Skip to main content

Mary Emery

Emery, Mary
Faculty Photo
Contact Information:
Home University:
Program involvement
Community Development Graduate Programs - Instructor


Mary Emery has been involved in community development practice for several decades working at Lewis-Clark State College, Iowa State University, Heartland Center for Leadership Development, and now at South Dakota State University. She has been privileged to work with wonderful colleagues around the globe including training in community coaching in Chiapas, Mexico, gender inclusion at CATIA in Costa Rica, using Appreciate Inquiry for strategic planning in Peru and working with a community capacity building project in Slovakia. Her work has also involved Alaskan villages, Native Hawaiian projects, tribal colleges, and tribal food sovereignty programs in addition to numerous small towns.

Emery’s practice has focused on working with communities and organizations to build capacity for successful community change efforts that lead to prosperity for all. Her scholarship resides at the nexus of practice and research. She is interested in what works on the ground and why.  In addition to the important role of social capital, she has focused on the importance of cultural capital and how changes in everyday ways of thinking and doing in community contexts are critical to developing collective efficacy.

She received funding from the Bush Foundation to support a quality of life survey in South Dakota that included questions on community capacity. In addition, she is working with colleagues to develop an evaluation tool in which participants reflect on how change occurs in their community and using that information to generate a more sophisticated theory of change related to community change collective impact work.

Emery and the team working on Ripple Effect Mapping received an Excellence in Evaluation Training Award from the Extension Topical Interest Group, American Evaluation Association, and they received an award from the Community Development Society/National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals. Emery has been on the team the NACDEP award for work on the Sustaining Civic Capacity in the Rural South. 

Emery was honored with the Duane L. Gibson Distinguished Service Award from CDS and the Community Development Achievement Award from CDS. She received three awards from the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance for her work in the Great Plains IDEA online community development program.


Ph.D. in Sociology, Rutgers University 1986
M.S. in Sociology, Rutgers University, 1976
B.A. in Sociology, Livingston College, Rutgers University, 1974