Shrinking The Rural Leadership Gap

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From Kayla Schnuelle, Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver

 

What happens when the leaders in your community retire, move or step down? Is there a leadership succession plan happening in your community? Is the next generation of leaders being mentored?

Leadership is important and even critical for long-term success and vitality of rural communities. In my experience, leadership tends to be the major factor that distinguishes thriving rural places from those that are lagging behind.

Kayla-graph

As we look deeper, it becomes apparent that the transfer of leadership from one generation to the next may be another important factor and could serve as a powerful tool for communities.

The rural leadership gap is real and is amplified because of outmigration of the millennials. According to a research published in the Cornhusker Economics, some young adults, especially young families, are looking to relocate from metro areas to nonmetro areas. They want to live in family-friendly communities to raise their children. They also need a way to support themselves, so employment opportunities are critical.

In most rural communities, the majority of leadership positions — elected service and volunteer — are held by the oldest two generations in the communities. The 2012 Nebraska Rural Poll showed that of young Nebraskans (under the age of 36) that took the poll, only 8 percent held elected offices and less than one-third held formal leadership roles. This is not a new phenomenon. It has happened for decades, but the unique part of this trend is that the lack of leadership transfer is now coupled with the huge transfer of wealth occurrence.

The Nebraska Community Foundation researched the transfer of wealth in Nebraska, predicting that during the next 50 years, more than $602 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next. This will be the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in our state’s history.

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The World War II and Baby Boomer generation own more private wealth than any other generations, with more than $600 billion in wealth. This wealth may be held in real estate, securities, retirement accounts and other assets. Some will go to taxes while most will go to heirs. Due to outmigration, many of those heirs no longer live where the wealth was built and may no longer feel connected to those places. Once wealth leaves these communities, the opportunity for give-back becomes more and more unlikely. (The Nebraska Community Foundation, 2011 Transfer of Wealth Study Summary Report, 2012.)

So, what happens when the transfer of wealth is accompanied by a gap in the transfer of leadership? People will retire and pass on their wealth and leadership positions, but what happens when the next wave of leaders are unprepared and/or nonexistent?

According to the 2015 American Community Survey, in Nebraska’s 86 most rural counties, there is a population dip between ages 20-49 (Figure 1). It is significant in most instances. Many people are not surprised by this. However, when you think about the dip in population, the transfer of wealth and the transfer of leadership brings a significant challenge.

What is the solution? There are no specific answers, but I believe that rural leadership needs to start and continue a culture of ‘giving back to the community.’ This happens with service, financial gifting and becoming a community leader. Current rural leadership also needs to mentor, teach and ask the next generations to participate and lead efforts in rural places.

 

“A true rural leader invites other people of diversity to the table and steps back, guides and supports in an act of service to their community.” – Kayla Schnuelle

 

If you do empower others to serve and guide with a gentle hand, then the opportunities for your community are generative and endless. The young leaders that you mentor are the best attraction and retention for the next wave of rural leaders.

Support your community by supporting a culture of giving, and make intentional plans to transfer leadership by extending personal invites and embracing new thoughts, ideas and people. Slowly but surely, we will see the rural leadership gap diminish.

 


 

Kayla Schnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle

Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver | Rural Futures Institute
@kschnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle directs the RFI Student Serviceship program, coordinates the state-wide network of young professionals, Connecting Young Nebraskans, and offers her expertise in facilitation and leadership throughout many of RFI’s initiatives.

She has developed a deep understanding of the opportunities and trials that young professionals are finding in rural places. With an immense support network in place, Kayla has coordinated three statewide summits and has assisted in planning two national Rural Futures Institute Conferences.

 


 

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CYN Blog | Abigail Frank | Neligh, Neb.

CYN steering team member Abigail Frank from Neligh, Nebraska, is on the blog! In her vlog she shares about her background, the importance of CYN, the resource that has inspired her research and more! Watch to the end and be sure to share what helps you create positive energy at work.

 

 


 

Abigail Frank

Abigail Frank

Full-Time M.A. Graduate Student
Join me on LinkedIn

Abigail Frank is a full-time graduate student at the University of South Dakota working toward her masters in science, majoring in administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership. She previously served in economic development for the City of Creighton, Neb. Abigail lives in Neligh, Neb., with her husband and four fur-babies.

She has developed a deep understanding of the opportunities and trials that young professionals are finding in rural places. With an immense support network in place, Kayla has coordinated three statewide summits and has assisted in planning two national Rural Futures Institute Conferences.

 


 

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RFI Student Serviceship Interns Start in Rural Communities

Serviceship Group Photo

And they’re off!

Today 10 trained RFI Student Serviceship interns are starting their nine-week experiences in rural Nebraska and Indiana communities.

2017 RFI Student Serviceship Host Communities

  • McCook, Neb.
  • North Platte, Neb.
  • West Point, Neb.
  • York, Neb.
  • Newton County, Ind.

A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, “serviceships” provide communities with tangible results on important self-defined projects while giving students resume-building work and insight into the career and life opportunities in rural places.

University of Nebraska at Kearney and University of Nebraska–Lincoln student pairs will lead projects and serve and participate in the communities throughout Nebraska. With assistance from the Jasper Foundation, Taylor University and Depauw University students will work in Newton County, Ind.

