News

RELEASE: Apply for RFI Scholarship to Mobile Tech Conference

July 18, 2018
Lincoln, Neb. — July 18, 2018 — The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is offering 10 $250 scholarships for rural Nebraska community innovators to attend the 2018 MobileMe&You national conference at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Oct. 26-27, 2018. …

Lincoln, Neb. — July 18, 2018 — The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is offering 10 $250 scholarships for rural Nebraska community innovators to attend the 2018 MobileMe&You national conference at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Oct. 26-27, 2018.

Scholarship Application »

MobileMe&You, a journalism and technology conference hosted by Gary Kebbel of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, focuses on new and emerging tools and best practices for storytelling on mobile media. Leading experts and researchers will discuss how to inform and engage new audiences in the mobile era.

“Mobile media are becoming increasingly critical for all aspects of life in rural areas—healthcare, agriculture, entrepreneurship and education,” said Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI Interim Executive Director. “When Professor Kebbel approached us about recruiting rural community leaders to attend, we jumped at the chance to partner. Our RFI scholarship awardees will certainly learn, but they will also bring extremely valuable and important perspectives to the presenters and other attendees.”

Conference speakers include:

  • Mark Hulsey, Big Ten Network vice president
  • Christina Kline, CNN senior mobile editor
  • Christopher Meighan, Washington Post director of emerging news products
  • And many more media professionals with mobile backgrounds!

Scholarships will be awarded based on answers to a series of questions around mobile technology use in rural communities and ideas for the future. The application is open today and will close Aug. 31, 2018. Awardees will be announced in late September.

Conference Details
Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, 2018 | 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. CST
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
City Campus Union
Extended details available at mobileme-you.com.

“I think the real key with mobile media is that it reaches everyone, and in particular, those who haven’t had the benefit of the super structure that’s in the city,” Kebbel said. “When the super highway that has 15 lanes does not reach out into rural Nebraska, mobile media do.

“Through mobile media you can get information, deal with medical issues, deal with financial issues, you can conduct your life as if you had the super highway. It’s your virtual super highway—it’s essential.”

 

Promotional Soundbites

Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., RFI Interim Executive Director, talks about the importance of mobile media in rural areas and the impact rural leaders can bring to the conference.

“Mobile media are becoming increasingly critical for all aspects of life in rural areas— healthcare, agriculture, entrepreneurship and education. Our RFI scholarship awardees will certainly learn, but they will also bring an extremely valuable and important perspective to the presenters and other attendees.” (19 seconds)

 

Gary Kebbel, professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, talks about expanding mobile media to rural Nebraska.

“I think the real key with mobile media is that it reaches everyone, and in particular, those who haven’t had the benefit of the super structure that’s in the city. When the super highway that has 15 lanes does not reach out into rural Nebraska, mobile media do. Through mobile media you can get information, deal with medical issues, deal with financial issues, you can conduct your life as if you had the super highway. It’s your virtual super highway—it’s essential.” (34 seconds)

 

He also discusses the importance of delivering stories and content on mobile media to reach audiences of the future.

“MobileMe&You is a conference that basically says, mobile media are so important to the future of reaching the new audience, young people, that you’ve got to learn to reach them where they are, on whatever device they are using, whenever they want. You’ve got to accept the fact that they are in control, and mobile me and you is going to teach you how to do that.” (21 seconds)

 

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About MobileMe&You
MobileMe&You is an information and technology conference that highlights new and innovative mobile media techniques and explores how to think differently about storytelling on mobile media platforms. The 2018 conference will be held at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus, with speakers from The Washington Post, CNN, Univision, the Big Ten Network, Verizon, Quartz and more to discuss how to use technologies such as bots, drones, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 video.
mobileme-you.com

About the Rural Futures Institute
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the NU system on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska, the U.S. and around the world. Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, RFI encourages bold and futuristic approaches to address rural issues and opportunities. It works collaboratively with education, business, community, non-profit, government and foundation partners to empower rural communities and their leaders.
ruralfutures.nebraska.edu

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Episode 7: John Roberts intersects healthcare, tech, rural-urban dynamic

July 17, 2018
            Rural healthcare access, overall wellness in rural areas and the future of rural hospitals are consistently present challenges discussed in the national narrative. In this episode, Dr. Connie asks John Roberts, Executive Director of the …

 


     

 

 

Rural healthcare access, overall wellness in rural areas and the future of rural hospitals are consistently present challenges discussed in the national narrative. In this episode, Dr. Connie asks John Roberts, Executive Director of the Nebraska Rural Health Association, to weigh in on these areas, but also talk about the opportunities of the future. As a member of the board of directors of the National Rural Health Association and with more than 35 years of experience in rural healthcare, John’s perspective on policy, technology and rural-urban collaboration is important for all of us to consider and understand as we shape the future of healthcare as a country. For example, did you know that rural hospitals are actually penalized for incorporating wellness centers? Did you know that rural healthcare providers earn the same level of outcomes in their areas of service but at 4 percent less cost than urban counterparts? Educating our rural leaders and residents along with our urban partners is critical, John says.

We hope you will listen in, rate our podcast and give us a review!

“Too many times I think we focus in on urban or rural, and you really can’t separate the two. Rural providers need urban counterparts for specialty services or services we can’t provide in rural settings and vice versa. When urban areas are being moved to this value based system, too, their incentives shift to try to make sure they get the patient back to rehab or other areas of rural Nebraska because they can do it as well and cheaper.“  
John Roberts
Executive Director, Nebraska Rural Health Association

About John

     

John Roberts is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Rural Health Association. He has more than 36 years of professional healthcare experience. John has been President of Midwest Health Consultants, Inc. for the past 16 years. He is responsible for the overall management and technical expertise of the consulting firm including business development & strategy, marketing, customer service and over-all project management

 

Show Notes

Hello and welcome back to the Rural Futures Podcast. I’m your host Dr. Connie. And joining us today is John Roberts who has over 38 years of professional healthcare experience and serves as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Rural Health Association, and he’s done that for the past 14 years. But John, I want to hand it over to you. Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Well I’ve started my career in hospital administration back in 1980. I graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center with a health services administration degree. Went from there from Omaha to a little town in western Nebraska which was Ogallala Community Hospital and spend six years there as business manager, eventually the system administrator. It was a great way to get your feet wet, and I learned a lot about rural healthcare. And I think that’s really where my passion begins to develop and really love the people in rural areas. I really believe what rural providers do and the quality of life that they can create for their communities. So I left there in 1986 and came back to Lincoln, Nebraska. I worked for Nebraska Hospital Association as one of their lobbyist and your point person on small rural healthcare issues. And did that for about 12 years and then left there and started my own consulting company. We managed a couple of different associations. As you mentioned we managed the Rural Office Association, and I also managed the Dental Hygienist Association of Nebraska. So we do a lot of work with those organizations, do a lot of work with communities all across the state of Nebraska. I think I worked in every rural hospital in the state over the last 30 years or so so labor of love for sure. I also served on the board of directors of the National Rural Health Association. We’re critically involved with policy and things that are happening at the federal level and legislation and hopefully to improve the condition of rural health across the country.

Now we’re gonna get into more of that in just a second. And that’s a lot of the serious stuff about John Roberts. But I want to know too, I know our listeners want to know, what do you do for fun? Because I know there are some things that you do that I think everybody would be very interested in hearing about.

Well I like the usual stuff like golf and I do a lot of wood working in the winter time. But I love playing with my nine grandchildren who range in age from two to twelve.

I know you love the great outdoors and your family has a cabin on Lake McConaughy which is also Nebraska. One of our wonderful bodies of water. So I know you have that compassion for rural and hospitals but also this experience of rural and what that has to offer.

Yeah, I love getting out to western Nebraska. There’s a certain beauty to the Sandhills of Nebraska that you just cannot find anywhere else in the country, and I just love the culture. I love the communities in the greater part of Nebraska.

Well, here at the Rural Futures Institute, one of the things we’ve been exploring this last year are the questions of why rural, why now? You know, why should anybody care about rural that doesn’t live in rural? Rural population across the U.S. and in other places around the world is much smaller than it is when we compare to those urban centers. But I think your enjoyment of those great outdoors and the natural resources and beauty rural has to offer is part of the answer to that question. You can’t go just anywhere and have the experience that you can have in Nebraska Sandhills which I agree as is like a great secret, right? But if you truly want to experience the outdoors and what nature has to offer, that’s one of the great places Nebraska has to offer in terms of rural. With this question of why rural, why now, you know, rural health is definitely part of the huge conversation around rural right now. Why should we continue to have all of these hospitals or should we? What does the rural population need to look like and how do we provide health access and health care to them with those dwindling populations? So when you work throughout Nebraska and throughout the nation, how do you frame that? Why is investing in rural important and specifically in healthcare sector?

The way I look at it is that agricultural part of what happens in ruralnot only rural Nebraska but in rural America—is critical to our infrastructure and our way of life in the United States and, quite frankly, around the world. Rural areas of this country, including Nebraska, basically feed the world and the amount of agricultural food that comes out of rural areas is very important. And we’ve got to be able to support people who live in those rural areas, who serve them rural agricultural economy. And we need good healthcare for those folks in addition to the good schools and other things, we just need to have the infrastructure there to be able to allow those people to do what they do.

And speaking of the rural scene right now and healthcare, how would you describe yourself as a leader in this space?

I really think of myself kind of as a servant leader. My philosophy of leadership is unless you’re willing to serve those you’re leading, you’re probably not the most efficient and effective leader. So I really view things through that lens and I think that allows my leadership style to be able to get in and do the work and not really care about who gets the credit for it. But to really focus in on the outcomes and we want to get for rural America and creating a better and more sustainable rural health in Nebraska.

And speaking of that. I know you’re one of the leaders in Nebraska that’s really working on reinventing our rural healthcare sector. Please speak about some of the innovations in the leadership going on in that space right now.

About a year ago, several of us thought leaders in the state got together informally and started to talk about what we saw currently with the healthcare system in Nebraska and across the country, and then more importantly, what we could do about that as we move forward. We’re currently in a situation where, over the last five to six years because of several different policy changes at the federal level, we’re seeing a pretty rapid decline in the profitability and sustainability of many of our rural healthcare providers. And so we took a look at that and thought we can continue to go down this road we’re on, which the future doesn’t look real bright for many rural providers. Or we can do what Nebraska is kind of known for doing, and that is how do we collaborate together to create a better system? One that has higher quality and lower cost because that’s what government. That’s what business—that’s what insurance companies—they’re all looking for that and that’s what we’re seeing, a major shift in the last several years at the federal level. And I think we’re seeing a lot of states getting into this innovation of how can we recreate and build a better system?

So when you think about recreating and building that better systemI actually just published a paper called Strategic Foresight Leadership and the Future of Rural Healthcare Staffing in a journal, and part of that is to think about the disruption of healthcare, in particular rural healthcare. This is a three trillion dollar industry that the tech firms are getting involved with. You know, we see a lot of entrepreneurship, growth in the healthcare sector but a lot of it not necessarily focused on rural. A lot of it is focused on technology and technological solutions, and we’d love to see a little more innovation in the rural sector around some of this, particularly our rural areas and of course we’re focused on Nebraska because we’re both working and living here in many ways could be such a great playground of innovation for what could happen. Not just in rural but in urban settings as well, because there is so much going on in healthcare. So if you would look in your crystal ballI can always look in mine as a futurist. But if you look in yours John, how would you see our rural healthcare sector changing in the next three to five? What would that ideal future look like?

Well we’re definitely on a path of what we call volume to value which is changing the payment system for rural providers—not only rural providers but all providers across the country. And it goes back to this issue that we have a healthcare system spending that’s not sustainable over the long term. So we’ve got to look at ways we can increase the quality and the outcomes that we give for our patients, while at the same time lowering the cost of care for those outcomes. And so, we’re really seeing this big shift in looking at how providers can be reimbursed and incentivized to be able to take this value idea and provide high quality outcomes and high patient satisfaction, and when they do that, they will get reimbursed accordingly. The opposite effect too is if you’re not meeting those outcome standards and the patient satisfaction standards, you’ll be penalized. And so the incentives are beginning to change pretty quickly over the next probably three years.

So is that why I keep getting all those patient surveys after I visit a doctor? (laughing) Is that what’s going on there John?

Yes that’s part of it.

That’s what I’ve heard. But the one thing I wondered, and I’m sure you can shed some light on this is because it is shifting to more of a values based sort of approach and method, could we be using things like artificial intelligence, big data to help us understand those outcomes more broadly and more robustly? Are there some things happening in that space that you know about that are emerging?

If you look at over the last five years the number of venture capital that’s gone into healththese aren’t health related organizationsthey’re data and information systems, people like Microsoft, Sysco, a lot of different folks are looking at the issues you just talked about, on how we can use this data and information to do a better job with what we’re trying to accomplish and that’s high quality outcomes for our patients.

What advice would you give to somebody like a Rural Futures Institute? We’re part of the University of Nebraska, we’re system wide, and we know that healthcare is one of the—if not themajor issue facing our rural communities today. Now what advice would you give us in terms of how we could help organizations like the Nebraska Rural Health Association and others, to help find some innovative ways to provide solutions for our citizens and help keep people where they want to live and live the high quality lives in our rural communities?

I think slowly but surely rural health providers are understanding what we have to do to make this shift. But what we really need probably and probably what the organization could help us with is we really need to help communities understand what the shift is and what things might look like in the future. And that includes rural hospital boards, government leadership, community organizations to be able to make this transition and be able to do some innovative things in the state. I think we need the support of those community leaders and board of directors to be able to step out of the comfort of what they know and really start to look at what could be and how could we really redesign this system to better fit our communities. That may mean that all communities may not have a hospital, there may be different services that can provide in different regions of the state and that all takes a lot of time and energy to kind of sort through. And you have to have at least a basic understanding of where we’re trying to get to and how communities and leaders across the state can help us get there.

I appreciate that insight. I know that you’re a big proponent of sort of the co-creation with communities and having communities be part of this process and that’s so important for that innovation to happen. The future will look different then the present, and we all have a voice and a contribution to making that space. I was really interested when we had our pre-convo to get ready for this podcast, you mentioned that when a hospital puts in a wellness center they are penalized and so thinking about hospitals as economic drivers but also as center points for communities. I think it’s so important but then when you shared that with me, I thought wow. You know, here we have a lot of hospitals that are really trying to focus more on wellness not just sick care, thinking about what that might look like. But the system isn’t quite set up for that yet is it?

No, it’s really discouraging because I think everybody understands we need to move to this value based system. There needs to be more emphasis put on prevention, care coordination, chronic care management, all those types of things and yet. Currently, our reimbursement systems, mostly by the federal government because you have to remember a typical rural Nebraska hospital, 75 to 85% of their business will be Medicare and Medicaid. And so whatever reimbursement policies are implemented in those two programs has a tremendous effect on what we do and how we do it and how we get paid. The difficult part is making that transition to this new system where we might look at things like home healthcare or other types of wellness or preventative activities. But when we do that as rural providers right now, we’re penalized under the rules that currently preside over this reimbursement system. And so even if we have hospitals that want to make the right decision to do right for what’s in their community, they’re penalized for doing that. That’s the things we want to change as we’re moving forward.

You know John, I just think that’s so critical. You talked about the importance of communities and leaders being involved in embracing sort of this change in innovation, but it’s also the policy, right? And so I think that point you’re making is critical. I think it’s really great for listeners to hear that and think about that even as we see hospitals wanting to transition, sometimes the policies that they’re needing to abide by and live with are not really supporting an area of wellness and more positive living and lifestyles and that’s where we need healthcare to go.

We’re really interested in approaching the federal government which in this case is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, their innovation part of their department looking to develop a plan in Nebraska to really approach them to say give us an opportunity to make the changes that make sense for our state and our communities to try a different path of reimbursement system and policy and let’s see if it works and let’s see what we learn from it and take those learnings and apply those to other states across the country. We’ve seen that in a couple of states here in the last couple of years. Maryland has gone to a global budget and a policy. They are in their second year of that innovation project. And they’ve really produced some pretty meaningful results. The other state is Pennsylvania who just started in January 1 of 2017 in their innovation project and they’re gonna work over the next few years to try to get 30 rural hospitals to participate in their program and again it’s a global budget concept. It shifts the incentives for what providers do and like we talked about. Those incentives shifts go towards more prevention, more case management, looking at the things I think we need to go to.

I think it’s so great to have leaders in our state and around the nation really focused on innovation in this space. I actually have worked with several rural hospitals—one in particular in southeast Nebraska—did a year long leadership engagement with them focused on innovation. How do we, as leaders within those hospitals, innovate? Because we have leaders in those hospitals, and a lot of our hospitals do provide great paying professional jobs, they are a hub of our communities. They’re an economic driver as I said before and I think so much of the conversation about rural has been if the school closes we lose a community. I’m not disputing that there are challenges around that, but I think if people were concerned about depopulation before, if we see a closing of a lot of hospitals with nothing else to replace it and people don’t have access to healthcare, we’ll see even more people need to move to areas that have that healthcare access or choose to live there in any case and not choose to locate in a rural community.

Yeah, absolutely. Over the last 10 years about 80 to 85 rural hospitals closed across the country, and that’s more than we’ve seen in the last 20, 25 years. And a lot of those have happened in the deep south and so when you look at states like Georgia, where they’ve had probably 10 to 12 rural hospitals close, when you go back and look at those communities later, it has a devastating effect on their culture, their community, access to healthcare. But as you mentioned, most of the time hospitals are either the first or second largest employer in the community and they draw money from outside sources into those communities. And so it’s really devastating to the community to lose their hospital and lose access to those healthcare services.

I often think of our hospitals and healthcare systems as places where people can connect as well. When my father in law had to start dialysis they could no longer live on their farm in southeast Nebraska, and it was hard for them to uproot everything they knew, everyone they knew, their whole community to relocate. Not that other communities aren’t great but when you’ve lived somewhere for your whole life and then suddenly have to make a change like that just to have access to healthcare, it has other consequences for your mental and emotional and psychological well being as well.

You know, we can tally the direct cost of a hospital closing in a community, but there’s also the secondary or the intangible costs of driving an hour or two to get the medical care, taking off work to be able to do that. All those things are cost to not having those providers in your community. And the other aspect of it is data at the national level that shows that for the services we provide versus urban. It’s usually right around 4% less in cost and yet we produce the same kind of outcomes. And so when we see these rural hospitals close, you’re shifting people to other higher cost services which cost the Medicare and Medicaid program even more over the long term so that’s why we think there’s a significant policy that needs to be worked on at the federal and state level to kind of insure that these rural providers have the opportunity to be successful and sustainable long term.

You know that’s really fascinating just think about the interplay between rural and urban in terms of healthcare. I think there’s a technological aspect of that where technology is developed in urban can be used in rural and that’s a lot of the conversation around this but you bring to light something completely different. And that’s thinking about if we can keep people in rural and have that positive ROI in those rural facilities. It actually benefits the rural community but also the urban communities that don’t have to take on those additional loads so the work load is distributed a little bit differently. But then also federally in terms of the financial ROI to the government but ultimately the taxpayer is even better. So that’s a great piece of information for us to all learn and know about in terms of why rural, why now? How urban and rural work together in so many ways but also how this is a larger ecosystem in play here and I think so many times we separate rural and urban. But as we thought about it more here as the Rural Futures Institute, we really see it as a dynamic ecosystem where we all need each other. And what you’re talking about there really proves a point even in the area of healthcare so going beyond agriculture.

You’re absolutely right. Too many times I think we focus in on urban or rural and you really can’t separate the two. Rural providers need urban counterparts for specialty services or services we can’t provide in rural settings and vice versa. When urban areas are being moved to this value based system too, their incentives shift to try to make sure they get the patient back to rehab or other areas of rural Nebraska because they can do it as well and cheaper if you’re on a fixed budget.

 

(Music Transition)

Let’s dive into the technology aspect just a little more here in the conversation. What role do you see in terms of this technology being developed in healthcare? We know it’s a huge space right now, a lot of investment in this space. How do you see the potential of holograms, for example, used in rural healthcare?

Yeah, I think we’re on the verge of some major changes. We’ve gone quite a ways with what we call telehealth services in rural areas of the country which helps us provide services that we may not normally be able to provide or allows us to get consultation from outside experts which really helps our rural providers feel like they have a backup in Nebraska. We’ve implemented quite a few of what we call tele-emergency services where if you come and present yourself in a rural hospital emergency room, they can connect that to urban facility where you have a specialty physicians that are board certified in emergency medicine, consult on the patient and be able to provide those rural providers with consultation on how best to treat the patient. The other thing I think is gonna be really disruptive as we move forward is the whole smartphone technology. We’re seeing some real major trend shifts in rural areas of the country of people dropping their home internet services and relying strictly on cell phones, smart phones or their information and internet connection and again as I mentioned earlier, we’re seeing a lot of investment by folks in this area looking at how they can use technology to improve the health of people across the country.

Yeah, I think that’s really exciting. We have dropped our land line at home actually several years ago. We live in a rural area and our internet still isn’t that fast, and we thought it was gonna get a lot faster, still not that fast. My cell phone is my best source of connectivity, so I’m really excited about things like Doctor on Demand, lab-on-a-chip technology where you could potentially even diagnosis something in your home. I think that’s a tremendous development and seeing more of his happen at home is really exciting. Singularity University is a group I follow quite intently and they have this whole XPRIZE concept where they get this big purse of money together and crowd source from all over the world people that can develop it. And one of the things that they had actually funded, Qualcomm actually funded the purse, but a team actually developed the first tri-quarter. So if people remember back to Star Trek when you could scan your body with this instrument and it tells you what’s wrong and so now the first prototype has been developed and launched and they will continue to make that better and it’s actually developed for home use. It’s not necessarily, the intent wasn’t just for hospitals, it’s to have cheap accessible affordable healthcare wherever you are. And so thinking about the smartphone and other tools like that and how that could potentially help people all over the world and specifically in our rural communities when they don’t have access to a lot would be awesome or even in those crowded and congested urban areas where you can’t always get into the provider. Because we do have such a shortage of doctors and healthcare professionals around the world, technology could be a huge help.

I ran across the dermatology app not too long ago and thought, well I’ll give it a shot, see how it works. So I took a picture of my skin or some imperfection and sent it off to someone and within 24 hours I had a diagnosis of what it was, what the treatment was. It took care of the situation. I didn’t have to go to my primary care physician. I didn’t have to be referred to a specialist. I didn’t have to take time off work. What started as kind of curiosity at the end of it was really looking at wow that worked pretty well and I probably would do it again.

Oh absolutely. I mean I think anything that can save time and money but then also just create more accessibility and affordability is such a huge win. So I think healthcare is one of the most exciting spaces right now in terms of innovation in the future because we all need our health. Health is the basis of life and I think to be healthy is such an important part of who we are. We take that for granted a lot of times until something does happen and suddenly you’re sending a picture to a lab or getting a procedure performed or you find yourself on crutches and you forget how important health is. I think sometimes until something like that happens and it inconveniences you or worries you or even thinking about more long term challenges such as a cancer diagnosis. You know health is life and I think keeping that at the top of our mind is so important. That’s why making sure we have investments and great leaders like yourself in innovation. The space is so important. We thank you for that important work John.

Yeah we’re excited. I think one of the things that Nebraska is known for around the country is our collaboration with each other with providers and different communities, something we take for granted in Nebraska that a lot of other states just don’t have and we’re really gonna use that and test that as we look at how we can develop innovation to really solve these issues as we’re moving forward in rural health.

Well I would just make a plug for Nebraska out there to anyone that might be listening in the tech space. We’re a small population which actually makes us kind of like a start up for a state. I think our small population is actually an advantage right now and we are highly collaborative as you’ve mentioned, John. So thinking about how do we position Nebraska to be the place where innovation and rural healthcare happens and in a big way? So it starts here but actually can then expand to other states and other nations as well. You know we have a strong medical center, we have a lot of research but we also have a lot of people and a lot of leaders who are willing to do some innovative creative work around this to provide access to people and to communities.

(Music Transition)

I’d love for you to leave our listeners with sort of your top three leadership tips that they could use in their lives.

You know I think that when I’m counseling a lot of our providers and when I go to across the state, one of the things that they need to do is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We know we’re gonna go through a pretty major change in the next three to five years and not only rural Nebraska but across the country. And I truly believe that it won’t be the strongest that make that transition the best or the one’s that are most financially strong at this point. I really believe it’s gonna be the ones who can adapt to change the best and who are able to manage that change as we go through this process. So that’s one of the tips I kind of give them. The second one is to really look at what it is we need in our communities and really go back to that. Trying to break down our mental models of what we think the way things should be. For instance, we know that we can provide additional services outside of what we would call a traditional hospital. And to really begin to look at what is it that people really need? And how can we provide that? And get away from kind of the mental models that we’re kind of used to. And then the final thing is, I mentioned earlier is getting everybody in the community and across the state to really think about what’s happening. How we could take this apart and put it back together in a way that works for our communities and works for our state? And hopefully eventually can be a model for other states across the country as we make this transition to this value based system in healthcare.

I so appreciate your philosophy about the co-creation of the future with communities with people, with those end users and partners involved and I think definitely in this area of disruption of healthcare. That’s such an important piece of all of this. So thank you John.

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This Week In Serviceship: Week Eight!

July 13, 2018
Broken Bow, Neb. Just like the infamous taco truck showing its potential by making regular appearances around Broken Bow, our projects are starting to show their potential and even have begun to wrap up! We finished our promotion cards for …

Broken Bow, Neb.

Just like the infamous taco truck showing its potential by making regular appearances around Broken Bow, our projects are starting to show their potential and even have begun to wrap up! We finished our promotion cards for Sturgis this past week and have plans to distribute them to Christian biker groups that ride through Broken Bow on the way up to Sturgis as well as the bikers that go to the neighboring town of Arnold this coming weekend for Devil’s Den. Devil’s Den is a biker rally in which they also do a poker run to raise money for several different causes.

“It really does seem like we just arrived and started on our projects yesterday, but that isn’t the case. The connections we have made and lessons learned have been super helpful in our projects and future plans.”

JESSICA WEEDER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.

 

On Jul. 2, the YMCA project really got moving. During that morning, we and the steering committee, which we put together, met with Denny Placzek who is the CEO/Executive Director of the Kearney YMCA. The steering committee showed their strong interest in getting a YMCA facility to the city of Broken Bow. Denny had mentioned during that meeting that he has never seen such a driven group of community members determined to get things moving so quickly.

Because the National YMCA does not currently give out any more charters for new YMCAs, we would need to be a branch of Kearney’s. Due to Kearney being in the middle of their own capital campaign, we discussed that the next step for Broken Bow would be to bring an activities/programs director in. This way, community members can get used to the idea of using YMCA programming and then potentially move into a facility in a year or so.

On Tuesday, Jul. 10, our project continued to gain momentum as we went around to area YMCAs with a few members of the steering committee to address questions as well as get a better feel for what could be in Broken Bow. The members attending the YMCA tours were Andrew Ambriz, Don Cantrel, Veronica Schmidt, Jack Lindstrom, Leanne Gamet and Jessica Weeder. Looking at the YMCAs in Gothenburg, Lexington and Kearney showed what a potential YMCA in a community this size could look like. The different directors and CEOs we met with were able to answer questions as well as bring up topics that weren’t even thought of previously.


On Wednesday, Jul. 11, we had the opportunity to tour BD, a local medical tool manufacturer here in Broken Bow. It was amazing to see the scale that they produce things such as medical tubes and cups. The entire facility has such a rhythm and it was very cool to see how every part of the factory worked together.

“We have gotten so much more done than I could have ever expected here in Broken Bow. It has been so cool to have community members ask us about our progress and be able to say that things are really moving forward.”

LEANNE GAMET
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.

 

Market on the Square continues to happen here in the community. The farther into the summer, the more and more vendors they have gotten. There is a wide variety of things from baked goods, to homemade jewelry, to food trucks that most of the businesses around the square support during the lunch hour. This week featured sidewalk sales and 92.3 KBEAR Country was on-location.

 

 

Columbus, Neb.

Recently, Dr. Helen Fagan asked us to think about the legacy that we are leaving with this community. The answer to that question revolves around the letter R. Recruitment. Reach. Retention. Results.

