Community Engagement Education Model

Teaching & Engagement, 2016


Many semester-long, service-learning projects realize immediate impact on community partners and service-learning students, yet this has not translated into long-term community impact. It is felt the short time frame of the fifteen-week semester coupled with the partner’s limited capacity and infrastructure to act on recommendations diminishes long-term impact. This two-year process will evaluate the ability to strengthen partnerships and develop capacity for the region’s residents by going beyond the semester time frame and including an expanded team that includes Nebraska Extension and community and professional experts and also extends the project time frame over multiple years with participation of multiple studios of students.



PROJECT ONE: Regional Cultural Heritage Tourism, Discovering the Potential

Summary Process, Partners, Products and Outcomes for June 2016 – January 2019

This process began as an exploratory University of Nebraska–Lincoln undergraduate landscape architecture studio. The study sought to understand the ways to increase economic development through a more regional approach to cultural heritage tourism. The study area was established based on a series of user profiles and their interest in traveling a distance of two hours and spending up to three days experiencing a myriad of local resources including museums, public parks, golfing, restaurants, and so on.

A team of nine students collected information in the study area and discovered the wealth of interesting cultural, historic, and environmental resources. At a community meeting and based on this inventory, a group of community participants suggested that the project researchers explore a National Heritage Area. The students spent three weeks understanding the requirements associated with becoming a National Heritage Area (NHA). Through public-private partnerships, NHA entities support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, and educational projects.

The NHA Ad Hoc Steering Committee approved Professor Kim Wilson’s request for a feasibility study in order to create a National Heritage Area in Red Cloud and surrounding communities. Details to come.


PROJECT TWO: Valentine, Places in Making

Summary of Process, Partners, Products and Outcomes for July 2017 – October 2018

The partnership and initial Rural Community Prosperity Initiative research led to the submittal and award ($10,000 funding with 22,460 local matching). A proposal and budget were submitted for the National Endowment for the Arts Center for Rural Design to conduct a two-day workshop on October 9-10, 2018 for visioning Main Street, Valentine, NE. Working with People for Public Spaces (PPS), the project researchers will be engaging nationally renowned retail, urban design, and transportation experts to assist in conducting a community-based design charrette resulting in redesign and construction of Main Street in 2021. The students developed initial design proposals to be undertaken by Valentine and its citizens for a series of projects that support economic development and demographic renewal, including:  Main Street revitalization, City Park, Third Street Corridor Enhancement, Pedestrian Trail Network, Highway 20 East Corridor and Gateway, and Green Street Housing Development.

PROJECT THREE: Nebraska City Riverfront Development

Summary of Process and Partners, February – December 2018

A year into the Community Prosperity Initiative this research project established relationships with a cohort of six rural communities to explore the conditions that enable for a more prosperous future by: (1) understanding the economic opportunities that contribute to the creation of businesses, jobs and careers; (2) understanding the types and extent of placemaking to restore or build on community assets that support a high quality of life; and (3) understand how to attract and keep people to achieve demographic renewal.  Nebraska City, Nebraska was one of the communities that had been working to gain understanding of both economic and the demographic renewal opportunities.  Early in 2018 the Nebraska Community Foundation held a two-day workshop to discover and prioritize community initiatives. One project that received strong community support was the riverfront and trail network. With an NU Extension Educator actively coaching a well-formed and engaged community-wide committee, the logical next step was for the CEEM project to partner with Nebraska City and look at the potential of the riverfront.

Project Team


  • Nebraska Extension
  • Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
  • Willa Cather Foundation
  • City of Red Cloud
  • City of Valentine
  • City of Nebraska City
  • Red Cloud Chamber of Commerce
  • Red Cloud Heritage Tourism
  • National Parks System
  • Center for Great Plains Studies
  • Orphan Train, Concordia, KS
  • Nebraska Farm Bureau
  • Valentine Economic Development
  • Valentine Chamber of Commerce
  • People for Public Space (PPS) and National Endowment for the Arts
  • Nebraska City Community Prosperity TART Committee






Media Coverage


Contact: Kim Wilson,