trainings

Midwest Community Development Institute, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, 2006-2008.

Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED), Community Development Council, 2009.

NCTI® Real Colors® Facilitator Certification, National Curriculum & Training Institute, Inc, 2012.

Stronger Economies Together Coaches Workshop, Southern Rural Development Center, 2013, 2015.

Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy, Delta Regional Authority, 2015.

Facilitative Leadership Program Facilitator Certification, Michigan State University Extension, 2016.

Navigating Difference: Cultural Competency Facilitator Certification, Washington State University, 2017.

Authentic Leadership Executive Academy for Delta Leaders, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, 2019.

Business Retention and Expansion (BRE), University of Minnesota Extension, 2020.

CREATE BRIDGES Coaches Workshop, Southern Rural Development Center, 2020.

Professional Affiliations

Susan is a member of the Community Development Society (CDS), the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP), the Delta Leadership Network (DLN) and Business Retention & Expansion International (BREI).


Susan’s community development outreach efforts were recognized by the University of Illinois Extension at the 2015 Annual Conference Awards Ceremony, where she was honored with the award for Outstanding Extension Professional.

Recent Media Coverage

Remote workforce creates challenge for business relief, University of Illinois Extension Building Entrepreneurial Communities Blog, April 12, 2020

In a word resilient, University of Illinois Extension Building Entrepreneurial Communities Blog, April 16, 2020

Resilience: the new normal for small business owners,, May 30, 2020

Farmers are my kinda people,, July 1, 2020

Census 2020: Representation and fund distribution, University of Illinois Extension Building  Entrepreneurial Communities Blog, July 1, 2020

The 2020 Census: How and why to respond,, July 4, 2020