Recruitment. We post job openings, help design marketing materials, and help make connections that will benefit the community in the future. The best way to find out what and who Columbus really needs is to visit with businesses around the community. That has lead us to take several business tours while we are in town. This effort has also lead us to meet with various “movers and shakers” in the community. Columbus has introduced us to many people and we have been able to pick their brains on various topics related to their industries.

Reach. To reach the community and connect them with events around town, we have redesigned the community calendar, known as “GOOD Times,” and are running a campaign during the county fair to increase awareness. This calendar will include events from businesses and organizations from all around Columbus. Citizens will be able to look at the calendar and know what is happening on any given day and find events that they may be interested in.

Retention. These projects all relate back to quality of life and pride in the community. One of the quality of life events we helped with is Red, White, and Kaboom, the Columbus’s Independence Day celebration. We have also been running our 10 Days of Something Good Trivia Challenge. This event is designed to help bring awareness to the community brand and to encourage people to be proud of their community. The event is getting great traction on social media, which is really exciting! Another retention effort we are working on is the Young Nebraskans Week Conference that will take place in September. We are finalizing plans and working with our committee to gather speakers and sponsors for the event. On top of all that, we help plan and run Interns’ Night Out. This is an event for summer interns to get together and network as well as learn a little about what the community has to offer.

“Collaboration is a key element here in Columbus. Everyone is always working together. It starts with volunteers and continues up the chain of command. In this community, collaboration turns dreams into reality.”

AMBER ROSS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COLUMBUS, NEB.

 

Results. As the summer winds down, we find ourselves looking to our hosts to see what our role was this summer. Kara Asmus, Workforce Coordinator for the Chamber, said we are encouraging people to embrace the community brand, which is what the Chamber is really trying to do. KC Belitz, Columbus Area Chamber President, said that we are getting results. “The obvious answer is that you are getting work done. There are projects we wouldn’t have gotten to this summer. We never would have done them without you guys. Your internship may end in three weeks but you’re not going anywhere!”

In sum, RFI’s involvement in Columbus this summer has been invaluable to the community. Recruitment. Retention. Reach. Results. The Rural Futures Institute has allowed us to leave a positive legacy here in Columbus.

 

 

 

Cozad, Neb.

This week, we wrapped up our Music Mondays concert series. Music Mondays have been such a success that the Cozad Development Corporation is hoping to find another group in town to continue it next year. The past few weeks we have hosted Miles From Dublin, The Wonderful World of Woody, and wrapped up the series with a children’s band – The String Beans. Attendance grew with each concert bringing the whole community together for some summer entertainment.

“It’s time to think differently about our small communities. Cozad is taking a creative approach to solving challenges.”

CHRISTY COOPER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COZAD, NEB.

 

Two weeks ago we hosted our three finalists for ‘Pitch It Cozad: Win This Space’ for their final presentations. Our selection committee had a wonderful time hearing the business ideas and had such a difficult time choosing a winner that we created a prize package for our runner-up as well. Jody Laird won our original building and prize package with her business Double L Embroidery. The Cozad Development Corporation purchased another building in downtown Cozad so that Chelsie Michalewicz could start her business, Sweet Water Outfitters, a western boutique. Cozad is excited to build their downtown as a shopping destination with these two new businesses.

Most recently, Jen and Christy headed to Lincoln for the Nebraska Diplomats Banquet and the Nebraska Governor’s Economic Development Summit. The Nebraska Diplomats are a group of community leaders who use their personal and professional connections to promote the state’s quality of life for future business. Our lead mentor, Jen, was asked to speak about our Pitch It in Cozad project at the Governor’s Summit the next day. Governor Pete Ricketts applauded Cozad’s work during his final remarks. It was an incredible opportunity to network with other community leaders and hear the great work they are doing.

 

 

 

 

Norfolk, Neb.

Time is flying as we are already finishing our eighth week in Norfolk, Neb.! We have been primarily working with the Norfolk Visitor’s Bureau lately, while also tying up loose ends on our projects for Daycos.

Our work with the Visitor’s Bureau has consisted of brainstorming and strategizing how we can improve the retail and service sector in Norfolk. We have completed our research of secret shopping and completing windshield assessments of businesses across town. We have attended a meeting with the Downtown Norfolk Association and other strong retail business leaders to discuss our mission in Norfolk and to get their perspective. Overall, we have found some common themes: strong customer service and cross-promotion are incredibly needed for the future of retail. Therefore, we have come up with multiple strategies and plans on how to upsell and cross-promote Norfolk. We have planned to host a focus group discussion on Jul. 16 with retail business leaders to share our research and talk about what changes need to be made. Essentially, we want to communicate why it is important to create an experience for shoppers and to refer other Norfolk businesses, then brainstorm different processes on how to do that. We are also in the process of creating strategies for incentivizing upselling in Norfolk, creating a customer service training program, marketing Norfolk retail as a whole and analyzing how to improve the retail options across town. We plan to give these strategies to the Visitor’s Bureau in their final portfolio at the end of our time in Norfolk.

“Making a difference is very possible through work in a small town. Norfolk has been such a positive example of a rural community with self-determination to constantly improve. It is inspiring to think about how Nebraska as a whole can be improved through work like this in rural communities.”

SAMANTHA GUENTHER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NORFOLK, NEB.

 

As for Daycos, we have started creating our final portfolio to give them at the end of the summer, as well. We will be facilitating a final meeting at the end of the month to share the videos, hiring process outline, and wall of aim projects that we have completed. We are very grateful that Daycos has treated us well during our summer in Norfolk. We are proud to have been a part of such a great company that we have learned so much from.

Additionally, we have continued to submerse ourselves in the Norfolk community. Big Bang Boom fireworks show debuted on Ju. 1. We were both invited to a behind the scenes get-together and were able to attend the spectacular show. We have attended a company picnic with Daycos to celebrate the beginning of summer. We have shared our project details with the Visitors Bureau Advisory Board. We have also been invited to attend and speak at the Rotary Club meetings. The Norfolk community has continued to be welcoming and warm, even after we have been here for some time. We are very grateful to be partnered with such a great community.

“We are so grateful to have Cheyenne and Samantha here this summer with us at Daycos for 5 weeks. We did not know what to expect when we applied to have RFI interns with us and were nervous that we would not have enough for them to do or have a clear enough picture about the outcomes we were hoping for with the work,” said Tammy Day, co-owner of Daycos, Inc. “How silly it was for us to worry! These young women have been an excellent addition to Daycos, are incredibly intelligent, creative and self-motivated, and have added so much value to our company that we are sorry we only have them for half the time. What a wonderful opportunity for us to work with such amazing young people who are interested in life and work in rural places. Thank you for matching Cheyenne and Samantha with us! We will be so sad to see them go.”

 

 

 

Omaha Land Bank

It is crazy that week eight is ending at the Omaha Municipal Land Bank. With only having two weeks left at the Land Bank, Sydney and Kyle are excited to start finishing up and perfecting their projects. Sydney has been able to help with many different parts of OMLB.  She has been busy working on communications with Laura. Planning and setting dates for future social media posts has took up a large part of her time the last few weeks. She has also been helping Marty, the executive director, with documenting and updating certain documents on the OMLB company eProperty site.

Throughout this whole internship it has been a learning experience. Sydney has been able to help with multiple projects and loves having the variety in her day. She has been able to talk and understand what each person in the office does and how they contribute to the Omaha Land Bank team. Each of the team members plays a vital role in the success to the Land Bank. With the Land Banks success, it seems work will only continue to build up which is very exciting. Working here has really made Sydney realize the importance of teamwork and how well the Land Bank does it. She hopes to be a part of a team like this in her future.

This week through the Land Bank, Kyle had a chance to participate in a community project that was put on through the City of Omaha Planning Department. The City of Omaha chooses a focus area where development and change should happen in a concentrated area for three years at a time. This area focused on an old street car node today located at the intersection of 24th and Pratt. In this area there is a large vacant lot that measures approximately 125’ x 165’. The goal of the group was to first walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for the area and the existing infrastructure. After about an hour of inventory as a group the Salvation Army hosted us to brainstorm and discuss with others what might best benefit the area. This grouping was of those not from the immediate area to provide a set of fresh eyes and recommendations for the Neighborhood Association in the area to look over and compare with lists they have made as well as those created by planning sessions held by the City Planning Department.

One major takeaway was to highlight that those in different areas all have the same desires for their neighborhoods and that different areas have strengths that may not be immediately apparent. Another fun fact was that the intersection was the original site of The University of Omaha. The chance to be involved in community development that will be enacted by mid-November is exciting as this is something I will see progress made on while attending school after I have finished my time as an RFI intern. In the last couple of weeks Sydney and Kyle will be looking for as many opportunities in Omaha as we can to learn from others and try to contribute a small piece of the larger picture.

 

 

 

Red Cloud, Neb.

In the last two weeks here in Red Cloud we have mostly been getting everything ready on our end for our economic development plan to be the most updated it can be for our presentation of it this Friday, Jul. 13, for city council and other members of the community. We have made a lot of updates, added a lot of information and have reached the stage where we really need feedback from key people in the community to know what we need to update and change to have it completely ready to go by the time we leave Red Cloud in less then 3 weeks. Our presentation on Friday will be given at two times during the day, and will have a PowerPoint accompanying it along with hard copies of the plan, and a flyer that summarizes the plan and the main actions from it.

We do have a final presentation planned for our last day here which will be to present the final copy of the plan and will be open to everyone in the community, but this meeting being one that is focused on getting feedback from the key members of the community it is mainly invite only. After this presentation we will be able to dive back into the economic plan and have our last two weeks to update and change it so that it is as effective as it can be.

“Looking back, it is hard to believe how little I had known about community development. In only a few weeks I’ve become far more competent and confident about what it takes to move a community forward.”

TRENTON BUHR
SERVICESHIP INTERN, RED CLOUD, NEB.

 

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to attend the Good Living Tour that was been hosted in Red Cloud this past Friday, Jul. 6. This was a great chance to attend a community event just as fellow Red Cloud citizens, and it was a lot of fun!

Other than working on our main goal these last two weeks and having some fun we have been working on some supplementary things for the plan and some other projects for the community. We picked up work on a clean up project that was started back in June, it involved working on a nuisance home in Red Cloud that the Board of Public Trust, a public group that buys and sells homes through the authority of the city similar to a land bank, owns, and is hoping to be able to sell soon. We were able to work on it this week and got all of the paint scraping done, so now it will just need painted, and a majority of the exterior work is done!

This week, Trevor has created the two resolutions and ballot language that will be needed to pass both LB840 and LB357. Meanwhile, Trenton as been working on getting everything ready for the city to apply for the leadership designation, which will most likely happen after we are gone from Red Cloud, but it is great to see the groundwork laid by him!

“Everything is starting to come together, and I can actually see what the final result of our time here will look like! I honestly never could have imagined that we could of created such a huge impact in this short of an amount of time, and I cannot wait to see what Red Cloud is able to do with the groundwork we are laying out for them!”

TREVOR HARLOW
SERVICESHIP INTERN, RED CLOUD, NEB.
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Letter from recently appointed RFI Interim Executive Director Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D.

July 10, 2018
  Dear advocates of a thriving rural future: It is with great anticipation that I write to you as Interim Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, a role that I accepted upon the June …

 

Dear advocates of a thriving rural future:

It is with great anticipation that I write to you as Interim Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, a role that I accepted upon the June 30, 2018, retirement of RFI’s Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder.

In assuming this role, I am full of hope for what meaningful action RFI can accomplish with you during the next year across the following areas of critical need and strength for rural areas:

  • Leadership
  • Technology
  • Rural-Urban Collaboration

I am also full of expectation—expectation for the kinds of futures we can design and build together in this time of constant change, growth and opportunity.

 

As a futurist, I must start with a discussion about the future—not just about a sustainable future for our rural areas, but our desired rural-urban futures. I see a future with:


Diverse and inclusive leadership that embraces differences in experience and skill set for mission, purpose and genuine personal growth. We must prepare ourselves and the generations of leaders to come.

“An inclusive leader is someone who is emotionally intelligent, who has the developmental capacity to bring people from all walks of life together and help them innovate and create things that didn’t exist before.”
— Helen Fagan, Ph.D.
RFI Director of Leadership Engagement


Continued exponential changes across technology, human ability and the point of innovation where the two infuse. With a realistic understanding of the challenges the fourth industrial revolution brings, we must think and strategize about the possible, not just the probable.

“I’ve looked at technology a lot for the past 30 years, and there is a graveyard of really cool, innovative technology concepts that failed to pass the people testultimately, technology has to be used by people. It’s really the interplay of how does technology meet a social or people need and, one might argue, that it’s actually the people and social needs that are more compelling.”
— Andy Hines, Futurist
Graduate Program in Foresight
University of Houston


A dynamic ecosystem of rural and urban challenges and opportunities overlapping and coinciding for win-win scenarios. Through our recent work with Microsoft, Tufts University and the Japan Society, we know our future is not mutually exclusive based on geography. In fact, we are incredibly interdependent on the success of each other. A mindset of abundance can generate new opportunities.

“To think that the challenges that are faced and the solutions are always totally different in rural environments, whether it’s in Nebraska or in Honduras, or anywhere in the world, and that they are also totally different from the challenges in urban areas—I actually don’t believe that. There are differences, but there’s also similarities.
— Tim Griffin, Ph.D.
Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment
Tufts University

 

It is also with great gratitude that I enter this role.

Gratitude to my family, friends, mentors, colleagues, members of the RFI team, and the students, organizations and communities that continue to support our work. My ability to serve in this role is only possible with the support of others, especially my husband and two children.

To Chuck Schroeder, thank you for your wisdom and your incredible relationship building with mavericks across Nebraska with whom we will continue to call upon out of incredible respect for their expertise, work ethic and fundamental belief in a thriving rural future.

To Mike Boehm, University of Nebraska Vice President of Agricultural and Natural Resources; Susan Fritz, University of Nebraska Executive Vice President and Provost; and Hank Bounds, University of Nebraska President, thank you for your vision. It is because of your leadership that the Rural Futures Institute continues the University of Nebraska’s priority to truly impact the lives of rural people.

 

I would be remiss if I did not provide an update regarding our recent past. RFI’s budget reductions during the 2017-2018 fiscal year were wild cards that significantly impacted the trajectory we set out in our July 2017 strategic plan. We have removed staff, and we are now in the midst of transitioning our meaningful programs.

RFI Fellows. The formal commitments of the inaugural class ended June 30, 2018. The intention is to create a second, smaller class, but on a delayed timeline.

RFI Competitive Awards. RFI will no longer fund research and teaching projects; however, we will continue to share impacts and outcomes of projects in progress. We are exploring other opportunities to stimulate innovative research and teaching projects in conjunction with communities and partners.

RFI Student Serviceship. The summer 2018 experience will be the final experience under RFI administration. The program is currently being led and evaluated by Dr. Helen Fagan, and she is working to transfer leadership to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

Connecting Young Nebraskans. CYN has been transferred to the Nebraska Community Foundation, though it is our understanding that its vision will remain under the CYN Steering Team.

While these direct outcomes of the budget reduction are difficult, we are choosing to create needed focus for RFI’s energy and needed clarity around RFI’s role within the University of Nebraska system, the state of Nebraska and as a catalyst of innovation for rural areas around the country.

 

In my anticipation, I ask of all of us—together, let us be creative in our thinking, collaborative in our work, resolute in our strategy and bold in our storytelling.

Thank you for you for your time, dedication and advocacy. Our passion for rural areas in Nebraska, the U.S. and the world ignites our energy and our collaboration with you is the vessel by which we can work together toward thriving rural futures for all.

 

Sincerely,

Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., CPC
Interim Executive Director & Chief Futurist
Rural Futures Institute
University of Nebraska

 

Dr. Reimers-Hild’s Bio

Strategic Foresight

Rural Futures podcast

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Episode 6: Dr. Helen Fagan intersects diversity, leadership, neurology

July 10, 2018
            Diversity in our rural areas is going to continue to increase. Through this episode, leaders learn actions they can take to make this transition positive for themselves, their communities and those who they are …

 


     

 

 

Diversity in our rural areas is going to continue to increase. Through this episode, leaders learn actions they can take to make this transition positive for themselves, their communities and those who they are welcoming. Featured guest is Helen Fagan, Ph.D., a U.S. immigrant whose experiences in three countries and five U.S. states shaped her perspective and informed her future. Dr. Fagan shares personal stories about her time in the U.S., navigating who she truly is as an Iranian immigrant while striving to be accepted. Difficult times and encounters inspired her to pursue research, teaching and consulting in the areas of diversity and leadership. Through her work she explores the definition of inclusive leadership and what actionable steps leaders can take to shed their implicit biases to create teams of people from various backgrounds and experiences for the sake of innovation and genuine personal growth. 

“For me, an inclusive leader is someone who is emotionally intelligent, who has the developmental capacity to bring people from all walks of life together and help them innovate and create things that didn’t exist before.“
Helen Fagan, Ph.D.
Diversity and Leadership Scholar and Consultant

About Helen

Helen has a BA in Human Resource Management and Economics from University of Nebraska in 1996, and an MA in Management with emphasis in Leadership from Doane College in 2008. Helen also studied International Economics and British Political Economy at Oxford University.  She finished her Ph.D. in 2014 in Human Sciences with emphasisin Leadership Studies at UNL. She has over 25 years experience in the Human Resource Field and has worked in many areas of the HR Field including Training, Benefits, Payroll, Recruitment and Diversity.  Helen became a Certified Diversity Trainer through the Society for Human Resource Management in 2001 and qualified for administering the Intercultural Development Inventory in 2006.

 

Show Notes

Hi, welcome back to the Rural Futures podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Connie, and joining me today is Dr. Helen Fagan, a leadership and diversity scholar and educator whose passionate about developing global leaders to create better tomorrows. Thank you so much for being here, Helen. Please tell our audience a little bit about yourself.

Well, hi, Connie, I’m so excited to be here. It’s so fun. Well, I am from Iran originally. I have lived in three countries, five states in the U.S. This summer, I will celebrate 35 years of marriage to my favorite human, Scott. We have two incredible sons who I am just delighted to be their mom, and they married just brilliant women that I love that I have girls in my life as my family now, and I’m a nana! I became a nana last October, and Beckett is my pride and joy right now. He’s giving my husband a run for the favorite human spot.

I can imagine that. You know, I also appreciate, not only your expertise in leadership, but the way you live your life and let yourself in. Having your family as such a top priority for you is so impressive. But also even the way you’re speaking about your daughter-in-laws, now that doesn’t always happen with mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws, and I just have always honored and appreciated that about you, because you really walk the talk when it comes to leadership.

Oh, well thank you, you’re very generous with your words, and I so appreciate it, Connie. I think one of the best things we can do as women is to support other women in our lives. I believe that’s one of the things that leaders, especially, need to be doing, whether you are a person in a position of leadership, or you are just an influencer in other people’s lives, it’s important.

I so agree, and I think it’s such a great time in history to really bring forward the fact that our families are important, even if we’re in traditional job settings, or leadership roles, or we’re entrepreneurs, or whatever the case, I’ve been recognizing that people want whole lives. And in being in a leadership role or spot in an organization shouldn’t exclude family and life. In fact, I think as we transition, we’ll talk about the future of leadership, through our conversation, embracing this whole living, especially as we have more dual working couples, is just so important.

Absolutely, and one of my firm foundations in leadership is that we need to get away from either or thinking. Either I am a leader, an executive, a professor, whatever I am, or I am a mother. We have to embrace it and we have to give space to both of those to exist. People, I think they get the idea that it means going 100% all the time, and that’s not the case. I need to give time for each of those things and that doesn’t mean I can be all things to all people at all times.

That is so true, and I think we need to help organizations understand that, what it means to be truly flexible and not just say it. That’s why we see women leaving traditional jobs to create their own so often. They need that flexibility, but they also need the autonomy to do what they want to do how they want to do it. They create environments that really are supportive of them and them building their own futures. I’m a huge proponent of developing your inner leader, you know, leading yourself. I think for too long we’ve seen as leaders what you’ve just described. It’s the CEO, it’s somebody with a title, and everybody else is just supposed to follow along. That was a very industrialized view of leadership for scholars and practitioners like yourself to come forward and really champion, not only in organizations, but with students, the next generation, new paradigms of leadership.

Absolutely, and I am right there with you that we’re in a new century. We are in an opportunity to where we don’t have to have a start time and an end time to our work. We can be fluid in that, but we also need to be setting boundaries that are healthy, boundaries that say that it’s okay for me to appreciate and enjoy my family at the same time as giving out of my expertise and my passion. I don’t have to choose one or the other or sacrifice one or the other. There was a research study that was done that was looking at women who had been stay-at-home moms not seeing themselves as leaders. It was really helping them to understand that leadership, the definition of leadership, is about who the person is and how they’re influencing other people. And so I think if we can do that for women, if we can model that for young women who are coming up, my students, graduate students, being able to say, “It’s okay, you can enjoy motherhood, and you can contribute from your professional life and your expertise and your knowledge and your passion.”

And you know, that’s what a lot of students are asking. What we found at the Rural Futures Institute is that students intern here or wanna be part of a serviceship experience in a community, which you’re leading for us here at the Rural Futures Institute, but at the same time, they’re really wondering how adulting works. What does it look like to grow up and live my own life and build what I wanna build? We’ve seen a few students graduate and go out into the workplace and come back, and they’re like, “Oh, Dr. Connie, I didn’t expect this. It’s not like working at RFI (laughs). How do I deal with this difficult boss or this culture I don’t enjoy or fit into?” And I think sometimes we’re still in this transition era of what does it look like to be inclusive, which is an expertise area of yours. But also does this future of work look like? Just like you’ve mentioned, this whole idea of clocking in and clocking out doesn’t work because first of all, we’re expected to always be on. There’s really, I think, a global shift in how this is all gonna continue to change and we need people that are willing to step out and do it differently with our students, but also our own children and grandchildren, right? I mean, teaching them how the world can be in a different way is so important.

Absolutely, I have a sister who’s 16 years younger than I am, and so she is in her late 30s and a new mother. Her baby just turned a year old and she is really struggling with how do I remain passionate to the pursuit of medicine as well as remain a mom and be able to give to my daughter and model the way for my daughter, and in so many respects, she’s looking to me for that. I was late in life getting my Ph.D. I worked and went to school and was a mother and was trying to balance all of that, and I remember when I worked at Bryan Hospital, I remember saying to my boss when I got a promotion, “I need to work only four days a week. I want to be available for my family.” And it was the first time someone in a position like mine had requested that, and he was totally open to it, and he made it work for me. That was one of those places that it gave me this internal confidence that if people want what I have to offer, they need to be able to work with that flexible schedule that I’m offering. At the same time, I am very driven and committed to being available when necessary, but I do have concrete times when, one of the things that I talk about leaders is that leaders have to be able to be still. They have to remain present, they have to practice that, so I have to practice that. So I don’t want people to think, “oh, I’m available 24/7.” There’s a part of me that is available then, but then there’s a part of me that says, “No, I’m gonna turn everything off, and I’m gonna be fully present here.”

I think that really questions this sort of era we’re coming out of and you’ve gotta be the all things to all people, you have to multi-task, and sort of this over-busy, like “Oh, I’m so busy. I’m so busy,” and thinking that’s a badge of honor, somehow, because in reality, you aren’t as productive, you’re typically not as happy or engaged, and eventually you burn out if that’s truly the path you’re on. And I know in our case, my husband and I both work, I’m late to motherhood because I had the opposite sort of trajectory as you did in terms of focusing on school and career first and having my kids later in life. But then I found I was still married to my career, like it was a huge part of my ego and my self-identity, and that’s challenging, too, because then suddenly you’re having to let go of that and think, “How now to do I make this family work in a different way,” much like your sister is asking and I’ve had to really rely on a lot of co-moms, I call them, in my neighborhood, because my family doesn’t live close to where we live, either, so I have co-moms that help in every single way, and I’m able to support them and they’re able to support me, but it’s having that community that’s so critically important in making all this work, but then also, what I appreciate about what you said there, Helen, was the power of the ask and the confidence you had to say, “You know what, I am worth this, and if you need this, this is what it’s gonna take for it to work for me.” And I believe that when we do that, we empower other women to step into that as well, and that’s part of our role as leaders in this sea sort of life. Helen, we talked a lot about women and really the changes that are needing to happen in the space of leadership and female power and really being inclusive in that arena. But what are your thoughts about the changes in the dynamic of families and cultures as well where we see dual working couples now for almost the first time in history, and having kids or choosing not to have kids, and how all this is evolving, so that we’re even seeing stay-at-home dads?

That’s a great question, Connie, it’s actually really an exciting thing, because I love seeing families being creative in how they’re addressing this dual working or who’s gonna stay at home or what will that look like, and I’ve seen multiple things. I say we give permission to people to say, “We need to do what works best for us.” And so, societally, we need to stop shaming men who stay at home as fathers and shaming women who work to provide for the family. So I feel like as a society, we need to be supportive of those creative ways that families are making it work.

Families just happen so many different ways now. Being open to how that works and what people’s lives are about, I think is just so critically important.

Absolutely, and if it works for a family to do the traditional thing, where it’s mom who stays at home, or mom doesn’t work and chooses to stay home, hey, if that works for that family, that’s equally great. So I don’t want people thinking, “Oh, we’re gonna throw out traditional way of thinking in light of this other way,” that’s again, either or thinking. What I wanna say is, we need to be okay with any type of format that a family chooses to take to make it work for that family, and the best thing we can do is come alongside them and support them.

I tell you what, some of the hardest working people in our world are single parents. I so admire what they do to support their family, financially, emotionally and everything else, and it’s just so timely to have experts like yourself working on these big issues to say, “What does this modern life look like? What does this modern era look like? How does this evolve into the future so the future work changes, the future family continues to change, the future of society continues to change as people are looking for more passion and purpose and trying to make all these things work together?”

(Music Transition)

For me, an inclusive leader is someone who is emotionally intelligent, who has the developmental capacity to bring people from all walks of life together and help them innovate and create things that didn’t exist before.

Can you provide for our listeners an example of how you’ve done that in your consulting work?

So I will give you the example of one particular person that pops out in my mind, an individual that I have worked with, an executive. He is a police officer, he’s a chief of police in his community, and basically during his graduate program, he had to go through some coaching, and by coaching I’m not talking because he wasn’t doing things well. I’m talking about helping to increase his capacity as a leader, and so being able to coach him, to help him to understand how do I shift perspective? And one of the ways that I challenged him was to say, “Who wouldn’t you want your children to bring home as their future spouse?” You identify that individual, that population, so to speak, and that’s your implicit bias. And if you can hold yourself accountable in situations where your implicit bias is getting in the way of you being effective, then to me, you are stepping into that inclusive leadership zone. And that takes vulnerability, it takes courage, it takes a certain level of self-awareness, awareness of the impact I have on other people, which ties into the whole emotional intelligence piece.

Yeah, I think coaching is growing in popularity and I think people are starting to understand the impact that it can have. I mean, I have a coach myself, and I do coaching. Really, a great coach can help you uncover those things you aren’t seeing yourself. And it sounds to me like that’s exactly what happened with this individual.

So I’m not gonna be his coach for the rest of his life, right? My hope is that the lessons that he gleans through that process, he will be able to use that same process to glean new things about himself as he has new experiences. That’s always my hope when I coach executives and also in the classroom. One of the things I do is I ask that same question of my students, and they will list off everything from someone who’s homeless, someone who’s got a criminal record, someone who’s transgender, someone who’s of a different religion, a wide range of things. And I say, “Okay, great. Now I want you to go out into the community and I want you to serve that population.” Because it is extremely difficult to serve and get in close proximity and keep my biases.

Why is that, Helen?

Because most of the time, our biases are formed based on little information, overgeneralization. One of my areas that I absolutely love is neuroscience and what we’re learning about the brain and the human capacity to exclude without even recognizing that they’re excluding. And so the idea is that we wanna develop the prefrontal cortex in these young adults, because that is where inclusion begins to take shape. Our limbic brain is the part of our brain that says, “Hey, I like things that are like me, and I wanna hang out with people that are like me, and I want things to be easy.” So that’s where we form these biases. But when we actually encounter who are different than us, that destroy those preconceived notions that we have, we begin to question, is this bias true? And it’s hard to be loyal to that bias for any length of time once I’ve had exposure to a particular population that I’ve spent time with, that I’ve gotten to know them, gotten to know their story, gotten to know their challenges, their life history. I’ve gotten to walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak.