 

Get to Know the Serviceship Interns!

 

All students completed a one-week leadership training course hosted by the Rural Futures Institute where they got to know their partners, learned more about their communities, gained details about their projects and held online meetings with their host teams. Students were introduced to personal and professional development strategies as well as community development theories and practices. They also explored Firth, Neb., and Seward, Neb., to hear from community leaders and entrepreneurs. A special thanks to our guest speakers!

RFI Student Serviceship Leadership Training Course | Guest Speakers

Amanda Barker | Deputy Executive Director, Nebraskans for Civic Reform

Tom Field, Ph.D. | Director of Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Lindsay Hastings, Ph.D. | Director of Nebraska Human Resources Institute & Clifton Professor in Mentoring Research, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Kurt Mantonya | Senior Associate, Heartland Center for Leadership Development

Linda Moody | Assistant Director, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Civic Engagement

Reshell Ray | Associate Director, University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus Programs & RFI Community Innovation Fellow

Milan Wall | Co-Director, Heartland Center for Leadership Development & RFI Community Innovation Fellow
Stay up-to-date on this summer’s serviceship experience on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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RFI Student Serviceship Interns Start Their Rural Nebraska Experiences

For eight University of Nebraska (NU) students, this week marks the start of their “rural immersion” into four Nebraska communities.

McCook, Neb., North Platte, Neb., West Point, Neb., and York, Neb., are hosting pairs of University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) and University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) students through Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Student Serviceship. A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, “serviceships” provide communities with tangible results on important self-defined projects while giving students resume-building work and insight into the career and life opportunities in rural places.

Community host teams include subject-matter experts and leadership mentors that assist with students’ major projects, connect them with volunteering opportunities and invite them to participate in community events and activities. RFI provides support and guidance throughout the nine-week serviceship experience, and all participants learn and share on behalf of rural community growth. RFI Student Serviceship was made possible in partnership with the Heartland Center of Leadership Development.

“We have had many students go into communities through RFI Student Serviceship and make a positive, significant and ongoing impact,” said Chuck Schroeder, RFI Executive Director. “But, as importantly, the students themselves gain real-world experience and build a network that influences them for a lifetime.

 

“We have had many students go into communities through RFI Student Serviceship and make a positive, significant and ongoing impact. But, as importantly, the students themselves gain real-world experience and build a network that influences them for a lifetime.”

–Chuck Schroeder, RFI Executive Director

 

“It is our way of giving students a new or a first experience in a rural community, so they can be storytellers, champions and leaders for rural throughout their lives. And it gives communities specific results from the University of Nebraska.”

All student interns completed a one-week leadership training course hosted by RFI the week of May 22. They got to know their partners, learned more about their communities, gained details about their projects and held online meetings with their community host teams. NU faculty and staff as well as community leaders served as guest speakers, introducing the students to personal and professional development strategies as well as community development theories and practices. The students also explored Firth, Neb., and Seward, Neb., to hear from local leaders and entrepreneurs.

“I knew this was going to be a great resume-building experience for me,” said UNL agribusiness major Amber Ross. “What I didn’t realize is how much support I would have, and how much of a professional network I would build. Just the training course was an incredible experience, so I obviously can’t wait to start my projects in West Point.”

2017 Project Summaries

In McCook, Neb., Tyan Boyer and Collin Fleecs, exercise science majors at UNK, are creating health science education summer day camps for area youth. The camps will provide hands-on educational environments that integrate many key skills necessary to not only improve the health of rural youth, but also inspire future health professionals.

UNL agricultural economics major Syndi Lienemann and UNL agricultural education major Trey Mogensen are helping North Platte, Neb., connect the dots between workforce recruitment and workforce readiness. They will work hand-in-hand with North Platte Public School, the North Platte Chamber of Commerce and the business community to identify the community’s great career opportunities and develop a marketing plan for high school students, college students, community members and potential new residents.

West Point, Neb., is taking an inventory of the community’s parks and recreation opportunities and, with the help of Ross and UNL environmental studies graduate Madeleine Schwinghammer, will develop a needs assessment that will dive into what the community can do to create a more robust lifestyle for those who live in Cuming County.

In York, Neb., UNL political science major Emily Coffey and UNL agricultural economics major Shelby Riggs will work with York County Economic Development, York Chamber of Commerce, City of York, Nebraska Extension and other community stakeholders to craft a plan to increase awareness and propel LB840 forward.

 

Since 2013, 38 NU students have worked and served in 19 Nebraska communities through RFI Student Serviceship. This year is the first year out-of-state students also completed training. Through the Jasper Foundation, Courtney Feagans of Taylor University and Riley Hickman of Depauw University will serve in Jasper and Newton counties in Indiana. RFI Student Serviceship developed from a 2013 RFI Competitive Awards teaching and engagement project led by Dr. Tom Field and Dr. Lindsay Hastings of UNL.

For more details, including community host team members, visit ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/serviceship. Coverage of the students’ experiences will be shared throughout the summer on RFI’s Facebook (ruralfutures) and Twitter (rural_futures).