I think that’s where this great awareness of experiential learning, neuroplasticity, you know, that brain science piece and how these things relate is so important. So, not just talking about the importance of all of this, but actually doing it, experiencing it, rewiring your brain through those experiences, to make yourself a better leader and person, but ultimately, to help others as well. There’s such an exponential effect when we expand. So okay, I wanna expand on that a little bit myself, Helen, and I have a question for you that I really appreciate your insight to. What advice would you give the Trump Administration right now in light of all that’s happening with immigration?

So I wanna preface what I say with the idea that I am not in their shoes. I don’t know how they’re seeing the country. They have access to information I do not have. They have access to content I don’t have access to. Given all of that, I also would challenge them to walk away from what they know for a short season of time and spend time getting to know individuals and people’s stories. I really want to have them to move away from this polarizing thinking of either this is good or it’s bad. I want to get them to a place they’re thinking both and. We can have a good rich U.S. and value immigration. We can have a good relationship with education as well as business. So the idea of and both, I want them to get away from the polarizing. In my work, in my data that I’ve been collecting with the intercultural development inventory, the continuum, I have seen a shift from one developmental level to a lower developmental level, which we call polarizing, in people that I have been assessing. So I’ve been doing this for over a decade, giving this assessment to my students at the beginning of the semester, at the end of the semester, giving it to graduate students, giving to individuals that hire me for coaching, organizations I work with. What I’m seeing is this shift, a societal shift, to this polarization, and I cannot help but think that is as a result of the message of the leadership that we’re hearing. It’s either this or that. Either we’re a good, strong, Make America Great Again, or we’re for immigration.

Everything seems to be so extreme. It’s not a thought of abundance, it’s of lack. But I also appreciate what you said in the beginning. How do we understand this in a deeper way? We don’t know exactly what’s happening and why the decisions are being made, but at the same time, if we would take some time to spend time in the shoes of other people, to think about how this might look, we would come out with more innovative solutions and ideas that could potentially just be better and more robust than the either or back mindset.

Absolutely, in the work that I’ve been doing, I have seen us being able to shift that. We can develop in this area. We can grow in this area. I’d like to share a couple of stories with you of how I got interested in all of this. My dad was an executive for the national Iranian oil company, and he traveled all over the world, and he wanted his kids to be educated in another country and that’s the reason we moved to England when I was very young, to go to school. And then later I moved to the United States to go to school, so the U.S. wouldn’t give visa for my parents to stay. It was only my brothers and I got to stay in a boarding school. And two months after we got here, the U.S. hostages were taken in Tehran, and all of us Iranian students were loaded up on a bus and taken to Orlando International Airport, and we had to report in, and all that stuff, and getting to stay in the U.S. wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. There were people that were “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” and all kinds of stuff going on. So I hid who I was for a very long time. I hid that I’m Iranian, when people would say, “Where are you from?” I’d say, “Where do you want me to be from? Where do you think I’m from?” And I was where everybody wanted me to be from. I learned to assimilate, what I call forced assimilation. It was forced upon me as a way of getting along with people here, so that sense really impacted how I saw myself, how I saw my heritage, how I saw how I could contribute to society. I had to hide a part of myself in order to be able to contribute to society. It wasn’t until this event happened with my father that I really stepped out into it. My dad came to visit me for a month. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. He had a heart attack and then later a stroke after he left my home and he was in this hospital. He had the kind of stroke that was called the locked in syndrome, so a piece of plaque from his carotid went into his brain stem, and he was locked inside of his body until his death eight months later. He couldn’t understand any other language except our native language, even though he was multilingual. He was an executive, he traveled the world. So here he is in this bed, and we’re trying to communicate with him, he couldn’t move any of his body parts, he couldn’t speak, he could nod just a little bit, and he could blink yes or no to our questions. So I’m speaking Farsi to my dad, I’m in the room, and in walks this nurse who’s training another person and the nurse is asking questions and I’m speaking Farsi to my dad, and I’m kind of thinking, “Okay, I think I know what he’s saying based on his look,” and I’m giving the information back to the nurse, and she gets frustrated, and as she’s walking out of the room, she says under her breath, “I wish they would learn to speak English. It would make our job so much easier.” It triggered something deep within me. I followed her out of the room, and I laid into her. I tell people I verbally vomited on this poor nurse. And I’m sharing that to not say, “Hey, I’m great, and I was justified in what I did.” I’m sharing that to say that it triggered something in me and at that point, I thought, “I wanna do everything in my power to ensure that that doesn’t happen to my father again,” or to any other person’s father, or to anybody else’s family member, whoever that person is. So then when I moved to Nebraska and began working at Bryan Health, I created this Diversity Cultural Competence, and doing the training and the work in that arena, fast forward several years, and we have a situation that really got me thinking, “Wow, how did we go from the situation with my dad to the outcome of this situation?” That particular situation was a 12-year-old boy had been hit by a truck while riding his bicycle in his community, and he was brought into our trauma center. Our hospital had a trauma center, and by the time the family arrived, they were told that their son was brain dead, and the chaplain that was working with this family was on the diversity council that I led at the hospital. He approached the family about organ donation, and the family requested to have a family member in the operating room at the time of the retrieval of the organs. Well, this was against hospital policy for multiple reasons. But here’s this chaplain, instead of saying, “I’m sorry, it’s against hospital policy,” he says, “Help me understand what makes this important to you.” Just that simple question got him access to information. What he found out was this family was Native American and they believed that the spirit of their son rested in his heart. They wanted the heart to stop beating, the spirit to be set free, and they chose the uncle to be in the operating room to be able to say prayers so that the spirit wouldn’t go on living in someone else’s body. That was their belief. The challenge for us was to get people from different parts of the hospital, decision makers, to come together and agree to allow this to happen. When that happened, we were told by Nebraska Organ Retrieval System that that was the first time in the 25-year history of organ donation at that time, that a Native American family had said yes to donating the organs of a loved one.

Wow, I mean the power of seeking to understand, and not making assumptions is just so incredible, isn’t it? And I admit I had to grab a Kleenex when you were talking because if you have to hide who you are to fit in, I think is something that is a struggle for so many in so many different ways, but I also think it’s been a gift in so many ways, too, as well, and to all of us, to be honest, to have somebody like you who has taken that experience and really has just turned it into a prolific practice in both your business, but then also what you do at the University of Nebraska, here at the Rural Futures Institute, and so many ways beyond that. I mean, you’re even consulting for movies. (laughs) Yeah, I think that fascinating, but I also think it’s helpful in terms of moving away from this culture we seem to have right now of polarization to that inclusive culture that really is more global and really finds innovations that are workable for everyone so it’s not a lose-lose, but it’s more of that win-win.

Absolutely, and so that is exactly what got me interested in researching this. How do we get people to come to that level of understanding? How do we do that? And I have found a process for making that happen, and it’s so exciting to watch these young people who have hidden part of who they are for up to the time they enter my classroom, anywhere from 19, 20, 21, all the way up to 55, 60, 70-year-olds, and it’s giving them a place and a space to fully step into who they are and accept that other people, when we allow others to be who they are, fully who they are, we create opportunities. We become more innovative in our thinking, in our problem-solving, in our approach to how we increase participation in the community, in an organization. It just totally changes the way we engage with the world around us. And that’s what’s so exciting for me is, one of the areas that I really want to study is how do parents who level of self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, and their developmental readiness for engaging with people who are different, how does that impact the way they raise their children?

Right, because even as a parent, I want my kids to be global in their perspectives and their thinking, very inclusive, but also very brave and being able to stand in their own power, because parenting is an interesting experiment in itself, right? I mean how do you do all of that as a parent to make sure your kids are the best of who they can be, not just to themselves, but to others, and really, then preparing them for a world that’s gonna be much different than what we grew up in.

Absolutely, in our grandparents’ day, our grandparents were competing with other people in their own community, in their own area. In our parent’s day, it was people in another state. There were people applying for jobs from other states. In our age, we’re competing for positions and opportunities globally, and so how do we prepare our students, our children, to be able to not just compete at that level, but to be excited and thrilled to be engaged at that level of thinking and being? How do we do that, and that’s an area that I’m really interested in studying.

(Music Transition)

I wanna ask you to look into your crystal ball, become that futurist for a second. Tell us what you see in the future in terms of your expertise.

What I see is that individuals who have created, I actually started calling it this super-power. They’ve created this internal super-power, this capacity of being resilient, of being able to shift perspective, of being able to see issues that others are missing and then bringing people from all different walks of life to address those issues, that is a super-power, and I believe as we continue the advancement that we’re learning from neuroscience, what we’re learning from global leadership studies that are happening, what we’re seeing, even in our own RFI interns who are going into these rural communities, the insights they’re gaining about themselves, I feel like that is the kinds of opportunities we need to create for people. We need to help people to be able to see the perspective in that way. So understand yourself, the impact you have on other people, is based on the beliefs, the values, the experiences you’ve had, but also be able to be totally thrilled and excited to the be in the presence of people who are different than you, because I believe we connect with people who are like us, but we absolutely grow the most when we have to engage with people who are different than us. So what opportunities can we create for engaging with people who are different than us as well as connecting with people who are like us? Human beings, we need both.

Well, and I so appreciate that, and I just wanna say to the world we are so excited that you’ve joined the Rural Futures team, and the wisdom, the scholarship, but also just the leader and person that you are, to help us with the rural serviceship program, but really expanding it into something new and different so it’s more transformational for students and communities moving forward, but I think the other thing that you bring to all of this, Dr. Fagan, is the fact that we can break some stereotypes about rural and urban as well. Too often we talk about rural or urban, it’s rural versus urban, it’s that polarization again, and we need to really realize that we live in a global ecosystem that connects our worlds together and that includes rural and urban centers because they all rely on one another, and to make this work in a sustainable, forward-leaning way, and so for those students to have these experiences, I think is just fantastic. For communities to have the experience, great, but it makes me wonder as we move forward how would you envision breaking down the stereotypes of rural versus urban and bringing those worlds together in a more collective, cohesive, and innovative way. I would encourage people, I would challenge people, if you’re in an urban setting, to step out into a rural setting and find the positive. I think we need to create opportunities for urban populations to experience rural, not as an I’m gonna get away from it all and go to the rural setting, but as a how do we take what’s so wonderful about rural and bring it a part of our urban setting, and vice versa. How do you take something that is so wonderful about urban and include that in part of what we do in our rural setting? And so the experiences we offer our students is powerful, I believe, through RFI, and I’m so excited and thrilled to be joining the RFI team, and to be working with someone like you, Dr. Connie. I’ve read what you’ve written, I’ve listened to what you’ve shared, and I’m just excited. I think it’s gonna be a win-win for all of us and we’re gonna learn so much together and I believe that our life trajectory has been so different, our backgrounds have been so different, that out of those differences we are going to be able to create exciting new opportunities for both our urban and our rural, as well as global environment for our global students.

Well, thank you, Dr. Fagan, I so appreciate that, and I also appreciate the fact that your bringing up global, because one of the things we see at RFI is, of course a lot of our work happens in Nebraska, but we are involved nationally and internationally as well and really intend on expanding that because many of our rural issues and urban issues are similar is what we find and we come to the conclusion through visiting with Tufts University, Harvard University, other partners like Microsoft, that we need to ask better questions. And that is not a question of rural versus urban, but it’s how do we collectively move together. But then also, what is the future of rural in terms of being more inclusive and diverse? Because the populations are shifting, while some population loss is happening, we also see the migration of different people and patterns in many of those rural areas, and I think as those populations shifts and demographics shifts continue, communities themselves are asking, “How do we become more inclusive? What more can we do to be a welcoming community? How do we get people here but also keep them here? And, how do we make this work if we become smaller?” So there’s so many great questions around that, but there’s some innovative solutions as well.

I tell people we need to ask both why questions and help me understand questions. The why questions are necessary because they help us to defend our position, but the help me understand questions are necessary because they help us expand and shift our perspective. And so we need both of those. So asking good questions involves both of those types of questions, but also being willing to listen. Not listen to answer, but listen to learn and connect and understand.

Well, thank you. I think that’s such powerful insight for our audience to hear and I’d love to know from you, Helen, what parting words of wisdom would you like to leave our listeners with today?

I would say be adaptable and flexible. Be willing to engage with people whose perspective are different than yours. Be the kind of person that is comfortable with who they are, but also recognizes that it’s important to give space for other people to be who they are fully. I really hope that if people take anything away from what I’ve shared is to be a 21st century leader takes effort, it takes intentionality, it takes a new way of thinking about culture and inclusion and differences.

Thank you. That wisdom is something I think our listeners will continue to enjoy and can benefit from. I’d love to hear from them on how they’re applying some of these things in their own life. I think that the Rural Futures Institute would definitely want this to be a very open conversation and would love to learn from them as well, so thank you.

Absolutely, and I would love to hear from them as well.

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This Week in Serviceship 2018: Week Seven!

July 6, 2018
Alliance, Neb. “Seeing how far we have come in this project excites me. I am very excited to show the communities of Box Butte County our end result in a few weeks!” HALEY EHRKE SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.   We …

Alliance, Neb.

“Seeing how far we have come in this project excites me. I am very excited to show the communities of Box Butte County our end result in a few weeks!”

HALEY EHRKE
SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.

 

Mirissa and Haley’s painted tires beautify Carhenge for their volunteering project.

We can’t believe it is already the 7th week of Serviceship! Things are starting to wind down and we have been editing like crazy for our Marketing Hometown America video! We have continued to meet amazing people and have gotten to do some traveling to surrounding areas on the weekends which has been nice! The main focus of our last two weeks has been to write interview questions, visit businesses, wrap up footage content, and conduct interviews for our final product.

We also attended the Cattle Capital Rodeo this past weekend and got some pictures and video of that. On Jul. 2, we had supper with Bob and Delinda Neville and rode around the town of Alliance selling ice cream in Delinda’s ice cream truck. On Independence Day we celebrated the holiday with our lead mentor Chelsie her family and Susan Unzicker, Executive Director of the Alliance Chamber. On Jul. 6, we visited with Congressman Adrian Smith and the first week of Bands on the Bricks will take place. Bands on the Bricks will be occurring every Friday in July in Alliance and the first Friday of August in Hemingford. We are also excited to experience our first Heritage Days celebration soon!

“It has been really great having Haley and Mirissa here,” said Box Butte General Hospital Promotions Specialist Shae Brennan. “Coming from the eastern part of the state to the western side gives it a different vibe. They are bringing out the best in the video for Box Butte County. I’m really thankful for that and I want this town to grow and be better than it is. I love this community.”

 

We have also finished up our volunteer project at Carhenge. Our lead mentor, Chelsie Herian, gave us six tires and we power washed them and spray painted them. Then we planted flowers in the tires to help beautify Carhenge.

“We are very excited about what we have been doing and are looking forward to putting all of our work together in order to make an amazing video and attract residents to Box Butte County.”

MIRISSA SCHOLTING
SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.

 

 

 

 

McCook, Neb.

Within the last two weeks, we have cracked down on our museum planning! After a lot of brainstorming and sketches on paper, we have started to use SketchUp to create computerized designs and blueprints of rooms. Our intention with this is to make our creative ideas as visual as possible when we hand our designs over to someone else at the end of the summer. These designs will also be useful for the public to gain an awareness of the plan of action that will be phased in over the next few years. To spark some enthusiasm for the future change and get community members involved, we will be holding a membership drive event in the next few weeks.

“The RFI Serviceship Program has taught me that economic development is the heart and soul of rural Nebraska. It is all about creating community, doing the extraordinary and believing that small towns really do make big waves.”

EMILY FRENZEN
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

In addition to the museum planning, we have been working on two projects with McCook’s Economic Development Director Andy Long. The first project is called the McCook Mastermind Alliance. The goal of this group is to bring together highly motivated people who are committed to growing personally and professionally. Promotion and connection are two of our main goals for this project. By accomplishing these two tasks, we feel we will be able help start the engine of this creative and collaborative train.

The other project we are working on is the Accelerated Interns of McCook (AIM), which is a program modeled after the RFI Serviceship unique to the McCook community. High school and college students will apply for existing or new internships in the area, and AIM managers will assist with promotion and application screening. Beyond hiring, the program will focus on creating a close-knit community for interns through bi-weekly meetings with one another and local professionals, as well as social gatherings. Interns will also complete 10 volunteer service hours throughout the summer.

Emily took this photo of Sage while snapping photos for the Southwest Nebraska Tourism Coalition.

Sage and Emily present their museum planning designs to the High Plains Museum Board.

“RFI Serviceship has taught me to appreciate rural communities in a way I never have before. Each community is so unique in some way—its rich history, an invested and diverse group of thinkers and all of those who are continuously looking forward to the future of the community.”

SAGE WILLIAMS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

We are creating marketing materials and applications for both projects while also planning a kickoff event. The theme for the kickoff is a Fiery Fiesta because we are hoping to light a new fire for these projects focused on leadership and community development, and who doesn’t love tacos? We are especially thankful for Andy Long getting us involved in these two projects, as they combine aspects of entrepreneurship and serviceship for rural communities—something we both share a passion for!

On top of all of the work we have been doing on these projects, we have also been having a little fun behind the camera. Last Saturday we hopped in the car to Trenton, Neb., to take some pictures for the Southwest Nebraska Tourism Coalition website. We snapped some pictures of the colorful farmers market corner, the local boutique and the most unique massage therapy business—who would have thought? If you’re looking for hidden gems in Nebraska, Trenton is definitely one to explore!

 

 

 

McCook THETA Camps

“The students of THETA have kept me excited each day by showing an interest in the material that we are supplying them. This is a very rewarding experience to see a student develop an understanding of a topic I’m passionate about.”

BRAD SCHOCH
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

THETA continues to keep trucking along as we’ve completed 5 modules of our camp already. It’s crazy to see how fast this summer is passing. It feels as if just last week we were all in Lincoln completing our serviceship training.

At THETA, we are continuing to make impressive advancements as we have expanded our reaches from physical activity and nutrition into technology now as well. It has been a very good mix of speed for both RFI interns as well as our students. The kids continue to stay excited about the material that we are presenting them.

The students specifically loved being able to cross physical activity and technology together and apply both their uses. One way we’ve been able to do this is by assigning IHT monitors, which similar to Fitbits, to each student in order to study their heart rates and physical activity levels for various activities. This is an excellent activity be students get to actually see how much work their body is doing for simple movements compared to complex activities.

“I’ve been excited about the kids’ eagerness to learn and seeing them be able apply the information we teach them directly to their own lives.”

COLLIN FLEECS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

 

An activity utilizing the internet of things allowed students to be creative by trying to connect various objects to the internet and solve a problem that they face whether it be at home or in their school. It has been awesome seeing kids take such an interest in these activities and also be able to continue to develop their problem-solving skills.

We have also had a few volunteer opportunities show up that we were more than eager to help out with. We helped the community set up some very heavy pool equipment for a swim meet as well as doing various things within the YMCA. We feel that the community is very thankful with anything that we get to help out with and that makes it that much easier to lend a hand where ever it is needed.

THETA camp was scheduled for a break during the week of Independence Day as it is difficult to keep our numbers up with the various activities going on. We are eager to return to camp and hope the kids are too!

“The kids have shown tremendous growth in their application of what we are teaching. They’re taking the time to really dive in and try to understand what we are teaching them.”

TYAN BOYER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

 

 

 

Neligh, Neb.

In these last two weeks, we have finished the Neligh mapping report and finished collecting data for the northeast mapping report. The Neligh mapping report was formatted and sent as a confidential file to the strategic planning committee. The northeast mapping report just needs several more hours of formatting work and it will be finished as well.

We have also been out in the community and were busy with business visits and talking to community members. On Jun. 29, we delivered root-beer floats with State Farm to businesses around town.  We also helped register floats for the Independence Day parade. We also have been spending time recording, editing and scheduling videos.

We went out to Theile Dairy in Clearwater, Neb., to show support for the community as Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts paid a visit to a local dairy. We got a tour of the farm and met farmers from the Clearwater area.

Michayla and Rhiannon pose with Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts during his Ag Adventure in Clearwater, Neb.

Rhiannon and Michayla drive around Neligh on Independence Day to record videos and take photos of the community.

Michayla has been working on entrepreneurship curriculum that will be used during the school year as a class that meets once bi-weekly. I attended an executive meeting to get ideas and input on the outline. Rhiannon has taken charge of a large service project for us. Community members want the cemetery to be inventoried, and they want the records to be condensed. We are going to then do a map and color coding system to help families find open plots and their loved ones.

On the Jul. 25, the RFI team paid us a visit, and it was great to talk with them. We always learn so much from their wisdom and perspective. It meant a lot to us that our coordinators cared enough to visit and then to stay for an extended period of time.

We also had a strategic planning committee meeting. It is composed of chamber members, city council members and community representatives. We had introductions and then collectively did a SWOT analysis to go through best and worst-case scenario of what Neligh would look like in ten years.

“It still amazes me that even when there are other things going on, people care so much for each other and want what is best for their community.”

MICHAYLA GOEDEKEN
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NELIGH, NEB.

 

 

 

Seward, Neb.

The past few weeks were filled with a good amount of progress pertaining to our projects. Our newcomer ice cream social event is to take place on Jul. 15, and we are excited for it. We have partnered with the Kiwanis Club of Seward and Lee’s Refrigeration to help us sustain this project and make it a year-to-year event.

We are still in the planning stages of the other two events that we have in mind. We do have an idea as to what we want those events to be like and who we are trying to partner with, but because everyone is so busy we have been planning at a slower pace. Our second and third events are tentatively planned to take place in October 2018 and April 2019. It is also a blessing in disguise that we have organizations and civic groups that are happy and willing to work with us on a professional capacity. They are very much looking forward to what we come up with and are not hesitant to help sustain the events towards the future for the betterment of the community and the county as a whole.

Another one of our projects in updating the Seward County website. We are taking this information from each of the communities and adding to the website. This will then help newcomers and visitors to get new information about the town they are visiting.

Vintage sign hangs in Bee, Neb., a village in Seward County that Raghav and Maddie visited this week.

After we finish updating the website, we hope to receive a grant from the Seward Visitor’s Committee to make Seward County magnets. These magnets would have the website’s URL on them and we would pass them out to each community to hand out. We are hoping to hear from the committee about the grant later this month.

Overall, we have helped enable the community to utilize better, easier and convenient channels for receiving information about the community and the events that take place within it. We have also gone around to each community in the county and gathered information of businesses, utilities, trash services, school and organizations. The goal here is to help people out to get to know their community better and create channels of communication within communities that did not exist before.

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Episode 5: Dr. Tyler Ideus intersects physical medicine, agriculture, global impact

July 3, 2018
              Small-town raised and part-time farmer, Dr. Tyler Ideus is a specialist in physical medicine practicing in Lincoln, Neb., and traveling internationally as a lead instructor for Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, a leading rehabilitation approach. Dr. Connie’s interest …

 

 

     

 

 

Small-town raised and part-time farmer, Dr. Tyler Ideus is a specialist in physical medicine practicing in Lincoln, Neb., and traveling internationally as a lead instructor for Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, a leading rehabilitation approach. Dr. Connie’s interest was sparked by Dr. Ideus’ background in conventional agriculture and his global perspective of healthcare combined with his expertise in a variety of manual therapies, ranging from physical therapy, rehabilitation, functional medicine, soft tissue, dry needling and manipulation. A “maverick” working and teaching in urban settings but living and farming in a rural area makes him the “perfect” guest, Dr. Connie said. In this episode Dr. Ideus shares his vision for connecting agriculture, nutrition and healthcare and his passion for a thriving rural future through a mindset of abundance.

“At the end of the day, sick people are just expensive, and it has to get paid for one way or another. So if we can do things in agriculture and growing food that is going to be really healthy for people, I think we’re all going to come out ahead.”
Tyler Ideus
Physical Medicine Specialist and Nebraska Farmer

About Tyler

     

Dr. Tyler Ideus practices physical medicine in Lincoln, Neb. He earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University and his doctorate from Logan Chiropractic College in St. Louis, Mo. His study has gone far beyond chiropractic medicine to include neurology, physical therapy, orthopedics and strength and conditioning. He became an international lead instructor of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization in 2016.

Dr. Ideus grew up in Filley, Neb., a town of 200 that is now more around 100 in population. He currently farms part-time with his father outside of Filley, raising corn and beans using conventional farming practices.

 

Show Notes

Welcome to another episode of the Rural Futures podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild and with me today is Dr. Tyler Ideus, he’s an international expert that connects farming, food and health in very unique ways and so we’re very excited to dig into the fact that he’s choosing to build this life in rural Nebraska, but really teaching globally and being invited to do so. So Dr. Ideus, welcome to the show.

Thank you very much.

Absolutely, now tell us a little bit more. I know I have a lot here in this introduction. You know, you teach globally, you’re teaching a lot of postgraduate and postdoctoral work to people in health but in a very unique way, can you explain a little bit what that means?

With the continuing education or the postgraduate, postdoctoral work, what we’re doing is we’re working with some kind of new cutting edge ideas that just haven’t been exposed across the world yet at this point, specifically for me it’s brought me to places all over the United States and in Canada, into Europe, China, I’ll be going to Taiwan later this year so it’s been a neat experience, it’s been neat to listen to different people and their experiences, both in clinical practice but also from kind of just a healthcare standpoint as well and the different systems that people work in as well.

Now tell us exactly what you’re teaching, tell us, and why do you think it’s grown in this popularity, this is a program on the future and you’re kind of on the cutting edge of this emergence.

So this is a rehabilitation approach for people with different types of musculoskeletal disorders and diseases, so we might be working with things from low back pain to headaches, knee pain, hip pain but then in addition to that it’s very popular in strength and conditioning and performance, from all levels to youth to, you know, collegiate and professional athletes, people that are working with those types of clients, finding this information really, really valuable.

And I know you’re a doctor of chiropractic medicine, correct, but you’ve really expanded beyond that to really connect not just the chiropractic but really those health outcomes and connecting that back to food and health.

I do have a background in chiropractic, but the way that I practice that is very, very different, probably, than what most people think of. I consider it more of being a specialist in physical medicine and if we look at the definition of physical medicine, it’s the treatment of different types of diseases, musculoskeletal issues, through rehabilitation, nutrition, manipulation without the use of drugs or surgery so then when we kind of look into agriculture, the nutritional parts of things, there are points where what we eat, what we grow has a huge effect on our health as well.

Okay, so I think we need to dive into that because you’re originally from Filly, Nebraska, and that is Filly with an F. (laughs) Yes. Right, so we want to get the right size Filly and how big is Filly Nebraska?

So Filly, at this point, I would guess is about 100 and then it’s just kind of, you know, it’s as we’re seeing common in rural, the population is declining and so I think we’re probably down to around 100 people at this point, yeah, yep.

So we’ve seen the decline, but you’ve chosen to really take your expertise but also continue to farm and link this food and positive health outcome piece together which is very rare and unique. A lot of people talk about it, you’re doing it, so tell us a little bit about your farming background as well.

Right, right, so growing up on a farm, I always tell people, you know, when you grew up outside of Filly there was about three things that you did, you farmed, you worked hard and played basketball, those were the big things. It wasn’t as much football because we were all harvesting, you know, during the fall.

Sure, that makes sense.

But when that was done, then we played basketball, so the values and stuff that you can learn from the farm, the hard work as well as sports and the competition and getting out of your comfort zone has really taught me a lot and I use those all the time in how I approach clinical practice and education and farming as well.

Well, I love how you’ve really chosen to create your own future by taking that background of the sort of love and passion of sports and being active with agriculture and medicine and really combine that to create yourself as an international expert and really a cutting edge leader in terms of how we can forge a different future in health. So Dr. Ideus, I’d like to dive into a little bit about your philosophy as a leader, because obviously you’re forging a new path, you’re taking that future and you’re creating it one day, one class, one idea at a time and that takes a lot of guts and courage to do in our society, so tell us a little bit about your leadership philosophy.

I guess several kind of things that I think about, one of the big ones is always to get used to getting out of your comfort zone, right, and so I think that if we’re just kind of always comfortable and, you know, doing the same thing and not getting out of our comfort zone, it’s hard to really be a leader, you know, it’s hard to do new things, it’s hard to really, truly make change. Eventually you just have to be comfortable with getting out of your comfort zone, in addition to that, you have to be willing to put in the work, right, to make things make sense and have them be successful and so I was recently watching an interview with Kobe Bryant and he was kind of just talking about how there’s kind of a standard in the NBA on, okay, players might go in and work out a little bit and then they rest or go to practice and then that’s kind of their routine and so then he kind of thought about, well, how can I do more? So he thought then he would get up earlier, he would do workout, shoot, whatever, rest, and then kind of do the normal routine and so he said, then, that was an extra couple hours a day and he said in one day, it’s not a huge difference, in one week it’s not a huge difference, even in one year it’s not a huge difference, but then if you do that year after year, then you’re really starting to kind of create a gap, you know, and then you’ve put in the time and the hard work and then you can kind of have I think a clear vision for what it is that you’re trying to do and you can be really comfortable with these new things and ideas that you’re trying to kind of get across.

You know, and these are the exact type of guests we like to get on the show, mavericks like yourself with that grit, and you brought up that word vision and you also brought up the hard work and doing what it takes so I’d like to segment now back into that vision that you have around blending health and food and physical activity together.

You know, obviously as somebody’s that’s still involved in farming and somebody that uses conventional farming practices, and then also somebody who works in a clinical setting, and I love research and I read all the time and read research and then firsthand having these experience with patients, there’s some real questions that come about and that we have to ask ourselves and so for example, I have a patient recently that I was seeing for just kind of this generalized neck, shoulder area pain and tension and she had received some really great care from different types of medications to injections to physical therapy to chiropractic in the different types of modalities and things that exist within without a lot of success and so as we kind of dug into her history and figuring out why the heck this is going on, one thing we eventually found out was her large consumption of soy products because she ate a vegan diet and so she was getting her protein through that source so as we know and as we’ve seen through a lot of research, that can be a food that people are really sensitive to these days, right? Well, you hear on one end, it’s a major health benefit but on the other end, you’re saying it can also be something else depending on the person. Right, so then in her case, we removed that from her diet and that was enough to clear up her symptoms. So again, we just have to ask that question if why would that be, you know?

And to me that’s really powerful because I think oftentimes, you know, healthcare itself is estimated to be a three trillion dollar industry, many groups trying to disrupt it at this point and time and take a different approach, some people are even saying, you know, it’s really focused on sick care rather than healthcare, and just that story, a very powerful story that you told, you’re trying to go back and say, okay, we can use all these different modalities and they all have a place, but we also have to go back and find the story, the real story and find out what’s going on, what’s really maybe causing the challenges so we can get to resolution, not just a short term fix.

That’s exactly right, when we’re talking about the resolution, I think it’s very important for multiple reasons, number one is obviously it’s good for the person but then at the end of the day, it can ease some of the burdens of the cost on the healthcare system, and again, some of the interesting experiences I’ve had being in different countries and talking to different people in these different healthcare systems, the one thing that I’ve found is no matter where I’m at, it’s expensive, so for example, here we have private insurance, you know, high deductibles, high premiums and so on, so it’s expensive, in the Czech Republic, for example, whose government healthcare system, one scenario is maybe you go into the hospital for a traumatic brain injury and you’re kind of allowed a certain amount of time in rehabilitation and then when that time is up, then–

That’s it?

Your time is up, so at that point you have one of two options, number one, you’re done with care, right, or then you go to a private place and pay out of pocket, so then in those scenarios they’re paying very, very high taxes and then at the end of the day they’re gonna be paying out of pocket as well, so again, at the end of the day, it’s just sick people are expensive and it has to get paid for one way or another, and so if we can do things in an agriculture and growing food and growing food that’s gonna be really healthy for people to prevent certain things, I think we’re all gonna come out ahead and I think at that point, when just the overall population is a lot healthier in the scenarios where people do need help or there is some sort of trauma, there’s just gonna be such an abundant amount of available money and funds that it’s not such a burden for us to then help those people out.

So you can really see this from a place of abundance as well, it doesn’t have to be sort of this scarcity model where there’s not enough.

Right.

Rather, in the future we could actually forge a path that if we had health on the front end, there would be care for those ’cause people are still gonna need it, right? There’s no one perfect system, but we could evolve the model if we chose to. How do you see the future of food and health coming together?

Yeah, I’m not trying to say that we stop conventional practices and the research and the technology and everything that we have accomplished, being in a country like China and I was in Beijing and then we took a really neat train ride kind of through the countryside to another city called Nanjing and you could just see the abundance of people, you know, just so, so, so, many people and all these apartment buildings that are just skyscrapers so you just saw the mass number of people. There still has to be some type of, I think, more mass production of things, so we need that, we can’t get away from that, but at the same time I think that it’s okay that if we look into additional farming practices and being aware of ways to start expanding growing things organically and I think that also then can potentially help with rural growth and even create more opportunities within rural communities, just because those types of practices require a little more hands-on work, hands-on labor. We’re not just gonna be able to drive by with a big tractor sprayer and just cover these mass amounts of acres so it would return a part of farming to a little bit more of a hands-on practice which I think would be good as well. I always say that they’re talking about putting up these hydroponic plants on the ocean, you know, and these types of things. Vertical farming, we have a lot of cool stuff happening. To grow, you know, these foods and stuff and I just think, my gosh, we have some of the best people in the world that understand how to grow things and we have some of the best climates and the soils in the world right here to do that and so I just think there’s a huge opportunity for us to be leaders in that area as well.

I agree, I love reading about how, you know, they’re bringing sensors and AI and drones and robotics all into agriculture to make it more sustainable and it’d be great to bring some of that more thoughtfully and intentionally here to Nebraska to explore exactly what you’re saying.

Yeah, absolutely.

(Music Transition)

When I read things, and if they’re somewhat controversial, then I’ll read both sides. I have a stack of books at home that’s all about low carbohydrate living, so no breads, no grains, those type of things, but then at the same time, I also have books that the title, one of them is literally called “Eat Wheat,” but even in that book what it talks about is that the wheat that we used to eat 30 years ago, the way that the bread was made without preservatives and processed and all those types of things is way way way different than what we’re eating today so these highly refined grains and processed that have potentially been sprayed to kill to get in to harvest early, that’s why I think we’re seeing, like, this huge number of more urban populations having problems with our conventional farming needs.

This is what’s a little tricky because it all gets a little confusing, right? So there’s a lot of information out there and it’s good to read both sides and gather all that information. I’d love to learn a little bit more about some of the health outcomes that you’ve achieved by reading and digging into both sides and how you’re getting to health outcomes, positive health outcomes through that sort of questioning process.

Right, there is a good experience that I had with a patient not too long ago. There was a young man, I think he was 22 years old, I believe, and so then he had kind of been in and out of the hospital with C diff, which is just a bacterial regrowth in the stomach and small intestine that just leads to some really serious health issues, obviously. Then he was given the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis and told that he would just need these infusions once a month for the rest of his life. They would have to do kind of continued blood testing since this is an immunosuppressive drug, there’s kind of a lot of complications and side effects that could come from that, him and his parents were both very, very concerned about him going down that road and they wanted–

It’s a lifetime sentence.

Yeah, right, and they wanted to look if there’s anything else they could do, any other options and at that point we just ordered some blood tests that looked at basically different types of food sensitivities or allergies and when we got those results back we did see that he was significantly sensitive to dairy products, basically and different grains, so like gluten and glietens, which are different proteins within a certain type of grain and we completely took those out of his diet, we came up with a plan for him and then over a period of a few months, his symptoms were gone and he’s still symptom free over a year later and not that every single case of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s or anything like that can just be, you know, miraculously cleared by a few dietary changes, but like I told him in the very beginning, even if you do still need some type of medication, maybe it’s a little bit less and I don’t think that anybody is gonna be worse off by cutting, like, sugar out of their diet as he was dealing with it or if somebody else is dealing with that, just kind of their overall health can be so much better, you know, but like in his case then as well, if we think about the cost, that would have been accrued over a lifetime of needing those medications and those infusions, would have been astronomical compared to what it is now.

And I think even his overall well being, thinking about the cost but also his quality of life in terms of just freeing up time to have that energy to go do what you really want to do.

Yep.

It’s fantastic.

(Music Transition)

Okay, so you’re a busy guy, I mean, we know this so you’re farming, you have a full practice, you’re traveling internationally and really helping advance this whole connection between food, health, but also activity in this vital lifestyle. Tell us a little bit about what brings joy into your life around that, but also why you do everything that you’re doing, because it’s a lot.

With the farming aspect of things, that’s just something that, you know, I thoroughly enjoy, so I’ve made the comment before where some people go play a round of golf on the weekend, you know, or whatever it might be and I always say, there’s nothing in the world that beats sitting in the combine on a nice fall morning with a cup of coffee and my family that takes turns riding with me, so that’s just a lot of fun.

I gotta go there, because I know that you’re married and you have two little people in your life, right, so do they get on the tractor with you?

Oh yeah, we’ve had many rounds in the combine with four people in the cab, so two kids moving around and trying to, yeah, keep them somewhat still but it’s all worth it, that’s what makes it fun.

Yeah, and I appreciate that you’re really bringing that next generation of leaders along, getting this very hands-on experience out on a farm, that’s so cool.

So then in addition to that, the postgraduate and doctoral continuing education, that just kind of came about organically, I guess, and again, just kind of my passion for learning and curiosity, when I was exposed to this program, you know, I was just very, very intrigued and fascinated by it so continued to just learn and research and dig and then over a period of time then was asked if I would be willing to be a part of the group that is teaching to expand this just because the demand is so, so, so high for this program. I’ve always been a curious person and I think in clinical practice, one of the things I enjoy the most is the examination process. I spend a ton of time always on the first exam and I always say there’s literally no information that’s not important. And we do all kinds of different movements and history and again, diet and activity and all those types of things, then to finally end up at the answer of why you’re feeling the way you are, what’s going on, and so that’s an enjoyable process as well.

Well, I love this whole idea of you just like to explore and you like to get to the why and you are such a learner and take that deep dive in, both in your practice, your teaching, but also, you know, your farming and thinking about this whole evolution of agriculture, of food and health together, which is amazing, so what parting words of wisdom would you leave our audience with?

I think there’s a few things that always stick out to me, number one, one of my mentors told me early on when I was in school and he was talking specifically to clinical practice, but I think we can take that outside of that world, but he said, every single patient and every single visit with every patient deserves a 10 out of 10 with your effort and that doesn’t matter if it’s a professional athlete or if it’s Grandma, for example, you know, every patient, every visit deserves a 10 out of 10 and so I kind of take that too in the way that I farm and when I’m planting, for example, I’m gonna give out a 10 out of 10 effort. With the teaching aspect of things, if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna give a 10 out of 10 effort for that, so I think that’s something that’s really important. I know I mentioned a little bit of being willing to get out of your comfort zone.

Absolutely.

I think is really really important. I think that we need to embrace competition and not be afraid of competition, not be afraid to compete and to truly compete, you really have to know what you’re talking about, you really have to know what you’re doing.

Putting in those extra hours.

Right, right, and then, yeah, exactly. That work, that grit. The hard work, right, you know, and just being willing to put in the couple extra hours that others aren’t and then again over a long period of time, those extra hours just add up and add up and add up.

Well, I know at the Rural Futures Institute, we appreciate the fact that you’ve designed a life where you’re choosing to live rural and you’re continuing to farm but you’re also expanding and you’re an expert internationally living locally and so you’re really making this life work, so thank you for all you’re doing to serve Nebraska but also get Nebraska out there, you know, and the great work that’s going on, both on your farm but in your practice and really helping people around the world.

I always say, just because you’re from a small town in the middle of Nebraska doesn’t mean that you still can’t have a global impact. And again, with kind of that hard work that you’ve learned and you’ve put in and you’ve seen your parents do and their parents, it’s just very valuable for your business life.

Well, I’m really excited to see what the next generation of young farmers on your farm accomplishes with all that you’re teaching them as well. So thank you so much for being here.

Thank you.

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This Week in Serviceship 2018: Week Six!

June 29, 2018
Broken Bow, Neb. Since we are at the halfway point in our internship, we have realized a couple of things. First, we have gotten a lot done on our projects and have met a lot of people who are very …

Broken Bow, Neb.

Since we are at the halfway point in our internship, we have realized a couple of things. First, we have gotten a lot done on our projects and have met a lot of people who are very willing to help us out. Second, we have a lot left to do before we leave at the beginning of August.

Our last two weeks have included attending more economic development meetings, attending another radio talk show, having lunch with Chuck, Theresa and Helen and continuing to enjoy Broken Bow, Neb. We continue to host our weekly coffees, and this past Monday, we tried something new. We hosted ‘Refreshments and Feedback’ at a local bar and grill to try to draw more of the younger population out. We had our last coffee with the community on Wednesday morning which was a great way to tie up loose ends and get some final feedback.

Moving forward with our major projects has been very rewarding. After some phone calls we have finally obtained banners from Budweiser and Coca-Cola for different locations in town welcoming the Sturgis bikers. In addition to our signs, we are working on a wallet sized promotion card for the Bikers which will allow them to use this coupon to get great deals and discounts at different locations around town.

“Getting to tour the small towns in Custer County has really opened my eyes to the issues that a lot of small communities have in common. These issues include keeping businesses going and affordable housing which are two solvable problems. Not only have I seen the problems but I have seen so much innovation and creativity which is really assuring.”

JESSICA WEEDER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.

We will be meeting with the CEO of the YMCA in Kearney next Monday to get a better idea of what an updated recreational facility could look like for the community of Broken Bow. This will be a great opportunity for the steering committee that we have complied to ask questions and see what the next steps to improve recreational services in the Broken Bow area is.

Broken Bow Serviceship Interns featured in story in the Custer County Chief.

We have decided to start getting to know the surrounding communities more. On Monday, Jun. 25, we went to Arnold, Neb. We were able to meet business owners, enjoy local food and discuss local housing issues with Cheryl Carson who is the economic development director in Arnold. On Thursday, Jun. 27, we ventured again to a different community in Custer County—Sargent. We were able to tour some of the businesses there including the new bar, Mr. Rudy’s, and the recently updated grocery store. Chris, the economic development director there, showed us most of the town which included some of the housing projects, the school and many of the antique shops they have. The community hosts many antique based celebrations that bring hundreds of visitors to the town.

Jessica is making strides on getting Broken Bow listed as a Leadership Certified Community and is volunteering for the local 4H. Leanne has started to write for the Custer County Chief with her first article in this week’s newspaper.

We finally got to try to the local taco truck which was totally worth the hype that we have heard from several people around town. In other food news, the editor of the Custer County Chief, Donnis Hueftle-Bullock, invited us over for a grill out Tuesday evening and it was the first time we cooked while in Custer County as we are lucky enough to have our meals provided by the Hospital.

“I have really appreciated seeing other towns in Custer County. You can see all of the aspects that need work but also the aspects that community members pride themselves on. These are all things that I get me thinking about what I will need if I were to move back to a rural community in the future.”

LEANNE GAMET
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.

 

 

 

Columbus, Neb.

Clayton discusses his RFI Serviceship experience in Columbus on air with KLIR Radio.

As KC Belitz would say, “HEY TEAM!” That is exactly how we have tackled our projects at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce—as a team. From brainstorming sessions to listing jobs for chamber members to recruiting campaign partners to pulling weeds for a streetscape project, there has been no shortage of opportunities for teamwork. The Chamber is never boring! Or maybe it’s just Clayton’s excitement for the unexpected stint in the sun, “… and then we get to pull weeds, I’M SO EXCITED!” Those weeds didn’t stand a chance.

The Young Nebraskans Week Committee met last week for the first time. We are working to incorporate their best suggestions from the meeting into our plan for the event. The next step is to create a budget and find sources of funding. This is a great group to work with and we hope to plan a successful event for them and the young professionals of the Columbus area.

“Columbus is unlike anywhere I have ever worked. People are creative, innovative, and forward thinking–they don’t mind paving a new trail, as long as the destination is worth it.”

AMBER ROSS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COLUMBUS, NEB.
 

Over the past three weeks, we have toured and visited different places in the community, including Behlen Manufacturing, Scotus Central Catholic High School, Nebraska Public Power District and KLIR Radio Station. These visits have opened our eyes to the challenges the community faces and what is done to address those challenges.

There is also no shortage of forward-thinking. “Columbus is unlike anywhere I have ever worked,” Amber noted. “People are creative, innovative, and forward thinking–they don’t mind paving a new trail, as long as the destination is worth it.” And that destination includes diversity and inclusion. Columbus hasn’t always been diverse, yet their attitude towards it has always been inclusive. “It doesn’t matter where you came from,” Kara Asmus explained, “it matters where you are going.”

That means moving forward as a team, which brings us back to KC’s comment at the beginning. It takes more than one key player to make things happen. While KC is an incredible chamber president known throughout the entire state of Nebraska, he cannot do what he does without the incredible team behind him. We are really fortunate that we work with such a great group of leaders. The same for the City of Columbus. Community development takes a village—a team.

 

 

 

Norfolk, Neb.

As we begin our sixth week in our serviceship experience, we begin our time with the Norfolk Visitor’s Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. We have still found ourselves very involved with Daycos’ day-to-day projects and still have some of our own projects with them at the last stages. In this summary we will outline our remaining commitments to Daycos and give a brief overview of what we believe our next four weeks will look like the Bureau. Lastly, we will update you on the personal takeaways that we have both gathered thus far.

Before I (Cheyenne) left for Iceland and Norway we came up with a list of deliverables we could hand into Daycos at the end of the summer. The first deliverable we wanted to make sure that we would have three videos done for them explain who is Daycos, how they do what they do and why they believe in giving back. The next project we will finish for Daycos is a “Wall of Aim” bulletin board project we have come up with to create internal and community pride. We are also working on to systemize and reorganize the hiring process that Daycos is currently using and make sure it is in line with their culture and values. Lastly, we are holding an all company meeting to create a company answer to the question “What is Daycos?” because we’ve found there’s a lot of variety in the answers we get to this question.

At the end of the summer we will create two project portfolios—one for the Bureau and one for Daycos. These four projects will be highlighted in Daycos’ portfolio so that they can use the products of our internship long after we leave.

In the next four weeks, along with tying up loose ends with Daycos, we will be working on creating a marketing strategy for Norfolk’s retail sector. We have been tasked to answer the question, “How do we cross-promote the entire community’s retail?” This is a problem specific to Norfolk because they have two main retail areas­—one is downtown and one is based out of a mall.

“The serviceship experience is so rewarding because you’re expected to truly become a part of someone else’s community — to live and learn and laugh just like the other community members.”

CHEYENNE GERLACH
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NORFOLK, NEB.

 

We have many modes of answering this overarching question. One way is by doing Secret Shopper surveys and Windshield Assessments of Norfolk’s retail areas and businesses. We are also working to schedule interviews and meetings with all of Norfolk’s retail top stakeholders, including business owners, committee members, and community leaders. We then have a massive brainstorming session scheduled for this Friday to come up with a way to strategize the next steps for retail and what our deliverables for Norfolk’s Visitor Bureau will be. An additional project we’re starting to pick up is to develop a customer service training service that the city could provide for its retail businesses to improve the visitor experience.

As far as personal gains go, Sam truly feels like her passions have really related to the culture and team building that we have had the opportunity to experience from our time at Daycos. She has also noticed that there’s such an abundance of wonderful people here in Norfolk. We have had many conversations about how communities can cultivate such strong groups of people because of what cool things we have experienced this summer. I feel like I have strengthened a lot of strengths that I have had. I’m never driven by numbers or hours, but rather by objectives. Since I missed two weeks of work this has been something I have had a great time expressing. While I will probably come close to making up the hours that I missed, I will make the objectives that I set. The goals that I made were considering 10 weeks of work, not 7 or 8. So hard work and drive is something that this internship has made me take even further.

“One of my favorite things about the serviceship experience is that I can apply my education and experience to the work that I am contributing in Norfolk every day. I love that I am able to better my leadership, knowledge and skills through my work to constantly learn and grow. It is exciting to think about how I can apply my experiences in the future!”

SAMANTHA GUENTHER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NORFOLK, NEB.

When we asked Brandon Day, the CEO of Daycos, for his thoughts on our serviceship, he said, “Daycos has been very fortunate to have Samantha Guenther and Cheyenne Gerlach as Rural Futures Institute interns this summer. In a short time, they have become a part of the organization, blending in well with our people and culture, and becoming a valuable part of our team. Having these smart, capable young women come in to our organization, and look at everything with a fresh set of eyes, and new ideas, has been invaluable. They have offered unique perspectives, probing questions, and great suggestions. A number of employees have commented how much they have enjoyed getting the chance to talk to them about our company, and how much value they got from the interactions. Despite only being here a few weeks, they have made a lasting positive impact on our organization. My only regret is that they can’t stay longer.”

 

 

 

Omaha Land Bank

Kyle and Sydney visit the office of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

Week five and six at the Omaha Land Bank has been a learning experience for both Kyle and Sydney. Sydney has started to help in the foreclosure process by helping the team generate documents to assist in the ten-step process of foreclosure. The land bank is a busy place in efforts to transform Omaha’s distressed properties into positive community assets. Every day, Sydney, Kyle and their co-workers are making huge strides in the success of many Omaha neighborhoods.

Sydney has been busy with various meetings. One that stuck out the most was when she had the opportunity to visit the Scooters that was recently opened in North Omaha. She had the opportunity to meet with the owner of that store location, Julian Young, who is a North Omaha advocate and entrepreneur. The opening of Scooters in North Omaha was more than just a coffee shop, it was a way for Young to tell the people of North Omaha that they mattered, and it was a place for the community to come together. It was inspirational for Sydney to hear Julian Young talk about his love and passion for his community. It made her question, what if everyone had a love for the community like Young? How would our communities look today?

The College World Series has been making our office location very busy. We are only blocks away from the number one destination in Omaha currently—TD Ameritrade. Our office had the opportunity to go tour the downtown area with all the pop-up shops, food trucks, and a top-notch train the Governor of Arkansas has been living in the last two weeks. While the unfamiliar faces have been very welcomed by our staff, we are ready to have our morning and afternoon commutes back to normal!

“It feels good coming to work and knowing that I will be transforming not only many of Omaha’s rundown neighborhoods but also many individuals lives. Day by day, the Land Bank is giving opportunities to those individuals who had no hope in owning a house. It’s a great group to be a part of.”

SYDNEY ARMBRUSTER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, OMAHA LAND BANK

Sydney and Kyle have been taking quite a few more trips with professional staff this week to various events around town. After the Board meeting we were able to visit several floors of the city building including a quick trip to the mayor’s office. We have gone on trips to the planning department and have seen various meeting with our legal teams in dealing with the foreclosure team.

Dealing with the foreclosure team has really shown me a lot more of the actual day to day work of those around the legal field. The eye-opening experience has definitely solidified my choice in the program I have gone into and made me glad I have gone the current route I am on. We have entered a new process of the acquisition of 500 properties for the Land Bank and knowing that we made so much progress towards getting these lots and homes ready for new life is a rewarding experience.

 

 

 

Red Cloud, Neb.

Trenton and Trevor are in Red Cloud, Neb. for their serviceship. These past couple of weeks, we have spent a lot more time in the office working on the economic development plan. We spent the earlier part of our serviceship being truly immersed in the community and participating in all the events they had going on. Having that initial experience was a great way to build our understanding of the community, and really see what it has to offer. Being able to spend more time devoted in the office as given us plenty of time to work on the economic plan, which is great because that’s what we came here to do!

“It’s exciting to hear both visitors and locals say, ‘There’s a lot going on in Red Cloud!’ I’m hoping that our work here can be the compass which guides that energy into tangible outcomes.”

TRENTON BUHR
SERVICESHIP INTERN, RED CLOUD, NEB.

 

Trevor hangs up a poster promoting the Good Living Tour which is coming to Red Cloud on Jul. 7, 2018.

This week and last week we worked on reviewing our second draft of the plan, and then finishing the third draft, which is currently waiting on review from our lead mentor and members of the Economic Development Advisory Board.

We really focused on expanding the plan beyond just a basic structure and added plenty of guiding materials like a future land use plan, a marketing strategy, action plans for all public groups, and a few other things we are still working through. Altogether I think we have come a long way with our plan, and I hope when it is all said and done that the city has a clear and cohesive direction to move towards.

We have had some opportunities to step outside of the office though! The Good Living Tour, which is a concert series put on across a handful of towns in Nebraska that feature local Nebraska based bands, is coming to Red Cloud on July 7th. We were tasked with going around to different businesses in the community to seek sponsorships for the event to help cover the cost to not have it all came directly from the tourism department. We did have some luck with a couple businesses and some generous individuals, but we happened to be placed right at the end of a donation frenzy. There were a few major events in Red Cloud in the month prior, and little league baseball had it’s season start, so most businesses were already tapped out from these event, making it very hard to contribute to this cause. Luckily there should be enough sponsorship money overall to cover the event when all things are accounted for!

We met with the city superintendent and the organizers for the Good Living tour in the city park to decide where to place the stage, food vendors, mobile skate park, and other components of the tour.

We also had an opportunity to meet with Jeff Armstrong, a school board member, to get a better understanding of the state of the school system. We value the quality of education in any town setting, and we hope to give the school board and administrators a clear path forward to grow within the community!

“I really think everything is coming together for this community. They are growing, changing and becoming the town they were always meant to be. I cannot wait to see the progress Red Cloud makes in the future, and I hope the work we do here this summer will have a positive impact on the community for years to come!”

TREVOR HARLOW
SERVICESHIP INTERN, RED CLOUD, NEB.

 

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High-touch futurist Connie Reimers-Hild: The future of rural healthcare staffing

June 27, 2018
  In her invited journal article, “Strategic foresight, leadership, and the future of rural healthcare staffing in the United States,” Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., CPC, RFI Associate Executive Director and Chief Futurist, calls for both incremental and radical innovation as well …

 

Connie Reimers-Hild, Associate Director, Rural Futures Institute
At this moment we are at a time of incredible challenge, but also incredible opportunity. Imagine rural hospitals collaborating with technology companies, startups and other partners to co-create the next healthcare model with consumers, students, employees and community members. 
Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., CPC
RFI Associate Executive Director & Chief Futurist

In her invited journal article, “Strategic foresight, leadership, and the future of rural healthcare staffing in the United States,” Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., CPC, RFI Associate Executive Director and Chief Futurist, calls for both incremental and radical innovation as well as novel and holistic approaches to disrupt the United States’ rural healthcare model in terms of business strategy and staffing. The paper was published in the May issue of the Journal of American Academy of Physician Assistants.

 

It has been well documented that rural healthcare is in or at least nearing crisis. Broadly, the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other nation, but ranks 34th in health outcomes. The challenges are exacerbated in the rural context where primary care provider shortages are creating significant access issues.

As both wellness and economic drivers in rural communities, healthcare providers and hospitals are at a decisive moment—how will they innovate with technology and future-focused leadership to meet patients and consumers at the intersection of their needs, wants and demands?

“This article is intended to ignite serious conversations and initial action around how the model of rural healthcare can evolve,” Reimers-Hild said. “At this moment we are at a time of incredible challenge, but also incredible opportunity. Imagine rural hospitals collaborating with technology companies, startups and other partners to co-create the next healthcare model with consumers, students, employees and community members.”

Within the paper Reimers-Hild defines two key “megatrends”—global shifts that influence society, the economy and the environment—as the base strategic foresight tools. They are:

  • Exponential advances in science and technology
  • The continued evolution of the decentralized global marketplace in which stakeholders are co-creators

In total, she offers seven ideas to stimulate disruptive thinking within the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare system. She demonstrates her concepts through businesses such as Stitch Fix, Doctors on Demand, Nomad Health and Microsoft. She also mentions and defines technology with health applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), sensors, robots, 3D printers, driverless vehicles, holograms and lab-on-a-chip.

“In what I believe is the first future paper for this journal, futurist Connie Reimers-Hild explores and predicts possibilities that can emerge from the present,” said Roderick Hooker, Ph.D. “In this publication her overview on rural health and the megatrends likely to disrupt business models are the investments, experiments and partnerships that are already underway. What makes her work particularly insightful for researchers is how healthcare providers serve as major employers and economic drivers in rural communities.”

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More about Dr. Connie

Media Contact
Katelyn Ideus
Director of Communication
Rural Futures Institute
University of Nebraska
kideus@nebraska.edu
(402) 659-65886

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Episode 4: Professor Tim Griffin of Tufts intersects nutrition, agriculture & rural-urban collaboration

June 26, 2018
      Tim Griffin, Ph.D., is Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. In this episode he discusses his interest and expertise at …

 

 

 

Tim Griffin, Ph.D., is Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. In this episode he discusses his interest and expertise at the intersection of agriculture and the environment as well as the development and implementation of sustainable production systems. Dr. Griffin has lived and worked with rural communities and regions throughout his career before landing in Boston, but what makes him fascinating is his ability to cross various boundaries and silos to explore solutions that result in a win-win for everyone involved. He doesn’t deny the difficulty of this, especially within the food system, but he explains how he does this personally and how he purposefully incorporates this abundance mindset with the graduates students he works with.

Tim Griffin, Tufts University, Associate Professor
“To think that the challenges in rural environments are totally different and mutually exclusive from the challenges in urban areas—I actually don’t believe that.“
Tim Griffin
Director, Agriculture, Food and Environment program, Tufts University

About Tim

Timothy Griffin is the director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program, as well as an associate professor at the Friedman School. His primary interests are the intersection of agriculture and the environment, and the development and implementation of sustainable production systems.

Griffin’s current research is focused on the environmental impacts of agriculture (nutrient flows, carbon retention and loss, and climate change), and impacts of policy on adoption of agricultural practices and systems. His past research responsibilities have included field and lab components addressing: crop management, alternative crop development, short- and long-term effects of cropping systems on potato yield and quality, management strategies to improve soil quality, manure nitrogen and phosphorus availability, soil carbon sequestration and cycling, emission of greenhouse gases from high-value production systems, and grain production for organic dairy systems.

 

Show Notes

Welcome back to the Rural Futures Podcast. We recorded this episode in Boston, Massachusetts, during our invited visit with Tufts University faculty. Our guest this episode is Dr. Tim Griffin of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. I started off by asking him to explain a bit more about the school itself and his roles at Tufts.

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy covers a lot of ground as a school, a very interdisciplinary free-standing school of nutrition, rather than being a department of nutrition within another college, so that make us unique. And then, for the last nine years, I’ve led an interdisciplinary program called Agriculture, Food and Environment which covers about as much base as you would think it would with a name like that. So, we go all the way from farming and the impacts of farming, and profitability of farming, all the way through to who has access to what kinds of food and who does not, both in the United States and globally.

That’s big, I mean, those are big questions, big areas of research, and teaching. I guess I’m curious about part of your story on how you even got here to Tufts, so could you tell us a little bit about your history— Sure. And why Tufts was so interested in having somebody like you join their team.

Yeah, so my path here is a winding path, starting in Nebraska, at the University of Nebraska, back decades ago. You know, I trained as an agronomist and a soil scientist, so I’ve been doing interdisciplinary research, essentially, since I was a master’s student in Nebraska in the 80’s, continued on, and have had three very different positions, but three positions that I’ve been really fortunate to have. So, my first faculty-level position was in cooperative extension in Maine. It was a sustainable agriculture specialist, which was the first position like that in the United States, and I was the first person to have it. So, it put me kind of right in, you know, maybe a kind of similar situation that I’m in now where it’s not about focusing on one thing, it’s about thinking what the linkage is across many different things and, you know, heavily involved with farmers and farming. At that point, I was a scientist at USDA but was doing work all the way from greenhouse gas emissions, to producing organic milk, and when I was in that position, I actually knew about this program at Tufts in the School of Nutrition which started in the mid 90’s, but for a while it was quite small and it just happened to be that they were looking for a new faculty member. There was a person retiring, and somewhat on a whim, which is kind of how I manage things, I applied for it, and the— You know, I was interested in it, because it just continues this kind of interdisciplinary aspects of agriculture in connection to the broader food system. I think the university and the school were interested, because I’d been, you know, deeply involved in agriculture for a long time before I came here. It’d been, you know, 25 years or more doing research, but also working with farmers, you know, did a lot of public talks so could communicate, that kind of thing. So, the idea was, like, bring that into the classroom, which is basically what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years.

So, we’ve heard about Tim Griffin at Tufts, but tell us a little bit about Tim Griffin outside of Tufts.

I love books. Actually, I bring books, we do a literature day in one of my classes, and it’s just like, here’s my take on, you know, books that connect to agriculture or you know the agrarian ideas in the United States, and, you know, I love music, so I bring music into class actually.

Okay, what kind of music?

All kinds that— A lot of folk music, actually, both current but older folk songs, so I’ll bring in old Woody Guthrie songs to class. Lot of great messages in some of that old music. My wife and I, you know we bike a lot, been traveling a lot over the last six or seven years, around the United States. We actually drove across the US four or five years ago for the first time.

That’s awesome! I didn’t know that.

Yeah, yeah, we drove, actually a former student’s car, we drove it out to Sacramento to give it to her, so, that was fun, and, so I mean, we get out and about a lot. You know, this is the first time we’ve lived in a big city, so we explore a lot of it just, you know it’s, we’ve gone the last couple of days, public transit, walking, biking. So that’s you know, that’s the kind of things we do.

So, tell us a little bit you know, we’ve heard about you as a person now, a little bit more, and also you, and your work at Tufts, and even before— Tell us a little bit about your leadership philosophy and style.

Yeah, I wish I had a specific philosophy. I was thinking about this this morning and it’s, I would say my leadership is somewhat intuitive, so I don’t have a particular strategy, and even really, a particular direction that you know, like I’ve charted out what I want to be doing 10 years from now, or five years from now, which is kind of why, you can see, I’ve changed positions to very different things a couple of times, and been fortunate to do that, but you know, I think early in my career, if I was asked to do, you know, to take a leadership role, whether it was, you know, an extension program or running a research project. Early in my career, I think, my first question that I would ask myself is, is it important, you know? Is it important to me, but also whatever organization I’m working with or for? I quickly modified that to be important and interesting, so you don’t get a lot of important things that you don’t really care about. And then, as I’ve told many of my, especially doctoral students recently, I’ve added to those two things that it should be fun. Of course, not everything we need is fun. Not all of the roles that we have are fun, but I’m at a point now where I can provide leadership and actually it is on important issues, and it is interesting, and it is fun. But I don’t have a really specific set of criteria that I would say I want to lead this and this way. You know, very much involved in things that I do lead, so rather than saying, I’m the leader of this, and here’s the 27 tasks that have to get done, and then just assigning those to people, that’s way more directive than I am. It’s like, let’s figure out as a group, how are we gonna begin to address this question or this challenge, and then we will modify it as a team as we go along. So, it’s, you know, I may be providing leadership for it, but it’s not kind of me steering the ship, and for the complex type of problems that I work on, both in the agricultural realm, but the broader food system, it has to be flexible. You have to be able to think about, like, what are the different pathways that we can follow here, and you don’t want to lock yourself into one, because you can’t— If you do that, you might come to a solution, so to speak, but it might not be the best solution, so, you know, recognizing when you need to change course, those are all things that, you know, those are all open as far as I’m concerned when I have, whether it’s a team of students, which I do a lot of, or you know, efforts that I’m involved in that are you know, academic colleagues, but also colleagues in government, colleagues in industry. It’s still about, you know, figuring out, are we still on the best course to be able to address whatever challenge or opportunity that we’re talking about?

I really want to circle back to what you’re saying, ’cause I think this is really important, so of course, part of the purpose of the Rural Futures Podcast is to talk with leaders and mavericks; people really trying to create a different future in their own unique way, and I think what you’re touching on, is the fact that leadership itself is changing, and all this have this sort of unique approach, but at the same time, you know, at the Rural Futures Institute, we talk about future-focused leadership, and you clearly have an element of that in what you’re doing, so being able to think about the scenarios is important, but at the same time realizing the path to get there has to be an open, flexible one, especially with these complex systems.

Yeah, and I think that’s exactly right, and I mean the experience that I bring to a lot of this is what I started with a few minutes ago which is that I was very early on, exposed to being, as a scientist, exposed to interdisciplinary research and problems, and when I came here it didn’t take long to realize that as an educational program here, you have these complex challenges within the food system, and to solve those, literally you need some people in the room that can think across the boundaries, all the way from agriculture to nutrition to health, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you want the whole room filled with people like that, but basically, that’s one of the roles that I play. But it’s very much also what we’re thinking about when we provide opportunities to our students in the classroom and out of the classrooms, is that many of them, they are going to play exactly that role, and they might be doing it in a company, they might be doing it in not profit, they could be doing it at USDA, or a state department of agriculture, but they can actually, you know, rather than saying my specialty is this, they have expertise in one or two areas, but they’re also able to see across these boundaries, and that’s, for me, that’s the fun part of what I do, and I’ve, you know, opportunities that I, even that I’m, you know, just initiating right now, they have that as a very, very identifiable feature, and it’s something that I’ve done a lot of for a long time, so it’s, you know, I’m taking advantage of the fact that I’ve been doing it for thirty something years. And it’s— The difference is that there is— I have a group of colleagues that are across the country, that are about at the same career stage as me, and we’re all, we found that we’re all doing that, but we all learned it by doing it. It was 30 years ago, 35 years ago there was very, very few mavericks out there that were thinking in that way.

Yeah, agreed.

Now it’s very different, to where we can actually incorporate that into how we work with students, how we do research. That’s what’s changed, and I just happened to be a person that was kind of ready to do that because of my background, because of the experiences I’ve had previously.

I think it goes back to you being a maverick, for the reasons we’re even here. You know, one of the reasons we’re even here, but it’s also about these relationships that you keep talking about. Yep. You know, one of our team members, Tracy Klein, is really one of the reasons we’re here, because of her relationship with you— Yep. And your wife. Yes. And this is really how things happen. Yeah. But I think, too, it makes me think about, as we’ve connected online and gotten to know each other better, why have Rural Futures Institute come and be part of the world of Tufts University?

Right, well, one of the reasons is exactly what you said, is, I think it’s important to build those relationships and have those conversations, and it’s, some of my experiences here, and the fact that I’m still connected to places like Nebraska, but I’m also connected to other rural areas.

Right.

I’m still connected to, you know, things going on in Maine, because we lived there for a long time, and I’m still connected to farms in Maine, in a very different way than I was, maybe earlier, but there’s, you know, there is this big set of challenges, and to think that the challenges that are faced, and the solutions are always totally different in rural environments, whether it’s in Nebraska or in Honduras, or whatever, anywhere in the world, are totally different and kind of mutually exclusive from the challenges in urban areas. I actually don’t believe that. There are differences, but there’s also similarities.

A lot of overlap.

Exactly, and you know, when you’re talking about the food system, there’s an obvious linkage, and that is that most, but not all of our food, is produced in rural areas, but most, but not all of our food is consumed in urban areas, so there’s a basis for what could be a lot of opportunities, or it could be a bit of a tension, right, of we’re just producing things and we’re sending it to cities and that’s one interpretation; I actually don’t buy into that one either. But if I’ve learned one thing, especially when I was early in my extension career is that there has to be at least a handful of people that care about it enough that they’re gonna enter into conversations repeatedly, knowing that, at the end of the one-hour meeting, you actually may have no idea where it’s going, and I’ve done that hundreds of times, and sometimes it’s like it doesn’t go anywhere, and again, not everybody’s gonna do that, because not everybody thinks that’s interesting or fun. I actually do, and some really interesting things have come out of it on the research side, on the education side. Some of the things I’ve done, you know, being involved in state level policies, national level policies, started with just, like, a random conversation with somebody that I met or somebody that was introduced to me, and with the Rural Futures Institute, of course I have a connection to Nebraska, and I have a connection to people on your campus.

Right.

For a long, long time, and so that, I was visiting, I’ve been visiting your campus off and on since I’d left Nebraska 30 years ago.

We appreciate that. Any engagement, you know, I think it’s so important.

So, you know that there, I was making those kinds of visits, and then you know, realizing that this was going on, and some of the things, some of the conversations we were having here, and when I met all of you, in person, a year ago this month, it was really obvious to me that this is the point we wanted to get to, is you know, having you all here, and at some point, we’re gonna reverse that.

That’s right.

And we’re gonna come there. And I think it’s you know, if nothing else, it’s just really a good example of, you do need to be able to have the conversations, and think about what are the things that we might be able to do in common that there’s no possible way that we could do individually, and it takes time and effort, but it also takes this. It takes people actually. It would be impossible to envision this on email.

So, Tim, you’ve talked a lot about the conversations, and getting conversations started, so tell us a little bit more about how you get to action, and take those challenges, and turn them into opportunities and solution.

Yeah, that’s a great question, and the conversations are important, and but they are really the starting point, so that, you know, for example, you and I talking, but the goal is: what is the common ground between our interests and then what are the things that we could do, and we may be thinking about trying to solve a particular problem or being an optimist, we could be thinking about what’s a particular opportunity that we could address together, that again, maybe has benefits kind of across the spectrum. So, I think that’s a piece of it, but our discussion earlier about, kind of conversations, is really to get that common ground identified, and then it is very much about what are maybe different and innovative ways that we can address those challenges or opportunities? And those are actions, and we’ve you know, thinking about, the involvement of students here is one of the things that we’re interested in. Sometimes it’s a very specific action, where they might work with a non-profit, maybe in the Boston area that has a very specific need that is around one of those challenges. So, when we talked yesterday to students, undergraduate students that were very interested in one, providing, you know, families that are struggling with, you know, complete meals, but then, how do you get there? And they got there by essentially establishing an organization themselves, and saying these are the three things and then like, here’s the infrastructure that we need. So, here’s the machine to wrap the meals. Like a meal wrapping machine which I had not heard of before. So, you know, they probably started with conversations, but they ended up with, it’s actually a program, and it’s actually delivering food to families in the Boston area that are struggling. So those are actions.

What I loved their food to recovery concept is that they got to action, but like you’re saying, they took ownership of it. Oh yes. You know, they knew nobody else, maybe was gonna step up to the plate, so when you talk about entrepreneurial students, and how they’re looking at the solutions, they took action, but they also pulled in a lot of other partners, and stakeholders that they were gonna work with, so it wasn’t just a solution they provided, but it was also co-created with end users and other collaborators in mind.

Yeah. And I’ve talked to, I mean this, the idea of who do you get as stakeholders? I’ve had many, many conversations with students here about not having preconceived notions about who should the stakeholders be in the room? That some of the really interesting things come when you get unconventional partners, that you know, in agriculture back decades ago when I was doing a lot of sustainable agriculture work, we didn’t draw lines between, like, we have a group that runs small, organic farms, and then we’re gonna talk to them about these things, but we’re gonna talk to larger, dairy farms about another set of things. We actually brought them into the room and said, you know, what’s the 87% of things that you actually agree on, and let’s start there. And then, what are actions that we can take? So, it is, it’s a critical piece, and I very much, you know, the conversations we’ve had about how does RFI work in communities, and what role do students play? It’s like, you go into the community, and you ask them what’s the challenge, and how do you think we can move forward? And that’s a pretty good analogy for a lot of what we do here. And sometimes it’s, you know, somebody emails me, or another faculty member, and says, “Can you be “on this committee?”; state level, national level, global. And you say yes, and then the idea is, what are we gonna get to? What’s the action we’re gonna take, and what do we think is gonna happen? They can be grand efforts that take three years of your time, or it could be, you know, a group of students who works with a non-profit, or with a government agency for a year, and they can move those opportunities down the road at least a ways, so conversations are the starting point and the goal is the action and what happens.

Yeah, that impact piece from it all, is so critical as well, and I think one of the other ways we’ve really connected is, you know, around students. Sure. Like the conversations around students, the importance around students, and I just, our whole team really just values the way you teach, and I mean, I think your sincere passion and wanting to see those students succeed, and really taking some novel approaches to getting them involved. I mean even having a student from York, Nebraska, here to be part of these conversations.

We’ve had quite a few students from Nebraska, so. Yeah, and that’s part of that connection, right? Yeah.

So, for them to be able to have an experience at Tufts and go take that back to Nebraska or go wherever with it is just so critical. So, you dive a little bit into your leadership philosophy around teaching and student experiences.

Yeah, I’ve told students that since I came here, I came here because of the students. I met a group of quite a few students when I came here to actually do my interview, my job talk, if you will, and then I got to talk to those students afterwards, as you’re going to talk to students after your seminar today, and realized that they had some really, really interesting perspectives. They didn’t, necessarily, they weren’t different than mine, because their experiences were different, but very committed to trying to do certain types of things, and very smart. We have, you know, really, really, super students here, and they are the reason I came here, and they’re, you know, the primary, or one of the primary reasons that I come in every day and you know, being able to bring some of my reality in the classroom is part of it, but I get a lot back from them. They do have different experiences. They’re, you know, uniformly younger than I am, so they have a different set of experiences, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. So, it is an interaction, and you know, there’s educational curriculum, but then there are other kinds of experiences and you know, even on the research side of we have a funded research project. We’ll find a couple of master’s students, and you know, a doctoral student, and that becomes the team for the project, and we’ve had students that have worked on, you know, specific projects, through a master’s degree and into a PhD for four or five years on one project, and there the thing that we’ve tried to do, is to again, not have it be where myself or someone else is saying okay, here’s your analytical task for the next week, and just go do that, and then bring it back next week. There’s a lot of complexity here, and we may not actually know how to get from point a to point b, and then it becomes all of us, and they’ve been really, really entrepreneurial about trying to figure out like, where do you get the right kind of data, and then how do you kind of check the quality of that data, and then how to use that data, and that’s step one. And then how do you do that again, and again, and again? We did this intentionally on some regional food system research where we just said they’re gonna be, they’re not gonna be our students, they’re gonna be our colleagues, and they have their contributions, and we have ours, as faculty and scientists.

That’s such a great model.

But they’re not ranked. They’re not, one is more important than the other. It’s that they’re different, and of course, they’re learning while they’re doing it, but so are we. Right, right. And the type of research I do now, I was not, I was doing zero percent of the type of work I do now when I was at USDA. So, all the work I do now is different in kind of form and function than it was when I was a faculty member, and when I was a USDA scientist, so I’m learning as I go, which I’ve done my entire life. It’s like, sure I’ll learn a new research area. I’ll learn how to measure greenhouse gases, whatever. So, they end up being, you know, key parts of our team that you couldn’t see how the team is gonna do the work unless you have their expertise, and if they weren’t involved, then you have like this blank, and it’s just not gonna happen, or it’s gonna be much, much slower.

In addition to, you know, thinking about urban and rural and those two worlds coming together more, which is one of the areas of the RFI purpose, is, you know, higher education itself is changing so much and I think the way that you’re approaching, just the team concept with students is so critical as we move forward, but how do you see the future of higher education evolving?

I think that there are, there’s certainly more places now than there were as we were talking about, 25, 30 years ago, where as a student, which could be a graduate student, but even an undergraduate student, that can be in that kind of environment, and be part of a team that’s looking across kind of a range of issues all at one time, that was, that would have been a very unique experience when I was in graduate school. I was lucky enough to actually experience it both at Nebraska and at Michigan State where I did my doctoral work, but I would say very much it was the exception, and not the rule. There are more opportunities like that, both you know, land grant agricultural universities, but even at you know, larger, private universities, and even small, private universities and Tufts is kind of in-between those two, because we do many things. You know, we have that school and a dental school and all of those, so we’re not just liberal arts campus. We’re a research university here, so those things are changing. They’re not changing uniformly across all institutions, and I mean, one of the things that you see, is a school like Friedman and a program like Agriculture, Food and Environment. We’ve had this program for almost 25 years and the school is now about 40 years old, but you’re seeing those kinds of efforts be initiated, and sometimes you look at them and you say, that seems like maybe an odd place for a program to like have to start. Even here, I mean that we’re right in downtown Boston right now, and you know, I talk about agriculture every day in my job. So, but partly that’s because we don’t have any kind of history that says we can’t do that, right?

Right, absolutely, you’re building it as you go.

Yeah and even, you know, we were talking yesterday about the involvement of law school and some law programs. Right. And many of those that are interested in agriculture, that are interested in the farm bill, things like that, are actually at private university law schools rather than public university law schools. And I don’t, I don’t see that, and I don’t bring it up as, well, that’s the way that it should be, or that’s right or that’s wrong, it’s just literally that’s the way it is, but part of it is the objectives of different institutions are different, so we’re seeing it a lot in private universities where there are programs that focus on broad issues around, particularly around the food system, and then there are food systems programs which kind of look at how is it all connected? We do those things, but also, you know, I’m a scientist, so we actually bring science into the program. That’s one of my roles here. Higher education is changing, but it’s always changed, and it’s not, maybe it’s changing in unexpected ways, and I expect that some institutions will continue some very, very disciplinary efforts, ’cause you need some people that are trained with a really, really deep expertise, but more of them, and in the private sector are realizing that you do need some that can think across those boundaries going back to where we started and that’s very much how we see ourselves here both as a school and as a program, and our students.

I mean we talk about it explicitly, rather than just kind of conceptualizing it. It’s like, what opportunities would you provide a student so that they can get good at being able to do that? So really providing opportunities but also taking that systems approach and reaching across and creating new partnerships because that’s how this is, and it’s how it will continue to go.

Right.  

So, as we kind of wrap up here, I’d love to know your advice, you know. Like what words of wisdom is Tim willing to share with our audience?

Well, one is that, you know, if there’s a challenge or a grand challenge, there are more than one way, there is more than one way to address those, and I’ll give you a specific example around just the interface between agriculture and farming in the environment. For a long time, it even in my own kind of view of that, the way that we would look at that is, if there’s an environmental problem, what kind of government action could we take? Now maybe it’s the state of Nebraska, maybe it’s USDA, maybe it’s EPA, but that’s where it’s gonna start, and for a lot of those issues around environmental issues but also social issues around things like farm workers and how they’re treated, maybe at the current moment, maybe for the last five years, it’s hard to envision like, that there’s gonna be a grand change federal level— Right, right, absolutely. And what we’re seeing instead, is pressure from all the way from consumers that’s coming through the supply chain in the private sector saying, we think that this is important, and so farm workers would be one. Things like potentially labeling foods that contain genetically engineered products. We’re not there yet, although we’re starting to see it, but it’s not mandated by the government. It’s actually because the consumers at the other end of the supply chain are saying, “We want that ‘information.’”

That’s right.

And so, I guess my advice is that we need to think broadly about like, what is innovative and not have it set up at the very beginning as you know, if we solve this problem, I’m gonna win and you’re gonna lose. I think that we’ve used that approach too much, and we should be thinking about, what are ways that you know, for example, farmers benefit, but consumers also benefit, because a lot of times we say no they’re in tension with each other. I don’t know why that has to be. And if it’s a policy or a program, fine. If it’s the private sector mechanisms, fine. I’m pretty ambivalent about which it is, but I think we should be thinking about all of them, much more broadly than we have in the past.

I think it’s so great to point out that thinking about it, so it’s not win lose, but there’s a future of abundance for everyone if we can do this a little differently and have a different mindset moving forward. Oh, I agree completely.

Yes, and that’s very much the way that we again, not only think about it, but that’s how we talk about it, is you know, I bring up scenarios or prompts in class that are, you know, here’s the issue, and it’s been addressed in this win lose way and these five different stages. What’s a potential way to address this that the very first thing is that you do not set up a win lose? And it’s hard. And when you think about like, the entire food system, but it’s not impossible, it’s just taught.

But I think, you know a lot of times in our culture in the US, we’re, it’s like a competitive culture. Yeah. So, it’s like win lose, instead of what’s the overall win for everybody involved, and how do we create a new system to do that? And a new thinking, and a new leadership, future-focused leadership that it’s gonna take to make that happen?

Right.

Well thank you, Tim. That was very thoughtful information, but also very actionable.

Thank you.

So, I think I would challenge our listeners out there to really think about ways they can have a mindset shift as well, if they haven’t already. Like, how do we do this a little differently? Yep. How do we do it together? How do we do it together?

Right, because if this is gonna be a sustainable planet for everyone, we’re gonna have to do it that way.

That’s right.

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This Week in Serviceship 2018: Week Five!

June 22, 2018
Alliance, Neb. “I think this experience has allowed residents to think about the assets they have in their community because it’s not something you think about every day when you live here. I know it has made me think about …

Alliance, Neb.

“I think this experience has allowed residents to think about the assets they have in their community because it’s not something you think about every day when you live here. I know it has made me think about what I value in my home community.”

MIRISSA SCHOLTING
SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.

The past two weeks in Box Butte County have flown by! We are very fortunate that Scott Frost, Matt Davison and Bill Moos came to town for an afternoon! We got to listen to them all speak and then got a picture with Scott Frost. We also got to meet former Husker Jordan Hooper, who is originally from Alliance.

We gave a presentation at The Perfect Blend with BBDC meeting at First National Bank where we introduced ourselves and told everyone a little bit about us and the Marketing Hometown America project. We also had our Marketing Hometown America public action forum where the public voted on what needs to be done in the next coming years in order to retain and attract new residents to Box Butte County. Chuck Schroeder, Theresa Klein, Helen Fagan, and the new RFI intern Karina from the Rural Futures Institute also visited Alliance this past week! We got to talk and catch up with them as well which was nice!

Haley and Mirissa pose with Scott Frost during his visit to Alliance, Neb.

Mirissa and Haley snap a selfie at the Perfect Blend with BBDC Meeting.

Box Butte County resident Ellen Lierk said, “In the month Mirissa and Haley have been in Box Butte County, they have been a catalyst inspiring us to look at our community and its strengths through their eyes. We look forward to the photos and video they are creating to help us better tell our story. Their enthusiasm, work ethic and positivity is contagious!” Ellen is a former teacher, guidance counselor, business owner, economic developer and pastoral minister.

 

The project has been coming along great. We have come up with hashtags for every town in Box Butte County. They are: #OurAlliance, #HemingfordisHome, and #BountifulBerea. We have also been working on hashtags for other various places around the county like Carhenge, Knight Museum and Sandhills Center and the Alliance Recreation Center. We have taken pictures and video all over both Alliance and Hemingford and have scheduled to take pictures and video in Berea. We have also started to do some editing on the videos we have taken thus far.

“The community of Alliance has invested in us, which in turn has us investing in the community through creating a passion and defined purpose in our project.”

HALEY EHRKE
SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.

 

 

 

 

McCook, Neb.

Before meeting with the High Plains Museum Board to gauge readiness for change, present our ideas and get feedback, we scheduled individual meetings with the board members. We found it much easier to ask them questions and share our ideas once we had established relationships. They were kind enough to welcome us into their homes or make time to meet us at Sehnert’s, the local coffee and deli hot spot. With each conversation, we got a better taste of McCook’s history.

“More than anything, these last few weeks have taught me that collaboration is key. Making the right connections, being willing to listen and really soak in the wisdom of these rural community leaders is a reward that can’t be replicated elsewhere.”

SAGE WILLIAMS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

 

Emily and Sage pose in the Classic Car Collection and Trails and Rails Museum during their museum road trip around central Nebraska.

Between meetings with board members, we developed an online survey for community members that was boosted on a few of McCook’s social media pages. We gathered over 100 responses that were so helpful in understanding the community’s vision for the museum! Carol Schlegel, our lead mentor, was vital in this process, as she advised us to ask community members similar questions in person. We took her advice and decided to walk up and down Norris Ave, the McCook main street. After going in and out of businesses, we gained even more insight on prioritizing the plan of action for the museum and were able to become more familiar with some friendly faces!

In preparation for the High Plains Museum Board meeting, Carol also took us on a road trip to three more museums! We were able to speak with Kearney’s Tourism Director, Roger Jasnoch, as he guided us through the Classic Car Collection and Trails and Rails Museum, where we met Director Jennifer Murrish. Here, we gathered several ideas for exhibit presentation, sustainable board leadership, and museum donation logistics to bring back to the High Plains Museum. Following our tour of Kearney museums, we buzzed over to Holdrege to the Nebraska Prairie Museum. The enthusiastic director, Dan Christensen, shared with us his passion for the museum and advice on bringing in future generations.

After sharing the results of the surveys and useful tips from other museums at the board meeting, we were able to compose a collective list of which exhibits need to be phased in first. We also got the go-ahead on a couple of our ideas, which meant we were ready to start creating a draft of the museum layout! We drew a couple sketches, brainstormed how to best utilize the space, and did some price checking that we will present to the new High Plains Museum Creative Committee. We will meet with this committee every other week to get consistent feedback.

“At every stage in life, we must accept change and take it on with a heart full of courage. This summer, we have left our ordinary worlds to get out of our comfort zones, find new mentors and jump over unfamiliar hurdles. As we sat down with the RFI staff that traveled to McCook this week, I was reminded that experiences such as serviceship are when deep change really happens.”

EMILY FRENZEN
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

 

 

 

Neligh, Neb.

Michayla assists community members prepare breakfast for Tour de Nebraska.

In the last two weeks, we have been going to meetings and working on immediate projects. We’ve also been planning Tour de Nebraska which has somewhat put our other projects on hold. Our mapping reports are set to be done by Thursday of next week so we can start on next step of identifying steps moving forward for the 5 and 10 year plans. We have also been out in the community interviewing members for our video series. Tour de Nerbraska came through Neligh for their first day of travel On Wednesday, Jun. 20. We had to plan where people were going to camp, coordinate the scavenger hunt around Neligh and help coordinate events. We made calls and visits to all the people helping us make the day successful.

In the end, Tour de Nebraska was a success. After all the planning, we made it! It was a long couple of days full of questions and quick changes. We started at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday by preparing eggs and sausage. We made 20 pounds of sausage and 800 scrambled eggs. We had help from community members including the mayor and his wife. It took a couple hours to make all the eggs and sausage; we also set up the kitchen as prep. We then put out road signs to warn drivers to watch for cyclists (courtesy of Blackburn Manufacturing, a Neligh business.) Wednesday morning, we set up a welcome tent at our office and directional signs all over town.

Because of the unexpected rain, there were some details that were not clear for the early cyclists. We soon got it figured it out. The new camping spot for people who were not brave enough to endure the wet park was at the high school, this is also where we moved a lot of the other events. We stayed at the school to direct people on where to put items and give food and entertainment directions. We went around to businesses and museums to take pictures and meet people, and along the way we shuttled people around town.

With the influx of over 500 people in town, the small businesses were a bit overwhelmed. When we walked in to Sly’s, the local bar and grill, there was literally not an empty seat in the place. It was chaotic but fun. We soon noticed that a couple of the people behind the bar obviously did not work there, based on the sheer confusion on their faces but were doing their best to help. One of them looked like a biker, and by asking her questions one by one, we learned she was: 1.) a biker on the tour 2.) had never bartended 3.) was just doing her best to help out. Finally curiosity won over the hesitation to ask her more. We learned that she was a trained nurse from Norfolk, Neb. who researches new drugs for one of the auto-immune disorders that Rhiannon has, and is a mom that currently lives in Gretna. It proved  that leaders can be anyone and that everyone has a story worth telling as long as you are brave enough to ask what it is. We found out time and time again this day that people will gladly tell you about themselves; all you have to do is ask the right questions.

“Everyone has a story. It just takes one little courage to ask, but the reward is always worth it.”

MICHAYLA GOEDEKEN
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NELIGH, NEB.

 

 

Thursday morning we served breakfast and said goodbye to our favorite riders. Then we took leftovers to all the businesses around town that supported us.

One of the smaller projects we have been working on are marketing materials. Our short videos are posted on Neligh Economic Development and Neligh Nebraska Facebook pages every Wednesday and Friday starting this week. We created new social media content for the Chamber Raffle

Also, Neligh is the Flag Capital of Nebraska, so on Jun. 14, we spent the a couple hours putting out miniature American flags. We have had multiple meetings as well. We had a City Counsel Meeting on Jun. 12, where we discussed golf cart laws and town projects including down town realizations. The next day we had the Clearwater Village meeting. Other meetings included Economic Development Meeting, Northeast (ED) Network Meeting, Senator Breeze Forum, a grand-reopening celebration and a monthly business open house put on by the Chamber.

“I am starting to truly feel like a rural Nebraskan. Being from a city there are a lot of things that have come as a culture shock. It’s the little things that make me feel a lot more connected to the community.”

RHIANNON COBB
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NELIGH, NEB.

 

 

 

Seward, Neb.

Maddie poses at Seward’s very first Cultural Festival on Jun. 8. 

Overall, we would say that it has been quite an exhilarating five weeks. The first two weeks were full of nervousness about what event we were going to help create, as we were given the freedom to create anything we wanted with the condition that it stayed sustainable and manageable for folks after we depart Seward County in August. We knew it had to be something informal and approachable, since that is probably the best way to attract as many newcomers and residents as we can. After many thought trial and errors, we decided that it had to be an event that emphasized the epitome of summer—ice cream. We hope that our event goes as planned and that we get feedback that can help us improve the other two installments of this newcomer event extravaganza.

There has been a lot that we have done in the past five weeks. We met with dozens of leaders in the community and have been able to solidify our ideas for our Seward County newcomer event. We also had Seward’s very first Cultural Festival on Jun. 8. Also on this day is when the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) came through and stayed in Seward. It was a perfect day to host them, but also host the festival.

Overall, we believe BRAN and the Cultural Festival was a success. The food trucks were amazing, the beer garden and the 80s cover band, AMFM, were also a HUGE success. A lot of people favored the beer garden and concert and wanted us to do it every month! Our responsibility during the festival was to stand by the blocked off roads and let people out that were still parked on the street.

Then during the festival, we had the opportunity to announce the cultural dancers such as, the Ponca Tribe and the Lincoln Irish Tap Dancers. We also had to opportunity to express our views on 104.9 Max Country and talk briefly about RFI, its mission, and the Cultural Festival. This was a great way for people to learn about what were involved in, and learn about RFI. Later in the evening we assisted in verifying IDs and registered cash at the entrance of the beer garden! People danced the night away until almost 11:30 pm. Overall, it was a fantastic event and hopefully Seward can do it again next year!

Raghav is interviewed about his RFI Serviceship for 104.9 Max Country.

Then during the festival, we had the opportunity to announce the cultural dancers such as, the Ponca Tribe and the Lincoln Irish Tap Dancers. We also had to opportunity to express our views on 104.9 Max Country and talk briefly about RFI, its mission, and the Cultural Festival. This was a great way for people to learn about what were involved in, and learn about RFI. Later in the evening we assisted in verifying IDs and registered cash at the entrance of the beer garden! People danced the night away until almost 11:30 pm. Overall, it was a fantastic event and hopefully Seward can do it again next year!

The event that we have been working on so far is a Newcomer Ice Cream Social that will be held on Jul. 15, 2018, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Seward Bandshell. This event is being held on National Ice Cream Day and we will be providing FREE ice cream to any resident of Seward County. During our event at 7:30 p.m., the Seward Municipal Band will be playing. They play every Sunday evening during the summer. We have a lot of volunteers and two big sponsors. Lee’s Refrigeration will be providing the ice cream and two ice cream machines. They will set them up for us and tear them down. Also, Seward Kiwanis Club is being very generous and providing the cups, spoons, sprinkles, chocolate syrup and bottled waters. Some Kiwanis Club members will also volunteer to serve ice cream! We also have about six of our Meet & Greet members who will be there to introduce themselves and welcome newcomers to Seward.

“We hope that our Newcomer Ice Cream Social event goes as planned and that we get feedback that can help us improve the other two installments of this newcomer event extravaganza.”

RAGHAV KIDAMBI
SERVICESHIP INTERN, SEWARD, NEB.

 

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Episode 3: Professor Tom Field intersects entrepreneurship, higher ed, purpose

June 19, 2018
      Tom Field, Ph.D., Director of the Engler Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, discusses his mission to empower students and communities to courageously pursue their purpose through the form and art of entrepreneurship. Throughout his …

 

 

 

Tom Field, Ph.D., Director of the Engler Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, discusses his mission to empower students and communities to courageously pursue their purpose through the form and art of entrepreneurship. Throughout his academic career this cowboy from western Colorado has spoken out about the needed transformation of higher education—a deep internal exploration that results in the unleashing of the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the student. During their conversation, Dr. Connie and Dr. Field discuss the exploding side-gig economy, creating the next generation of action-oriented innovators and key takeaways for budding, starting and experienced entrepreneurs.

 

“The leader in the future will be responsible for attracting talent, and then for empowering that talent, getting out of the way of the talent, keeping the culture alive, keeping the team focused on the right ball that you’re chasing, but doing it all in a way that invites people to the table.“
Tom Field
Director, Nebraska Engler Entrepreneurship

About Tom

     

Tom Field, Ph.D., is a passionate advocate for education, agriculture, free enterprise, engaged citizenship and the potential of young people. He is also a noted agricultural author with works including his column “Out of the Box” and featured commentator of “The Entrepreneurial Minute” on the Angus Report on RFD-TV.

A frequent speaker at agricultural events in the U.S. and abroad, he has consulted with a number of agricultural enterprises and organizations, and has served on numerous boards related to education, agriculture and athletics. He is the co-owner of Field Land and Cattle Company, LLC, in Colorado. He and his wife Laura watch over a brood that includes a son in the Teach for America Program, twins who are seniors in college and toddler twins to round out the team.

 

Mentioned In The Show

Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath

The Dip, a little book that teaches you when to quit by Seth Godin

 

Show Notes

Hi, I’m Dr. Connie, host of the Rural Futures Podcast. Joining me today is Dr. Tom Field. He’s the executive director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, but he’s also an amazing colleague and close friend, and somebody I rely a lot on for advice. I think as we go through the interview today, you’re gonna know why. Tom, I want to give people a little background about you, but then I also want you to introduce yourself. Some of the things I admire about Tom and his bio is that he really puts students first. But not just in a traditional way in terms of lecturing. In fact, you’re anti-lecturing. (laughs) You are experience. Go out there and build something, and do it together. I think building these cohorts and these teams of very entrepreneurial students is something that you’ve really done with your team here at the University of Nebraska­–Lincoln, but also now, you can see the effects of that in businesses and communities beyond campus, which is very exciting. Tom also does a lot of consulting with companies in terms of helping them grow their businesses, but I loved too, how you focus on mindset with that. So much of it is about mindset and passion, and what you really bring to the table in terms of your talents. Fill in some gaps for us. Tell us a little bit more about Tom Field.

Well, I’m a son of a ranching family in western Colorado. As a little kid, I actually in the summers, we would go up into the high country. It was called Cal Camp, and I lived with my parents in a one-room cabin with no running water, no electricity, a wood-burning stove. From that sort of humble beginning, and which was actually a great experience as a kid, had the opportunity through so many people investing in a small community in western Colorado to see the world, and to experience a little bigger picture, and a different perspective. Eventually went off to university. Got a degree in animal sciences, but if I would go back and finish my practicums, my second degree would be in human development and family studies, with an emphasis in early childhood. Which is in my second life, maybe that’s what I’ll go do.

Now, why is that? Why would you pursue those fields?

Well, it’s sort of an interesting story. I took the first class at human development because I heard that there would be 80 women, and me. (laughing) And so that’s really a shallow reason, but when you’re 19, you make a lot of shallow decisions. I walk into this class and I encountered this fireball of a faculty member named Jill Kreitzer, and I did not walk into that class expecting to be transformed, but she changed my life. And then the entire faculty in that department, Kevin Ulchenbruns, and Janet Fritz, and Rex Colt. There was just a whole group of people that really invested in me and in helping me figure out that the human condition is not this static place. That there’s this developmental sequencing that goes on. It’s all this connecting the dots, right? I mean, Steve Jobs was right. Eventually, the dots connect. Being a cowboy and hanging out in this sort of child development, human development space, being really active in 4-H, having a deep interest in history, being wildly curious, having faculty who let me explore what I was interested in, and it all eventually connected to set me up. I didn’t know it was happening at the time, but it set me up to help grow the Engler program, and to create a program that’s focused on transforming the lives of students by putting them in command of their own ships from the minute they come to campus, and hopefully setting them up for the rest of their lives to actually be the master of their own destiny.

I think it takes a unique leader to be able to do that, and it sounds like you’ve had a lot of experiences that have helped shape you as a leader. And I know you’re also a dedicated family man, and really balancing that career, but also really, I would say, advancing society in many ways in the next generation. What does that need to look like going into the future? Tell us a little bit about you as a leader and your leadership philosophy.

Well, I think first and foremost, for me as a leader is that I rarely see myself as a leader. I see my team as a leadership group. Those who know me know that my love of hierarchy would be close to zero, if not negative. (laughing) I just think flat structure makes more sense. I mean, hierarchical approaches in ranching didn’t work because you had to be adaptive. I really learned a lot in the very chaotic ecosystem where things were changing all the time, and you had to work with a team. You had to work effectively and well. I’m a big fan of the team, and I think from a leadership perspective, the leader in the future will by and large, be responsible for attracting talent, and then for empowering that talent, getting out of the way of the talent. Keeping the culture alive, keeping the team focused on the right ball that you’re chasing, but to do it in a way that invites people to the table. I just can’t imagine an effective organization that operates without people around the table, and making decisions together, and then moving those things forward and assigning accountability. I think that’s the key to what we’ve been able to do. We’ve built the Engler program in six years from really scratch, up, because we’ve had a great team and people who were willing to engage, and then to be accountable, and to take big pieces of it and run with it. I’m also a big believer, if you’re a little further in your career it’s really critical to listen to younger talent. It’s hard to do because the older you get, the more you try to protect things, right? You start thinking, well I’ve gotta protect this. I’ve been working with companies and telling them, look, you gotta get the youngest voices in your team in the room and at the table. Certainly, experience matters, but you really have to be listening. We actually took it to heart in our own program. We just went through a really intense strategic planning process, and the person who led our team through the strategic planning process was the youngest member of our staff, 23 years old. And I’m very proud of that.

Well, and I think that’s a great thing to bring forward is that you really are about lifting people up. You’re about empowering them, getting them to where they’re able to lead not just the team, but themselves and get those experiences they’re needing and craving. I’ve seen a lot of that in the Engler program, and you’ve really helped the Rural Futures Institute think about that co-creation model a lot, as well. We’re not living in a vacuum. We’re not just in our offices. We’re all out trying to create the future together. Part of what we want to do with this podcast is explore the future of leadership, but also, how our leaders and people who are leading these types of incredible, cutting-edge programs, see the future changing. What do you see in terms, and it’s kind of a two-part question, I think for you, changes in entrepreneurship? Obviously, that’s where your program is focused, but also changes in higher education. How do you see the future sort of shaping in those areas?

Well, entrepreneurship I think, is this sort of two-edged kind of game. When we first started in this program, we thought our goal was really to build companies. We probably took too much ownership in that, because in fact, as mentors, and advisors, and facilitators and coaches, we can’t really build the company. The companies have to be built by individuals and teams who are really committed to the company. Over time, we figured out that really the key was, is our mission as a program was to empower people to courageously pursue their purpose through the form in art of entrepreneurship. And we thought that was a great way for people to actually let who they are bubble out, and to actually have a forum through which to express that deep sense of purpose.

Absolutely.

I think that’s entrepreneurship in the future, and I also think the other thing that’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen very, very quickly. The new economy will be called the side gig economy. As robotics, and artificial intelligence, and too much process oftentimes, and the regulatory environment, all those things sort of press on people, what they’re gonna do is they’re just gonna get creative, and they’re gonna do side gigs. We’re gonna see people who are doing amazing things in teams for short periods of time creating value, being rewarded for that monetarily, or professionally, or personally, and then find another side gig. I think that’s the new economy. I’m not sure anybody’s really ready for that yet, because it’s going to be this kind of frontier-like deal. If the side gig economy is where we’re going, the institution least prepared for that is the university.

Well, and you’ve been pretty vocal about this. How do we, as a university, how do we as higher education evolve? Because the economy is evolving very quickly, and people aren’t quite ready, but we should have a place in this new economy and helping people in our rural communities, but also urban communities. Anyone who wants to be involved get there. Tell us your thoughts on that.

Well historically, America’s great unfair advantage in the global marketplace has been our university system. I mean, just take a look at how internationalized the American university is today. We’re attracting people from all over the world because they value what happens in the university. The challenge is, is that big organizations, old organizations with very clear histories, including fight songs, and certain colors they wear, and all those things, they get caught up in protecting what they’ve done. I think that’s where we’re at. We’re at this tipping point. Every institution in the world is going through this sort of transformational process. Whether it’s a family farm, or whether it’s a major corporation that’s traded in the international markets. There’s just transformation happening at every level. It’s just sweeping. The university’s challenge is, is how does it encumber itself from the processes and the structure it’s built actually become this nimble, agile, service-oriented, outward-focused organization? That’s gonna be difficult. The challenge will be, is how do we create that? We have to create it by unleashing the creative power of the faculty, but more importantly, the creative power of the student. A faculty-centric institution in the future just isn’t gonna work. And an administration-centric university, just start preparing to find a new use for those buildings ’cause that’s gonna fail. And so, I think the university has to go through this shift, and the shift is how do we help people prepare for a future that looks nothing like where we’ve been?

Tom, we’ve talked about the new economy and how things are happening so quickly. We don’t have 10 years to make these changes at the university, or even for individuals. What would you say to individuals who are sort of nervous about the future? We hear a lot of people having like, oh, these robots are gonna replace my job. What’s gonna happen to me? But what advice would you give to people around this changing economy?

Well I think two things. One, I heard an entrepreneur one time say, look, when there’s fear, there’s opportunity, and when there’s a lot of fear, there’s huge opportunity. I think we’re all a little fearful about the changes. Things are happening so fast. Whether it’s job replacement, whether it’s economic and political discord, it’s all those things, right? I think the reality is, is that if people really want to be the master and commander of the ship that they want to ride on, they have to take the helm. Taking the helm means actually lots of small starts. Try things. The name of the game is action. You cannot plan your way into the new economy. You act your way into the new economy. I would encourage people figure out problems that need solving. They don’t have to be big, sexy ones. They can be simple problems that just need a clear solution. Find markets that are underserved. Find resources that are not utilized correctly, and begin to just work in that space. The reality is, is the world is going to be different. Change is always present. For goodness sakes, I did my PhD work on a CYBER 205. A computer that today is in a museum, and that wasn’t that long ago. It’s action, and action is the key, and not being afraid of failure, and not being afraid to just start. It all begins with the start.

Well, and I think one we can’t totally anticipate. So, getting used to having that change, to creating your own jobs, your own gigs, whatever that might look like, I think is such an incredible challenge in so many ways, but such a great opportunity too, for people to use their talents and skills. But for the university, also to reinvent itself. I think thinking about ways it can serve people in the lifelong learning process is so important. Here at the University of Nebraska for example, we have 4-H, which we call the first class for a lot of people. But at the same time, we have the ability to help people in high school, in college, in graduate school, and through their lives. As that economy and the technologies continue to change, those communities are also ready, but that means we have to be listening. You’ve talked a lot about that, in terms of how do we add value to their lives? How do we continue to rethink ourselves in so many ways, and how we’re helping people learn, and grow, and really make a good living in a life wherever they want to be? That might be rural, it might be urban. That doesn’t matter as much as just really getting people the life they want, and really helping them thrive.

Yeah, I think a university that figures out how to create certainly a network of learning, but more importantly, a network of deep curiosity, and it connects that curiosity across ages and across all kinds of socioeconomic, what we might consider barriers.

Right.

To just slay those barriers by creating this network that allows curious people to go to work on things that they care about. To work on problems they care about, and markets they care about, customers they care about. Solutions will take care of themselves. It’s find the right problem to work on, and find the right customer to serve. I think we solve a lot of societal problems if we can unleash entrepreneurial spirit. We just have to find a way to let people work on the things they care about early enough to help them determine their own future. I’ve got this belief, and I think it’s dangerous to put there’s two kinds of people, but in the world of entrepreneurship, and those who come to entrepreneurship and stick and those who don’t, I think there are kind of two mindsets. One mindset is, is we’re waiting on the cavalry. That’s a problem because if we’re waiting on somebody come riding in to rescue us from whatever, right? From some hardship, we’re gonna be waiting a long time, and we oftentimes won’t like the fine print in the contract when somebody comes in and, hey, I’m gonna rescue you, but here’s what you owe me now. We become subservient to the system that has purported to rescue us. And then I think there are people who are, I’m not waiting. I’m getting in the boat, and I’m going. The Lewis and Clarks, right? They provision, they plan, but they get in the boat and they go up the Missouri with no knowledge of what’s coming at them. But they know the only way to find the future is just to get in that boat. I think that’s something we’ve gotta really work out in university, is what do we want to produce? Do we want to produce more folks waiting on the cavalry, or do we want to produce people who are willing to get in the boat? I think that’s a fundamental question for the institution.

Absolutely. For those people that are wanting to get in the boat, and they’re wanting to create their own future, what resources would you have to share with them?

Well, the first thing we do is with our freshman students is we give them permission to work on something interesting. From day one, we don’t give exams. Because I don’t even know what an exam in entrepreneurship would look like, right?

That’s a good question.

Come back with the biggest, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t even know what it would look like. We started that apparently at, I don’t even know how to do this. Let’s do something more interesting. Let’s do projects, and let’s get high immersion for students with minimal financial risk, ’cause we don’t want people to make $100,000 mistakes early because that’s devastating.

Right.

It’s hard to dig out from. But you can make a $50 mistake and learn an awful lot. We run a little program where we have students that are put together in teams, and they do a $50 startup. We give them $50, they start a company, they have 60 days to generate revenue, and we tell them, look, it’s gotta be legal and it needs to make your mother proud. If it meets those constraints, then you’re good, right? We’re not gonna constrain you any more than that. Let’s see what you do. What’s interesting is they will as a group, make all of the mistakes that most early-stage companies will make that are dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars. But we’re only out with seven teams. It’s 350 bucks, and boy, have we learned a lot. Well, that’s powerful. We do crazy things like we have a little bucket when students will come into class and there’ll be a bucket of pencils and a bucket of red paper clips and we’ll say okay, pick one and sit down. They pick one or the other, and they’re kind of looking at it. They’re like, what is this guy up to now? We say to them, okay, here’s the deal. You have two weeks to trade that item for as much value as you can create. Trade it for something, trade again. We want you to make as many trades as you can. What’s interesting is in two weeks’ time, just in the sort of negotiation, and trading, and bartering world, we had students who traded red paper clips that eventually ended up with these really high-end gas grill barbecue deals, and Vera Bradley handbags, and it was amazing, right? What’s the value of that? The value is, is they’re having to make a cold call. They hate it, and they all talk about, oh, those first three, like will you trade me? It was so hard, and it was painful, but I did it, right? And then the negotiation, and understanding value, and knowing when they got to a value that they were willing to stick with. This one kid, he said, I got this super cool baseball cap. I really didn’t want to trade for anything else. (laughs) This is the value I wanted. I really wanted that cap. Well, that’s pretty cool. That’s a very different experience than memorizing a bunch of stuff.

Absolutely, and getting what you want. Asking for it, and being okay to go for it. Right. Such an important part of entrepreneurship. But I do see you brought a book. Do you have any resources you want to share with our listeners?

Yeah, so I mean, if you go to our website, engler.unl.edu, click on the resources page, lots of the books that we think are valuable, but one that I just really love is “Essentialism.” The subtitle is The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Here’s the challenge we have. We’re in a yes culture, right? And it doesn’t matter if you’re an educator, if you’re a church, if you’re a business that sells a manufactured good, if you’re a business that does consulting. Human beings, we are in a yes culture, right? Let’s pile more on our plate, never take anything off. The do more with less, but don’t stop doing anything. Well, that’s not sustainable. Eventually, that just tears you up. Greg McKeown has this notion that we can actually narrow down and focus on those things that actually have impact. The big rocks. Focus on the things that matter the most. And certainly, in entrepreneurship, there are key things to spend your time and energy on at various stages of the process, and things that you shouldn’t be focused on at all at certain stages of the process, right? Oftentimes, entrepreneurs, they want to build something really quickly, right? But they haven’t asked their customer.

But I’m glad that’s what you’re teaching your students. Where do you really focus first? How do you start building?

And that’s what essentialism does for you, right? It gets you to focus in the right places. We love everything that Seth Godin writes. “The Dip” in particular. Knowing when to quit. This is very antithetical to Midwestern values. Yeah, right. Right. But there are things that we literally should quit. We need to stop doing them because they don’t add any value, or we’re never gonna be very good at them, right? I quit playing competitive basketball a long time ago because I was never going to be a very good basketball player, right? I like basketball, but it wasn’t gonna be my future, right? So, spending tons of time on that would’ve been silly. Dan and Chip Heath. They’ve got a number of great books. “Made to Stick.” But they have a new one called “Moments,” and it’s all about this sort of reality that what we provide for our customers, whether we’re educators, whether we’re business people, whether we’re in the nonprofit sector, quite frankly, if we’re parents, is the power of what we create for our customer is moments. Memorable experiences that shape the way the person sees the world. I would be willing to bet that most people when they’ve been given things that gave them moments, they remember them, but they probably cannot remember the stuff that they got in their Christmas stocking three years ago.

Well, and I think as leaders too, how we create moments even in our culture, how do we build that type of culture so our employees want to be engaged and stay, and they also want to do great work, and we’re empowering them to do that? Appreciate your time and all your insights today, Tom. We could talk forever. (laughs) I know that we do. We do. But could you give us your website again, and let us know where people can find you?

You bet, feel free to contact me directly at tfield2@unl.edu. And you can find our great stories of wonderful young entrepreneurs at engler.unl.edu. And we would love to engage with people listening to this. We are coachable, and we need your help, and we love to meet you at the intersection of good ideas.

Great, thank you so much, Tom.

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This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week Four!

June 15, 2018
Black Hills Energy Over the last few weeks, Black Hills has welcomed a number of new interns to the company. Although many are located at the corporate headquarters in Rapid City, South Dakota, there are interns throughout the region, specializing …

Black Hills Energy

Black Hills’ Technicians Ashley and Ryan, 10/11 meteorologist Brad Anderson, Serviceship intern Emily Coffey, Black Hills’ Community Affairs Manager Brandy Johnson and 10/11 Reporter Lance Shwartz at 10/11 News’ annual “Can Care-a-Van” food drive.

Over the last few weeks, Black Hills has welcomed a number of new interns to the company. Although many are located at the corporate headquarters in Rapid City, South Dakota, there are interns throughout the region, specializing in everything from Human Resources to engineering. In July, headquarters will be hosting all of us for their annual “Intern Week,” during which we will have the opportunity to network, present our individual projects and learn more about Black Hills.

One of the internal programs at Black Hills is their Ambassador Program. These employees are the face of the company at volunteer events and present to various groups throughout the community about natural gas safety. Recently, I was able to join them for 10/11 News’ “Can Care-a-Van,” an annual food drive which takes place in communities throughout Nebraska.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy here in Nebraska! My main focus over the past few weeks has been building out a communications schedule for Black Hills, including news releases and social media. I’ve been especially interested in sharing safety and energy-saving tips to Black Hills’ customers via Twitter. As a natural gas consumer myself, I’ve already begun to implement some of these habits. For instance, if you run a full cycle in the dishwasher, you’ll save more hot water and energy than if you did the dishes by hand; who could complain about that?

“Service and Operations Technicians are the cornerstone of Black Hills Energy. Shadowing one of Black Hills’ Service Technicians was an absolute blast, and it gave me greater appreciation for them, both as an employee and as a customer!”

EMILY COFFEY
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BLACK HILLS ENERGY

 

While my typical work day takes place in the office, I finally got the chance to do a “ride along” with a Service Tech earlier this week. I spent the morning assisting him with meter turnoffs and appliance inspections. I was even able to help him replace a furnace motor and fan! I had so many questions and so much to learn; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wish that I could do it again.

 

 

Broken Bow, Neb.

Leanne and Jessica get interviewed by NTV. Check out their interview >>>

Things in Broken Bow are still going great! We have met more and more people, and it is getting easier for people to recognize us. Our main project with recreation is still coming along. We hosted our first coffee with the community event on Monday, Jun. 4, and two more that following week. Meeting members of the community and different organizations, such as the Rotary Club, has been very eye opening. It is great to hear their opinion and how much they love their town. We have decided to do a recreationally focused survey to get more input that people would rather give anonymously. We met with stakeholders from Adams Land and Cattle, as well as Sargent Pipe, to get their opinions on what recreational additions would help the community.

NET came to the community of Broken Bow for a segment on the new library here but stuck around for something they call “Town Talk.” During this talk, community members came together to talk about the things they are most proud of and some of the “jewels” in town and county that people may not know about. This was a great time for everyone to voice their opinions about the station.

NTV visited the town and did an interview of us for the news. We were able to talk about the RFI Serviceship program, as well as our projects, our upcoming coffees with the community, and future goals when we graduate college.

“I have really learned how to have conversations with different demographics about the same topic. This is a life-long tool that I will use in future careers. It’s really the little things that we are all learning in our communities that are going to pay off the most.”

LEANNE GAMET
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.

 

Leanne and Jessica pose with the community listeners of the NET Town Talk in Broken Bow, Neb. Photo credits: William Anderson, NET

Our project with tourism and Sturgis has taken off as well. We have been in touch with many of the main sponsors of the rally such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. Our next step is going to businesses around town to see if they would be willing to participate in a coupon book that we can send to vendors in South Dakota to pass out. We have also been doing surveys with small groups of motorcycle friends and reached out to several Christian Motorcycle Association groups in Grand Island, Kearney, North Platte and Lincoln.

We have also been keeping busy with various community events. We attended Summer Celebration one evening where awards were given out to some local businesses and people on their achievements and work in the community. Last weekend our community hosted “Hear Nebraska” which featured live bands, and the community made it a weekend celebration with various events they put on. Events ranged from a community quilting project at the visitors’ center, to a skateboard demonstration, to a local street dance.

 

 

Columbus, Neb.

“The Serviceship experience has offered me a chance to dig into the industry and learn what it takes to be a community developer, in a city of 22,0000 people. To do it–and do it right–you really have to have a passion for it.”

AMBER ROSS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COLUMBUS, NEB.

Columbus continues to inspire, entertain, and impress us. Each day brings a new face, a new opinion, and a new idea.

We were able to attend the Diversity and Inclusion Summit hosted by the Chamber. We got to hear about recruitment, inclusion, how technology is making a difference in inclusion and innovative problem solving. KC Belitz, president of the Chamber, said that the goal of this summit was to encourage Columbus to “create one community instead of two.” Then he joked, “We can’t afford two!” Diversity and Inclusion will be a focus during Young Nebraskans Week here in Columbus.

Clayton and Amber celebrate national doughnut day in the Columbus Chamber Office!

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” So, we have made sure to have some fun. The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors a monthly Interns’ Night Out for all interns in the area during the summer. This month’s activity included a catered dinner and line dance lessons by a local dance instructor. About 25 interns joined us for this great night out on the town!

Finally, we spent the last week touring schools in Columbus. Not only did we build some important relationships, but we saw that the community has been able to build a market-driven curriculum for the schools. Each school has responded to a separate need demonstrated by the businesses in Columbus, resulting in impressive classrooms and labs, including STEM, STEAM, robotics, agriculture, and even hydroponic programs. As Kristen Hoesing, Admissions Director of Central Community College, said, “CCC will not do something unless it is needed by the industry.” From growing food for their own kitchens to growing trained employees for the local industries, these schools are making Columbus a self-sustainable community.

“Some days are ultra-productive while others are, well, less than stellar. But ultimately, the one question you should ask yourself at the end of the day is whether or not you have set yourself up for success the next day.”

CLAYTON KELLER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COLUMBUS, NEB.

 

 

Cozad, Neb.

Christy and Shelby meet with University of Nebraska–Lincoln Husker Volleyball head coach John Cook.

Hustle – that’s what the last two weeks have been like for us. Between our first and second rounds of Music Monday and the Nebraska Economic Developers Association (NEDA) Conference in Gothenburg, Neb., we have been constantly on the move.

Music Mondays have had absolutely rave reviews. It is so encouraging to see a community come together for music and food – not just once, but weekly. The concerts have attracted people of all ages; everyone from young children to the residences of the assisted living facility, Meadowlark Pointe. We are very grateful for the many community members and city workers who volunteer to help us set up and tear down the temporary fencing and picnic tables. The attendance of Music Mondays has been outstanding and is continuing to increase. The first week we had 275 guests and this week we had almost 400! Music Mondays have been so successful we’ve had to book additional food trucks to accommodate everyone. The musicians we have hosted so far are Formally Three, Samantha Schutte and Lana Greene.

We are building some strong relationships with our lead mentor and other community members which makes the hard work we are doing purposeful and fulfilling.

The Biz Kids launch their businesses at Music Monday.

Our lead mentor, Jen McKeone, was the host of the annual NEDA conference held this year in Gothenburg. Over 150 economic developers from across the state and investors from across the country attended. During this jam-packed week, we had the opportunity to go on the Central Public Power District water tour. We saw several facilities responsible for providing irrigation water for farmers, as well as the Keystone Hydroelectric Plant at Lake McConaughy. We toured the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg where they research how to best crop crops under different stressors. NEDA conference was a great networking opportunity and a time to exchange unique ideas with other developers.

Friday we will be hosting our three finalists for ‘Pitch It Cozad: Win This Space’ for their final presentations. We have a selection committee of 11 sponsors and partners that will be judging the proposals. Each finalist has submitted a completed business plan and will explain how they would launch a successful enterprise in downtown Cozad. The overall goal of ‘Pitch It’ is to attract unique and sustainable businesses to Cozad as well as support and encourage local entrepreneurship. This is done by providing space, capital, and start-up professional assistance. The total prize package is valued at over $20,000.

 

 

 

Omaha Land Bank

The Omaha Land Bank Staff eating at a locally owned café, Harold’s Koffee House, in the Historic Florence part of Omaha, Neb.

Sydney and Kyle are ending week four in Omaha, NE with lots of new knowledge and meetings under their belt. Sydney and Kyle’s colleagues took them for a tour around Omaha last Friday afternoon and Omaha was even bigger than they had imagined. Between the busy traffic and large amount of ground to see it took them four hours to see only one part of the big city, North Omaha. Sydney and Kyle saw boulevards with gorgeous houses lining both sides of the street, revitalized neighborhoods with booming businesses, and new parks being built in multiple places. This redevelopment and progression in these North Omaha neighborhoods are in large part due to non-profit organizations like the Omaha Land Bank.

Sydney had the opportunity to attend the United Way of the Midlands, Heartland 2050 Summer Summit on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus where she had the privilege to meet and hear many of the non-profits involved in the revitalization of Omaha neighborhoods speak. Sydney learned that there are multiple organizations that are involved in making Omaha neighborhoods a desirable and family-oriented place to be.

“Everyday is a new adventure at the Omaha Land Bank. There is not a day where I am doing the same thing. Between meetings, conferences and consulting appointments, I am learning more than I had dreamt of.”

SYDNEY ARMBRUSTER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, OMAHA LAND BANK

 

Kyle and Sydney take a tour around the Metro Community College campus’ new Construction Education Center.

The two interns also had an incredibly busy morning on Wednesday this week with the monthly mandated meeting of the Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board of Directors. The Board met to discuss the acquisition of new properties and the strategy that would go with the new development as well as approved the sale of the homes we earlier watched go on auction. It was enjoyable to see the end process come together. Being at the board meeting we were able to meet both voting and nonvoting members who all hold important roles within the community from nonprofit organizations, bankers, developers, and the president of the city council.

Following the OMLB board meeting we were able to tour the Metro Community College campus’ new Construction Education Center. This brand-new building is a way that students working towards their certifications in trades like plumbing, and HVAC have the opportunity to work on a capstone project in which a full-scale home is built and then sold to the community. In partnership with the landbank, the first house out of the new building will go on a Land Bank vacant lot and be a 1600 sq. ft home with a two-car garage.

This will help in the redevelopment of North Omaha and the area around Metro Community College’s Fort Campus. The partnership will enable new homes to be put out at a competitive rate and eventually get up to three homes per year out into the community. What we saw this week was a much closer look at the governing structures of the land bank and various ways in which it is a key player in revitalizing areas of North Omaha and the city at large.

Individually, Kyle was able to spend a great deal more time diving into the foreclosure process and develop additional responsibilities in the overall process. By the end of the summer the first batch of 500 new properties will be coming into the Land Bank and be up for sale to the community to help spur redevelopment. Looking even further into the future, Kyle will be using this opportunity to stay involved in the Land Bank as he will be doing a project next summer for his MPA capstone project to help highlight the actual impact the land bank has had in the city in a short period of time.

“My favorite part of working at the Land Bank is knowing that every day my work is actually making a difference in creating a better community to live in. By working towards acquiring these properties for transformation shows just how much goes on behind the scenes to make the city a better place to live.”

KYLE MCGLADE
SERVICESHIP INTERN, OMAHA LAND BANK

 

 

Norfolk, Neb.

Cheyenne Gerlach and Samantha Guenther are in Norfolk for their RFI serviceship internship. For the first five weeks, we are working to tell the story of Daycos. Daycos is unique in that they are a for-profit AND for-good business. It is our job to capture what Daycos does, how they do it, and why they do it in hopes of informing and inspiring others to possibly do the same. The overarching goal of our project with Daycos is to come up with a way to re-brand Daycos’ for-good movement, Daycos4Good, as simply intertwined with Daycos as a whole. We will be creating video, web content, and written publications to help portray this message.

For the second five weeks, we are working to promote the retail and service sector of the Norfolk community for the visitors bureau. We will be acting as “secret shoppers” to get an inside scoop on how business owners and employees are welcoming and promoting Norfolk through their business. We will also be doing a “windshield assessment” of businesses in Norfolk to gain a better understanding of how it can be improved. Then, we will be working to help make those improvements to strengthen the retail and service sector.

“By being surrounded by rural leaders with a vision and drive to make an impact, I am challenged to think innovatively, act on opportunities and build my leadership skills every day.”

SAMANTHA GUENTHER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NORFOLK, NEB.

 

During the past two weeks, we have finished the interviews with Daycos stakeholders and have a solid grasp on the impact that Daycos is making on customers, employees, community, and in the company. Our next steps will be creating three videos that capture who Daycos is, how they do it, and why. Additionally, we have set goals to systemize the hiring process to be in line with the Daycos company and culture and have plans to create a visual map of goals and accomplishments. To wrap up our time with Daycos, we will be facilitating a company meeting to present our work and develop a solid understanding within the company of what Daycos is.

We have also become involved in the Norfolk community. Norfolk hosted a “Welcome Week” where we participated in many events like a picnic at Tahazouka and fun at Skyview Lake event. Community members have reached out to us many times to invite us to young leaders meetings and have made a welcoming and supportive impact on us.

Overall, we have dived into our work at Daycos with new opportunities and skills to take advantage of everyday. We are building skills like communication, innovative thinking, and videography through our daily work. We are excited to share our work with the entirety of Daycos and look forward to seeing the difference we can make with the visitor’s bureau.

 

 

Red Cloud, Neb.

Trevor discusses grant writing and non-profit work with Red Cloud, Neb., bookstore owner Peter Osborne.

The third week in Red Cloud was just as exciting as the first two. We attended and helped with the 63rd annual Willa Cather Conference. The theme for the conference was the 100th Anniversary of My Ántonia, arguably Willa Cather’s most successful book. It was the most attended conference in history, as around 200 English teachers, college professors, and well-read citizens came to town. We had an exciting day Saturday as Trevor drove all the way to Lincoln at 6 in the morning to retrieve the banquet’s entertainment, John Reed-Torres, a ragtime piano player out of Los Angeles. Then, Trenton drove him back to Lincoln late that night.

In the beginning of the next week we began preparing for the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN). A whopping 350 bike-riders, 50 support staff, and 50 family members were going to be tent-camping in the city park on June 6th after a 50-mile ride from Alma. The day before they arrived, we took a trip to Alma to hand out fliers about Red Cloud’s activities awaiting the riders. We helped coordinate with local businesses and groups who would be setting up food stands or hosting many of the night’s guests. The first riders crossed the city limits just before 9:00 Wednesday morning and were all in by 3:00 in the afternoon, increasing Red Cloud’s population by 50%!

We got to drive a tour bus around the city and surrounding areas showing off some of Red Cloud’s historic sights. Two of the other Serviceship pairs are hosting the riders in McCook and Seward. We will see soon who wins best host community!

“It is incredible how much activity there is in a town of 1,000. The amount of time and effort given by the community is just as astounding and the biggest reason the city has been making such positive strides”

TRENTON BUHR
SERVICESHIP INTERN, RED CLOUD, NEB.

Starting this week, we got rolling on economic development. Now that we’ve learned just about everything there is to know about Red Cloud and experienced some of the biggest events in the community, we began plotting a path forward. We are tackling three problems the city is currently facing: housing, business development, and quality of life. There are a significant number of vacant and run-down homes in the community along with drastically low home values. Dealing with this problem will take coordination from many of the city’s organizations including the City Council, Board of Public Trust, and Historic Preservation Commission. As for businesses, we are looking to fill main street with small businesses and remain competitive for any other opportunities that might come. The city’s incentive package will need to be greatly bolstered to develop this. Finally, we’re making recommendations for increasing the number of parks and trails, improving infrastructure, and helping the school system prosper.

Trenton and Trevor snap a selfie on the “selfie spot” in the Willa Cather Center.

This week we met with Brian Hoff the Red Cloud Community Schools superintendent and discuss coming changes with the school system and issues they have had to face in the past including low enrollment, near consolidation, and renovating a 100-year-old high school.

The prevalence of history in Red Cloud and the development of a strong tourism industry add a unique element to the housing issues here. Razing every abandoned house isn’t an option because so many have historical relevance. The brick streets which make up a few blocks downtown are cherished by many local residents but despised by many others. And, maintaining century old storefronts is not an easy task, especially for small businesses without a significant budget. We are trying to balance the historical presence with advances in modern housing and infrastructure.

Our final event of the week was going around to local businesses asking for donations and sponsorships for the Good Living Tour. In early July, four bands from around the state will be performing for the city—the third year in a row the event has come to Red Cloud!

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Catch Up With Chuck Wraps Up Episode 30 with RFI Communications Team

June 15, 2018
Jun. 15, 2018 In the final episode of Catch Up With Chuck, Chuck is joined by show producer and RFI Director of Communications Katelyn Ideus as well as show production specialist and RFI communications intern Katy Bagniewski to discuss the goals and results of …

Jun. 15, 2018

In the final episode of Catch Up With Chuck, Chuck is joined by show producer and RFI Director of Communications Katelyn Ideus as well as show production specialist and RFI communications intern Katy Bagniewski to discuss the goals and results of the show.

Katelyn graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Journalism & Mass Communications with a bachelor’s in news editorial and broadcast journalism and a master’s in integrated media communications. As the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Rural Futures Institute, Katelyn develops the strategic communications plan for the institute, delivering stories about the successes earned, innovations created and solutions found by rural communities around the world. She also shares the University of Nebraska’s research, resources and expertise for these communities.

Katy will enter her fourth year as an agricultural and environmental sciences communication major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in August. Katy, a rural Minnesota native, has a passion for elevating voices around social justice issues through multimedia content. She passionately tells the story of the Rural Futures Institute and rural communities throughout Nebraska and beyond because she believes that viewing rural challenges, issues and opportunities as a social justice concern is important.

 

Rural roots aren’t needed in order to care about rural places, because rural and urban collaboration starts with a collaboration of thought.

KATY BAGNIEWSKI

Communications Intern, Rural Futures Institute

The Rural Futures Institute’s purpose is to bring together the RFI nexus of students, faculty researchers and community leaders on critical topics for rural communities. According to Katelyn, producing a Facebook Live show made the most sense for giving Chuck a platform to utilize his speaking talents and energy to discuss important rural topics weekly with great convenience.

Through Catch Up With Chuck, the Rural Futures Institute earned nearly 80,000 minutes of viewing time and more than 100,000 unique viewers. The RFI team built great relationships with the show’s guests and created a wide body of work from which additional insights can be pulled.

 

The real goal of Catch Up With Chuck was to be able to pull together the RFI nexus, faculty researchers, students and community leaders, in a way that was really comfortable and conversational.

KATELYN IDEUS

Director of Communications, Rural Futures Institute

The success of Catch Up With Chuck can be attributed to the RFI team, engaging guests and viewers of the show. All 30 episodes will remain available on the RFI Facebook page and at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/catch-up-with-chuck for the foreseeable future.

The Rural Futures Institute recently launched “Rural Futures with Dr. Connie,” a podcast exploring the intersections of technology and what it means to be human as our high-tech, globalized world continues to collide with the values, principles and ethics of humanity. Join Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, associate executive director and chief futurist at RFI, and her guests who are smashing barriers for the sake of a thriving rural-urban future as they dive into the currently polarizing narratives of the rural-urban divide, technology development and the future of work on this weekly podcast. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and more; like, subscribe and rate if you get hooked!

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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RELEASE: New Podcast Connects Rural and Urban through Strategic Foresight, Leadership and Technology

June 12, 2018
As our high-tech, globalized world continues to collide with the values, principles and ethics of humanity, the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is breaking into the currently polarizing narratives of the rural-urban divide, technology development and the future of …

Rural Futures with Dr. Connie

As our high-tech, globalized world continues to collide with the values, principles and ethics of humanity, the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is breaking into the currently polarizing narratives of the rural-urban divide, technology development and the future of work through its new weekly podcast, “Rural Futures with Dr. Connie.” The podcast is available on iTunesSoundCloud and Stitcher.

 

Go to podcast!

 

Hosted by futurist, researcher and entrepreneur Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI associate executive director and chief futurist, the Rural Futures podcast explores the intersections of technology and what it means to be human.

Its content is for achievers to expand their perspectives for social justice, economic growth and leadership through strategic foresight, or “futuring,” and the lenses of:

  • Exponential change
  • Disruptive leadership
  • Evolution of humanity

Guests include futurists, business innovators and researchers who are smashing barriers for the sake of a thriving rural-urban future.

“We need to bring technology, leaders and rural and urban together to really get at solutions that not only consider a sustainable future, but a thriving future of abundance for all,” Dr. Reimers-Hild said. “This podcast allows us to do this by focusing on our small team’s strengths as connectors, conveners and communicators.

“We want to bring as many people to this conversation as possible, and a podcast is an efficient and strategic way to do that. I encourage all of our listeners to connect with us across our social platforms to suggest questions, ideas and guests.”

Initial Season 1 episodes include:

“I was excited about appearing on Rural Futures because it offered a vital yet rare perspective in our urbanizing era,” said Alexander. “Exploring the countryside’s future is critical for understanding what comes next for humanity as a whole.”

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 29 Impacting Rural through Scholarship with RFI Fellow Jessica Shoemaker

June 8, 2018
  Jun. 8, 2018 Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker, J.D., a distinguished scholar and associate professor of law for the University of Nebraska College of Law, who combines …

 

Jun. 8, 2018

Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker, J.D., a distinguished scholar and associate professor of law for the University of Nebraska College of Law, who combines scholarship and passion to impact rural people and places.

Prior to joining the University of Nebraska, she served as a judicial clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, spent two years at a national non-profit law firm devoted to advocacy around systematic legal issues affecting rural communities and then spent five years at an international law firm in Denver, working in nearly every phase of dispute resolution in many different courts.

Shoemaker joined the University of Nebraska College of Law faculty in 2012 and was recently appointed associate professorship in 2017. She says that the work of the Rural Futures Institute helped her make the decision to come to Nebraska, as rural issues are ones she is particularly passionate about.

“Thinking about the future of rural places is intellectually and academically such a stimulating and complicated question given the rapid change that we’re experiencing.”

– Jessica Shoemaker, J.D.

 

Besides being a distinguished scholar and professor, Shoemaker is also a dedicated mother raising her family in a very rural Nebraska environment. Echoing RFI’s belief statements, she believes that rural communities are great places for families to thrive.

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week Three!

June 7, 2018
Alliance, Neb. “I think the communities are very excited about what Haley and I are doing and are willing to help us in any way they can. For me personally, I’m excited to further my leadership skills and abilities as …

Alliance, Neb.

“I think the communities are very excited about what Haley and I are doing and are willing to help us in any way they can. For me personally, I’m excited to further my leadership skills and abilities as I start thinking about my future.”

MIRISSA SCHOLTING
SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have gone by already! We have been very busy in Alliance working with the Box Butte Development Corporation to develop our video for the Marketing Hometown America Project for Box Butte County.

For the last three weeks, we have been meeting new people from Hemingford and Alliance, moved out of our host family’s house and into our duplex, worked on developing hashtags and our video project and volunteered at Carhenge.

Haley and Mirissa pose outside of Mobius Communications, Hemingford Cooperative Telephone Company.

Haley helps fix up car displays while volunteering at Carhenge in Alliance, Neb.

When we asked Deb Moore, an employe at Alliance Chamber and Carhenge, about our impact on the community, she said, “The girls are enthusiastic, ready to jump into anything and try anything new.”

We have taken footage at various public places like the pool, coffee shops, car show, movie theatre and library in Alliance. We have also spent some time in Hemingford working out of Mobius Communications-Hemingford Cooperative Telephone Company and have been in touch with businesses there as well. We plan to film more footage there in the upcoming weeks. We are also starting to contact businesses in Berea as well.

While volunteering at Carhenge, we helped fix some vandalism done to one of the cars, power washed tires, and then started spray painting the tires bright colors. We are planning to display them at Carhenge when they are completely painted as we are making them into flower pots in order to help make Carhenge more aesthetically pleasing to visitors.

“This opportunity has provided me with more than an internship. It has provided me with learning experiences, connections and skills that will benefit me in my future endeavors, as well as the ability to impact a rural community.”

HALEY EHRKE
SERVICESHIP INTERN, ALLIANCE, NEB.

 

 

 

McCook, Neb.

Over the last two weeks in McCook, we have continued to create an inventory of the items in the High Plains Museum. With nearly 4,000 photographs taken to date, we are nearing the end of our record keeping process! We are also starting to inventory the books in the Carnegie Library. Additionally, we have been interviewing members of the museum board to get their perspective on the future of the High Plains Museum. The interviews have assisted in the stimulation of new ideas and the incorporation of the most significant parts of McCook’s history. Brainstorming sessions have been a vital part of our everyday by keeping our minds moving and fresh ideas rolling in.

“When I think about my time in the Rural Futures Institute Serviceship Program, one word comes to mind: entrepreneurship. In our respective communities where we are responsible for holding ourselves accountable, we can light a new fire by putting out of the box ideas into action.”

EMILY FRENZEN
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

Emily and Sage pose in downtown McCook, Neb.

There have been many people who have given us valuable input and are essential to the museum. One of those people is John Hubert, a long-time community member and entrepreneur, who knows the history of McCook better than we know the back of our own hands! He is a talented storyteller and wealth of knowledge we hope to capture on video sometime this summer.

One of our secondary projects is to create a library of community photography for future marketing purposes. This means we get to travel across the county capturing small town Nebraska main streets, unique buildings and favorite restaurants in the area like the Rocket Inn where people come from afar for their famous pizza. We discovered the gem that is the Rocket Inn this week while exploring Indianola and then made our way to Bartley for more photographs.

We also had the opportunity to attend the McCook Community Foundation and Red Willow County Visitors Committee meetings where we were introduced to many more welcoming and influential members of the community. Both of these meetings gave us a better idea of the unique art culture, giving spirit and community pride that makes up McCook.

“The more I have immersed myself in the local culture of the McCook community, the more I have realized how important the people and small businesses are to this rural community, and in turn, how essential rural communities are to the livelihood of our state. Adapting to change and technology and consistently bringing in fresh ideas is vital to the survival of rural communities.”

SAGE WILLIAMS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

 

 

McCook THETA Camps

“Collin, Tyan, and I learn about health and wellness all school year, and it is very exciting for myself personally to be able to apply it in the real world to students that are eager to learn!”

BRAD SCHOCH
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

 

Brad helps some of the kids construct their aquaponic systems.

We implemented Module 1 of THETA camp the past week, and it has been very successful for our team. In Module 1, after getting to know everyone, we started fast by germinating plants with our students. The students were very interactive with this step in the growing of our produce.

After getting some plants started, we moved on to the next step which was constructing our hydroponic and aquaponic systems. The students seemed very interested in how these growing systems worked as well as very excited to be able to get their hands dirty and do a little construction project.

Students were able to use drills and cocking glue guns in order to build the structures we needed. It was very rewarding to teach a new skill to kids that had no experience with, specifically using a drill. It was also very interesting to watch kids work together to lift heavy bags of gravel and place it within our systems!

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be able to make a positive impact on the kids as well as the community of McCook.”

COLLIN FLEECS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

 

Tyan discusses the benefits of physical activity, good nutrition and energy balance.

This week, the kids returned just as eager as we were to continue to learn. Module 2 of THETA camp dove straight into the topics of physical activity, nutrition and energy balance. The students were very involved and really enjoyed the physical activity aspects of our teachings. This task seemed a little intimidating at first, especially the aspects of teaching what a calorie is, what the macronutrients are and the concept of energy balance.

On Wednesday we took the students on a trip to the local grocery store called Schmick’s. We tasked the students with collecting pictures of food labels, as well as examples of carbohydrate and protein rich foods. This was very intriguing as we saw students enter a store and search for the appropriate information on food labels that can be utilized directly in their own lives. They were able to obtain this information from what we had taught them earlier in the week and were also full of questions. It’s very rewarding to see students pick up on what we’re teaching and then watch them put it into action days later.

On Thursday we continued our discussions on health and wellness by focusing primarily on health care professions. The discussion was very strong between the students and us as we described the different responsibilities of many health professionals. Modules 1 and 2 of THETA have been very successful, and our experience so far has us excited and prepared for success as we continue to progress into the next chapter of our camp.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing how much of an interest the kids have taken in our program, both during camp and as well as at home.”

TYAN BOYER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

 

 

 

 

Neligh, Neb.

For the past two weeks, we have been working on finishing up our mapping reports, as well as finding host homes for Tour-de-Nebraska. We recently finished the Neligh report, and we’re about a third of the way done with the report for Northeast Nebraska. Additionally, we created a small marketing campaign containing a flyer and social media posts for Facebook to entice people to volunteer their homes for Tour-de-Nebraska.

There is a serious housing shortage in Neligh because there are many short-term workers flooding the housing system because of all of the wind towers going up around town. Since most of the people that would open their houses for Tour-de-Nebraska have already rented them out, we came up with the idea to incentivize homeowners. The first five people to open up their house will receive gift certificates which were donated by local businesses. Additionally, we printed out flyers and delivered them door to door to get the word out. We also started setting up recording times with community members for marketing videos for Neligh.

“The passion and patriotism in Neligh is unbelievable. I have never met a group of people who are more passionate or caring about their community. They truly care about their town.”

RHIANNON COBB
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NELIGH, NEB.

 

Michayla and Rhiannon have fun delivering flyers door to door for their Tour-de-Nebraska.

Over the last two weeks, we sat in on meetings. Last Friday, we had the monthly “Coffee Talk” at the Senior Center. There we spoke with the older generation of Neligh residents over coffee and cinnamon rolls about what they are seeing in the community as issues and what our office can do to help. On Friday, our Downtown Revitalization project applications were due, so we met with many business owners throughout the week about how to improve their businesses either aesthetically or structurally through projects funded in part by the grant. Friday was full of making sure applications were complete and filled out correctly. This Tuesday we went to the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce Meeting. Clearwater is ten miles west of Neligh and our office works for their town as well. Their meeting was mainly about the rodeo coming up in a couple of weeks and the new grocery store coming to town.

After we got back to Neligh, we had a meeting with the Northeast Nebraska Economic Develop District to go over our Downtown Revitalization projects. We met to make sure all the contractors were registered, all the numbers matched up and all the applications were complete. Then that evening, we attended the meeting for the Fall Festival, and Rhiannon updated their brochure. On Wednesday we volunteered to help paint the new grocery store in Clearwater so for a couple hours our boss let us off to benefit the community.

When we started asking people what they loved about the area we heard things like the restaurants, community and the people you get to support. We also heard something pretty moving as people started talking about community assets. They started by talking about the co-op, implement dealers, nursing home, school, ESU 8, park, lake garden and floral shops, banks and other businesses. Then as things were starting to quiet down, one lady turned to face us in her seat and said, “I think the people are our greatest asset.” We think that is very true about the people here in Neligh.

“Like in most rural places I’ve visited, the people in Neligh are resilient. They persevere and gather around people in hardships. They celebrate each other’s successes. They care about the wellbeing of their town, and they aren’t afraid to tell us why they love it.”

MICHAYLA GOEDEKEN
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NELIGH, NEB.

 

 

Seward, Neb.

Our time at the Seward County Chamber has been reasonably productive so far. We met with many community stakeholders over the past week and a half, which has been extremely insightful to make meaningful progress towards achieving our primary project goals of creating a sustainable engagement initiative for Seward County. Meeting these stakeholders and community members one-on-one gave us the knowledge of the various opinions that community members have. This then lead to the filtering of opinions which enabled us to come up with tangible output plans.

“So far I have loved meeting with so many wonderful people in the community. These people are so dedicated to their community and their hard work shows! They have really helped us to feel welcomed in Seward and continue to offer their assistance with our project!”

MADDIE MILLER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, SEWARD, NEB.

One big goal we have been able to achieve is finding our main target market and what we really want to accomplish this summer. Revolving around newcomer engagement, we have been able to solidify that our target market is reaching out to young professionals without children or retirees. From the data that we have collected from interviews, we have concluded that many of these people are having a harder time finding people their age and finding activities to be involved in, compared to couples with children. We have decided to create an event that will be two to three times a year. This event will be specifically marketed toward newcomers; however, it will be open for all residents of Seward County.

Raghav and Maddie have been meeting with stakeholders in a sustainable engagement initiative for Seward County.

Raghav takes in his rural serviceship experience from a farm in Seward, Neb.

 

 

 

 

 

Along with this event, we have been in the process of recruiting individuals who are very involved in the community. We want people who love to introduce themselves and help others get involved. These people will be part of our “Welcome Wagon.” This will not be an official group or organization, but simply a group of people that would like to show up to our events and offer a warm welcome. We are hoping that these individuals will create meaningful connections with newcomers and help them get accustomed with life in Seward County. We are going to try this event first in Seward to see if it takes off, and then hopefully it will spread to other communities in Seward County once our serviceship is complete.

We hope to be able to collaborate with community members, stakeholders and local businesses to be able to pull of the event that we are in the process of creating. We are very excited to, and yet a tad bit nervous about putting up this event. The nervousness stems from the possibility of a minimal turnout for the event, but that does not equate to having to give up on our marketing efforts. We believe that persistent and strategic marketing and coordination will help us achieve our goals.

“The personal and professional growth that stems from simply interacting with people from different walks of life is invaluable.”

RAGHAV KIDAMBI
SERVICESHIP INTERN, SEWARD, NEB.

 

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This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week Two!

June 1, 2018
Black Hills Energy Unlike the other RFI Serviceships taking place throughout the state this summer, my experience with Black Hills Energy has been in progress since the beginning of April. My experience is also unique in that, because Black Hills …

Black Hills Energy

Unlike the other RFI Serviceships taking place throughout the state this summer, my experience with Black Hills Energy has been in progress since the beginning of April. My experience is also unique in that, because Black Hills is a regional natural gas provider, my work deals with the company’s priorities at a statewide and regional level.

I’m fortunate to have started my Serviceship while the Nebraska legislature was still in session because it gave me the opportunity to accompany my lead mentor to the capitol on one of the legislature’s final and busiest days. It was really fascinating to see the lobbying process firsthand, and helped me to understand the importance of educating and working with elected officials on issues that have implications for the utility. Each year there are a number of legislative bills that have the potential to affect the ability of Black Hills’ customers and employees to safely access affordable natural gas.

It means a lot to me to be able to work with a company that encourages its employees to give back to their community and even provides numerous opportunities to do so.

EMILY COFFEY
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BLACK HILLS ENERGY

 

I’ve quickly learned that safety is a non-negotiable for Black Hills. As part of my training, I participated in multiple safety training modules, and I joined employees from throughout the state at the annual Black Hills Safety & Wellness Summit, where we engaged with speakers on a variety of topics, including empowering teams, the bystander effect and health.

Emily joins Black Hills Energy Endowment Scholarship recipients for a tour of Lincoln’s natural gas distribution and odorizing station.

It didn’t take me long to realize how much I took natural gas for granted, and how little I understood about it or the components necessary to ensure the safety of the utility and those who maintain it. Natural gas is a safe, reliable energy source, and produces less carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel. That’s why many people choose natural gas to heat their homes, water, and appliances. Originally, natural gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. The pungent rotten egg smell commonly associated with natural gas is actually caused by mercaptan, an organic sulfur compound, which is added to the gas to make even the smallest leaks easy to detect. Though rare, gas leaks can be very dangerous, and it’s important to know how to prevent and respond to a suspected gas leak. That’s why I’m creating a natural gas safety outreach plan, specifically aimed at college students, who are often moving into their own independent housing for the first time.

Another piece of my Serviceship is assisting with the Black Hills’ community giving strategy in Nebraska. Recently, I was able to volunteer alongside other Black Hills employees at a local elementary school, where we provided and served lunches and helped the teachers organize games for their students.

 

Broken Bow, Neb.

We have both been very busy here in the community of Broken Bow! Both with working on major projects and a few smaller ones here and there. Our first week consisted of meeting a multitude of people and setting up coffee talks with the community. Our plan there is to reach out residents for their opinion on recreational opportunities here in Broken Bow.  We have started working on tourism and getting in contact with potential partners in Sturgis and surrounding areas in South Dakota. Another smaller project has been contacting television stations to get a ‘Through My Eyes’ promotional commercial about Broken Bow out across the state. We have learned a lot about cold calling Nebraska TV stations and getting campaigns put together to run this ad. Two smaller projects we are taking on by ourselves include making Custer County Leadership Certified and a Livestock Friendly County.

The drive that this community has to take on projects and move forward makes me so excited to see what we can accomplish in the next 9 weeks. Broken Bow is one of a kind and the people are really willing to make an effort to make you feel welcome and get you involved.

LEANNE GAMET
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.

Both of us are really looking forward to involving ourselves in the local culture by participating in more festivities and celebrations throughout the summer!

Leanne and Jessica discuss the community coffee talks they’re hosting live on the air for 92.3 KBEAR.

Our Serviceship is pretty unique in the fact that we are working with three people directly with completely different projects. This has really given us the opportunity to meet even more people, as well as work with different leadership styles and just learn more about Broken Bow as a whole. We have attended many board meetings including: Custer County Economic Development Corporation, City Council, Custer County Chamber and CAPABLE Youth Development. Being introduced to these groups have given us a great network that we feel comfortable reaching out to when we need things for the handful of projects we are working on.

We have already gotten plenty of ideas as far as places and organizations that we can volunteer for and with. Some that we are looking to include Custer County 4-H, the Red Barn Visitors Center and State of Art and Music Festival. A lot of the community has banded together and offered their help and support with the different projects that we are working on.

One of the coolest things I saw when I first arrived in Broken Bow was the town square surrounded by flourishing businesses. It’s been cool to meet individuals in the community over the past couple of weeks and really get immersed into the culture. This town is truly diverse and moving forward!

JESSICA WEEDER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, BROKEN BOW, NEB.
We have already enjoyed many things in the community such as going to the movies and eating at several local restaurants. Some of the different events we find unique and different in Broken Bow are Third Thursdays and Thursdays on the Square. Thursdays on the Square resembles a farmers market with food vendors and craft vendors. Third Thursdays are bigger celebrations with live music, bounce houses, food and craft vendors, and delicious food trucks—truly an event for the whole family.

 

 

Columbus, Neb.

Columbus: small town; big things. We started the week with back to back meetings and networking. We met many of the communities leaders and were able to learn about our projects for the summer. It was a long day and we were running on fumes, but our hosts, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Area Future Fund, were able to come together and provide us with a “Get to Know the Newbies” Dinner. It was a welcome meal as we had spent the day adding to the ever growing list of projects. Throughout the dinner we were able to speak with the mayor, the chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors, and the president of the Columbus Area Future Fund. We were also dining with a journalist from the Wall Street Journal, as she was in town gathering information for a piece on the growing need for rural housing.

Columbus has proven to be incredibly resourceful in the way they tackle problems. So many key community players have stepped into the boxing ring to fight for a better Columbus.

CLAYTON KELLER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COLUMBUS, NEB.

 

Clayton and Amber were featured in The Columbus Telegram. Read their article >>>

We have spent the week gathering information on our projects for the summer. We will be working on various events for the Chamber, including Interns’ Night Out, an evening event of all of the interns in the community, Young Nebraskans’ Week Event, a week of personal and professional development for the young people (19-30) of Nebraska that will take place in September, and a marketing event for the Something GOOD brand. We will also be working to create a community calendar so that community members are able to know what is going on in the community. The project with the Columbus Area Future Fund will be a little more challenging, marketing their first major fundraising campaign. It will be a busy summer but we will learn a lot.

As we have traveled through the community we are really impressed with the variety of opportunities. There is everything from the mom and pop shops to the big name brand stops. You really don’t have to go to Lincoln or Omaha for anything, it is all right here.

We asked Kara Asmus, one of our host team members, what her big takeaways from our first week were. She said “I am just really impressed with the two of you. You are both so on top of things. I give you something and boom it’s done.”

We also asked our host lead, K.C. Blitz, the same question and he answered, “Now that we have met and worked with you guys, we are really excited about what we are going to get done this summer.”

And let’s not forget about our own thoughts and impressions. Columbus is new territory for us, and with that comes first impressions. We have also been impressed with the people that we have met. We have met a lot of different people but they have all sung the same tune—there is something good going on here. We have both really enjoyed meeting the key community players that work every day to improve Columbus, and we’ve been impressed by the quantity and quality of these key players in the community as well.

 

 

Cozad, Neb.

Shelby assists with the Biz Kids Camp in Cozad, Neb.

In Cozad, we hit the ground running during our first couple of weeks. We’ve attending multiple meetings including, but not limited to, Cozad City Council, Rotary, and the Cozad Development Corporation Citizens Board. We’ve already gotten one project almost wrapped up and are working hard on several small tasks that have been overlooked for too long. The people in Cozad are marvelous—we can’t wait to build more connections in town!

The past two weeks, Shelby assisted with Cozad’s first Biz Kids Camp. There were ten middle school students that had four days of classroom instruction from Janita Pavelka, Entrepreneurship Educator. Shelby shared some of her entrepreneurial experiences with the students as well as helped prepare them to start their businesses. The biz kid students learned from local entrepreneurs and businesspeople, the UNL-Extension EntrepreneurShip Investigation curriculum, which led to everyone starting a new business.  Shelby will help these students launch their businesses at Music Monday in Cozad on June 4th.

Living in rural areas, we often get so caught up in the day-to-day we forget how incredible our small towns are – sometimes it takes an outsider to pull us back and admire what makes us so great.

CHRISTY COOPER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, COZAD, NEB.

 

All communities have difficulties viewing their surrounding as others—customers, visitors, potential residents, and potential businesses—see them. Our views are skewed by over-familiarization, a lack of differing perspectives, expectations, and a reluctance to be completely honest with our neighbors when dealing with difficult issues, such as the appearance of buildings, customer service, and the maintenance of public facilities.

Christy helps the Cozad Development Corporation build a stage for their new Music Monday events.

“First Impressions” is a program developed by K-State Research and Extension through the Community Vitality program. The focus of the program is to help communities learn about existing strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of visitor. The results from a “First Impressions” visit can serve as the basis for community action and as a way to document changes in a community over time. Cozad has partnered up with Ogallala in a First Impressions Program. A team from each community visited the other town looking at buildings, infrastructure, businesses, local government, friendliness, customer service, houses, etc. through the eyes of a visitor. Christy is now compiling the comments and evaluations into a report for both towns. The information will be presented to the communities in the coming weeks.

The Cozad Development Corporation, in cooperation with Wilson Library, is hosting Music Mondays every week in June in a downtown block of Cozad. Different live bands will be performing each week, and food trucks and drinks will be available. Every concert is free admission to the public. In preparation for this event, we built a backdrop for the flatbed trailer being used for the stage. We also worked with Paulsen, Inc. to create fencing for the area. We are excited to see how the first concert turns out next week!

 

 

Omaha Land Bank

The first two weeks in Omaha, Neb., at the Omaha Municipal Land Bank have been nothing short of amazing. Between being welcomed in the office to going to the house sites and exploring the city we have been able to really feel like a part of the OMLB team.

The work team at the Omaha Land Bank has a chemistry that makes you feel like you aren’t really even at work. It’s fun and rewarding. I can’t wait to see what the next 8 weeks has in store for us.

KYLE MCGLADE
SERVICESHIP INTERN, OMAHA LAND BANK

 

Sydney and Kyle stand outside their office for the Omaha Municipal Land Bank.

As a group, Sydney and Kyle went on a trip to a home the Land Bank has acquired. With Kurt, Dave, and Laura we were shown the types of property that OMLB takes on and looks for individuals to redevelop. At this property, securing the house and cleaning up the lawn were big priorities. The home had sat vacant for 12 years and will in the next few months be purchased for redevelopment (which needs to happen within nine months) thanks in large part to OMLB having the ability to waive leans and other blockades to developers having interest.

Additionally, Sydney and Kyle went to a transformed property for a final walk through. The home was one of the first to be bought by the bank and subsequently redeveloped. Having seen before and after photos, the property was unrecognizable. The developers redid the floors, landscaping, and cleared out 28 years of junk and waste that had accumulated over time. The property had been in a state of disrepair that was uninhabitable and now has been leased to a new family. It has begun to spur redevelopment in the neighborhood and the adjacent home has begun renovations with smaller projects occurring along the block.

Sydney has been working on the Social Media posts for the 2018 year for OMLB. She has put together many posts on segments like #DidYouKnow about the Omaha Land Bank. She has also got to do a #GetToKnowTheStaff and learn interesting/fun facts about each of the team members. Kyle and I are going to one of our coworkers rock band shows (he’s the drummer) on June 28 because of the #GetToKnowTheStaff project (we’re VERY excited for this). Along with the posts she has had the privilege to find pictures to go along with the posts. Sydney is also currently working on writing a blog post about the RFI interns at the Omaha Land Bank. Sydney’s focus this summer with mostly be in the communications department. She is working along side Laura Heilman.

Coming from a science background, I never knew how much fun the business/marketing world really was (or how much work actually went into it).

SYDNEY ARMBRUSTER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, OMAHA LAND BANK

 

Kyle has been working in the acquisition team with Dave Schreiner, Stephen, and Juan Mancinas-Rangel, the administrative assistant. He has been familiarizing himself with the platforms used by the OMLB (eProperty etc) and has assisted in the legal process of the Land Bank taking on 510 new properties. His duties have ranged from helping make legal documents for publication and the documents we send to individuals whose property we are in the process of acquiring. There has been a steep learning curve in the first week for us to get into the stride of the office culture and flow.

 

 

Norfolk, Neb.

Cheyenne and Samantha are excited to be in Norfolk, Neb., for the summer!

Cheyenne Gerlach and Samantha Guenther are in Norfolk for their RFI serviceship. For the first five weeks, we are working to tell the story of Daycos. Daycos is unique in that they are a for-profit AND for-good business. It is our job to capture what Daycos does, how they do it, and why they do it in hopes of informing and inspiring others to possibly do the same. The overarching goal of our project with Daycos is to come up with a way to re-brand Daycos’ for-good movement, Daycos4Good, as simply intertwined with Daycos as a whole. We will be creating video, web content, and written publications to help portray this message.

For the second five weeks, we are working to promote the retail and service sector of the Norfolk community for the visitors bureau. We will be acting as “secret shoppers” to get an inside scoop on how business owners and employees are welcoming and promoting Norfolk through their business. We will also be doing a “windshield assessment” of businesses in Norfolk to gain a better understanding of how it can be improved. Then, we will be working to help make those improvements to strengthen the retail and service sector.

For our day to day tasks during the past two weeks, something that we have started doing every Tuesday is creating a set of objectives and goals for the week. This means that we created the first set of goals our second day on the ground in Norfolk. These goals are hung in our office and in our homes so that both of us go to bed and wake up thinking about what we all need to get done by Tuesday. This has been a great experience and has really impressed the people that we are working with. We have wasted no time “acclimating” to Norfolk or planning our work. We’ve jumped in feet first, and it has really helped us in the long run.

After my first two weeks in Norfolk it’s easy to see that the success of the community is the success of the people in community. Good things don’t happen in rural places without good people doing good things.

CHEYENNE GERLACH
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NORFOLK, NEB.

 

We’ve spent this week video interviewing close to 30 Daycos stakeholders. This includes about 15 employees, 7 community members, 5 company leaders, and 3 customers. We’re interviewing these individuals on the impact that Daycos has on the Norfolk community. These stories and inspirations leave many interviewees in tears when reflecting on everything that Daycos has done for themselves and for their community. We both wonder how we ended up in a private company that has such a tremendous, world shaking impact on such a large rural community.

Overall during our first two weeks in Norfolk, we have made connections with various community leaders. We have met with many key stakeholders in all industries: public schools, non-profits, government entities, and private partners. Everyone has been very welcoming and excited to have us in town. We are very excited to be working with and in the Norfolk community.

In my future, I want to work in rural community development and RFI has given me an amazing opportunity to gain experience and skills that will directly benefit that.

SAMANTHA GUENTHER
SERVICESHIP INTERN, NORFOLK, NEB.

 

 

 

Red Cloud, Neb.

We are working in Red Cloud with the main project of developing an economic development plan for the community and passing LB840. LB840 is a legislative act that allows cities and villages to collect sales tax revenue for economic development in a variety of forms. Our other tasks include helping facilitate events, working with the heritage tourism project, and nuisance property maintenance.

We both arrived on Sunday night and began working in the office on Monday morning. Our office is located in The National Willa Cather Center. We spent the first day meeting the staff of the Cather Center, toured the office facilities, and toured the historical properties owned by the Center which included the Cather family’s original home and other notable sites. The Heritage Tourism Advisory board met that day as well which we were able to sit in. The Heritage Tourism project is a local/regional rural tourism focus based on history and culture of the region.

Although we have barely scratched the surface of our project here in Red Cloud, I can already feel the work Trenton and I are doing impact the community in a positive way. We are continuing to grow and learn from the people in this community, and by the time we are done this summer I know we will have gained an amazing and unique perspective that will carry us even further in our careers and life.

TREVOR HARLOW
SERVICESHIP INTERN, RED CLOUD, NEB.

On Tuesday we discussed the goals and outcomes of LB840 as well as the processes to get there. Our first step is to develop an economic development plan and form the legal wording which would be used by the city. Then, we would need to engage with the public by holding meetings to inform them of the measure which will eventually be on a ballot. Those are the two steps we hope to achieve this summer. Then, later, the measure will be put to a vote and a board is formed to dictate what the funds will be used for.

Later that day we took the “country tour” of the Cather sites which includes many of the places referenced in Willa Cather’s books (particularly My Antonia and O Pioneers!). This tour spanned most of central Webster County.

Our next meeting took place on Wednesday with the Economic Development Advisory Board in the city’s new Community Center. In that meeting we went over LB840. In the afternoon we toured the town’s newest project, the Garber Hotel. This project has been in the works for a couple of years and is now in the beginning stages of coming to fruition. The Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund is spearheading this project which seeks to renovate an old storefront into a 30-hotel named after the town’s founder and former state governor, Silas Garber.

Trevor and Trenton volunteer at the Starke Round Barn for a Red Cloud Alumni brunch.

Thursday, we had another meeting with the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) board. BRAN is a bike ride that has about 300 riders. The town is hosting many activities for when the bikers come and stay in town on Wednesday,f June 6th. Later, we toured the Starke Round Barn. This barn, built in the early 20th century is the world’s largest round barn that was used for agricultural purposes. It is owned and maintained mostly by one person. Finally, we went through the Webster County Historical Museum.

We were visited by Marty Barnhart from the Omaha Landbank on Friday who discussed the model that they use in Omaha to deal with housing. Red Cloud also has a housing issue and many local citizens showed up for his presentation. The Valley Child Development Center (TVCDC) gave us a tour in the afternoon. This was the latest success for the city which fundraised a significant amount of money to open the center earlier this year. Late in the afternoon we helped a group of volunteers place honorary civil war plaques on the graves of veterans in the Red Cloud cemetery. In the evening we attended the Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund’s annual banquet in the town’s Opera House.

Tuesday and Wednesday we spent scraping paint off of a city-owned house. This was part of a community-wide cleanup event. Wednesday afternoon we interviewed the town grocery store’s owner. He recently purchased the store and moved back to Red Cloud this year. We were also given a tour of the town’s utilities by the city superintendent. Not only did we get to see the city’s four diesel electricity generators, but we even got to peer into a manhole built in the 1920s.

Trenton and Trevor attended the Cather Conference in the Red Cloud Opera House.

Thursday began the 63rd annual Willa Cather conference which we will be helping with/attending until Saturday evening when it concludes.

As a whole, most of the week was spent getting introduced to the town’s assets and stakeholders. For our task, this is a very important step because these people live and breath the problems of the community that we were sent here to help solve. We can already tell that the city has a lot going for it. There are many well organized groups who are trying to improve the town in many ways from tourism to athletics to housing. In the coming weeks we will be seeing a lot of these people and some new faces as we try to pin down the problem(s) that we want to help solve. We can already see a lot of the big issues. But, it is also a matter of understanding the limit of our influence both in direction for the town and financially.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 28 A Personal Decision For Rural With Garry Clark

June 1, 2018
  Jun. 1, 2018 Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is Garry Clark, Executive Director of the Greater Fremont Development Council in Fremont, Neb. to discuss rural-urban collaboration, community investment and rural development in Nebraska and …

 

Jun. 1, 2018

Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is Garry Clark, Executive Director of the Greater Fremont Development Council in Fremont, Neb. to discuss rural-urban collaboration, community investment and rural development in Nebraska and beyond. Clark shares his personal journey and appreciation for rural America and, specifically, Nebraska.

“I believe that rural life saved my life.”

-Garry Clark

 

Clark has a background in economic development and community leadership throughout both rural and urban parts of the state. As a University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate, he has chosen to live in and work on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska. Prior to his work in Nebraska, he started out as a city planner and economic development specialist in Florida and in Washington, D.C.

As a genuine “activator,” Clark helped the Rural Futures Institute start the Connecting Young Nebraskans program, a statewide network of more than 800 members designed to connect, empower and retain young leaders in the rural areas of the state.

The Rural Futures Institute believes that our complex future requires mutual respect and collaboration between rural and urban regions and communities. Clark believes that open communication between urban and rural is key to developing thriving communities across the nation, adding, “In order for urban America to thrive, they need rural America thrive. And the same is true on the opposite side. Rural America needs urban America.”

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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RFI Fellows Panel Discusses Rural Health Care in Livestream

May 29, 2018
 Four fellows from the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska joined the Rural Impact Hub for a panel titled, “Healthy Rural America: A panel with rural health care experts,” on Thurs., May 10, in Auburn, Neb. …

Four fellows from the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska joined the Rural Impact Hub for a panel titled, “Healthy Rural America: A panel with rural health care experts,” on Thurs., May 10, in Auburn, Neb.

The fellows, who highlighted areas of growth and opportunity within the healthcare industry, included:

Kyle Ryan, Ph.D.

Professor of Kinesiology
Peru State College

 

 


Gregory M. Karst, Ph.D., P.T.

Executive Associate Dean
College of Allied Health Professions | UNMC

 


Athena Ramos, Ph.D.

Community Health Program Manager
College of Public Health | UNMC

 

 


Marty Fattig

Chief Executive Officer
Nemaha County Hospital

 

With a wide array of backgrounds all connected by rural health care, the panelists discussed the largest opportunities for growth in rural community healthcare and ways communities can benefit from enhanced access to healthcare and community health resources. They then took questions from participants centered around rural health.

Learn more about RFI Fellows »

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This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week One!

May 25, 2018
Starting May 21, 2018, 11 communities throughout Nebraska welcomed 24 students from University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Peru State College to work on strategic, future-focused projects, serve and live. Throughout the …

RFI Serviceship Group Photo. May 18, 2018. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

Starting May 21, 2018, 11 communities throughout Nebraska welcomed 24 students from University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Peru State College to work on strategic, future-focused projects, serve and live. Throughout the summer, the serviceship teams will share reflections and updates on their projects biweekly through RFI’s “This Week In Serviceship!” coverage.

 

2018 Serviceship!

 

Alliance, Neb.

The concept of our project is to create a Marketing Hometown America video to attract new residents to Box Butte County. We are also creating social media hashtags and providing input on websites that are involved with Box Butte County. We have yet to determine how long the video will be, but as of right now we have brainstormed multiple hashtags for Alliance and have gotten a good idea of who we want to interview in Alliance and Hemingford for the video. We have also looked through the websites and provided suggestions to improve them.

We have had a very busy first week. On Monday, we toured Alliance to get an idea of where everything was and met the people who work in our office. On Tuesday, we toured Hemingford, met many business owners and had a meeting. On Wednesday, we worked on hashtags and video ideas, had a meeting at the Knights Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance and then had an afternoon meeting in our office. We took pictures of the meetings.

Executive Director of the Alliance Chamber Susan Unzicker said, “Mirissa and Haley have given us in the office a new view of the community through our websites and other outside activities.”

Haley and Mirissa pose with Joni Jespersen of Hemingford, Neb., who is part of their host team during their Serviceship in Alliance.

On Thursday, we had a meeting at First National Bank with the branch president and the president of First National Bank from Omaha, Clark Lauritzen. Then, we went to Chadron and had a meeting with the Western Nebraska Development Network. We also discussed the Alliance and Hemingford websites with our lead mentor Chelsie Herian. On Friday, we sat in on a talk with the Alliance Times-Herald and also visited with a storyteller about our project.

Some cool people we have met while we have been here are: Joni Jespersen, Brenda McDonald, Chas Lierk, Ellen Lierk, Chelsie Herian, Susan Unzicker, Nita Peterson, and Jenny Nixon. Joni is with the village of Hemingford and has attended meetings with us. Brenda works with the Panhandle Prevention Coalition. Chas and Ellen are our host family for the first two weeks we are in Alliance. Chelsie is our lead mentor. Susan and Nita both work in our office and Jenny is with Nebraska Extension. They are all very helpful and will be wonderful to work with while doing this project.

A key takeaway we have realized is that we balance each other out really well. Haley is more go with the flow and Mirissa is high strung but we both think a lot alike when it comes to ideas and contributions to the project. We think we are going to be successful!

This experience has made me realize how important leadership is in rural communities, and I hope that Haley and I can represent Box Butte County in the best way possible so people see what a great place it is to live and work.
Mirissa Scholting
Serviceship Intern, Alliance, Neb.

McCook, Neb.

Day one of week one was spent meeting community members and getting a tour of downtown McCook from our project supervisors Carol Schlegel and Ben Dutton. Walking the brick streets that pave the way for the many successful local shops was definitely a highlight to our first day! We will primarily report to Carol, McCook’s Tourism Director, since our primary project is creating an action plan for organizing and remodeling the High Plains Museum. After touring the museum, we both agreed that we have more work to do than we expected. However, we are tackling the challenge ahead with fixed determination and high energy.

Through the Rural Futures Institute Serviceship, I have realized that the ideas and work Emily and I bring to the table have actual value in helping make real, positive change in a rural community. The collaboration between community and service is what makes this project so fun and diverse.

SAGE WILLIAMS
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK, NEB.

There will have differing opinions to work with as we move forward, which means what we learned during our serviceship training about leadership, personality types and strengths will definitely be useful. We look forward to working In collaboration with the museum board to decide on the direction the museum wants to go and who the target audience is in order to move forward.

Emily and Sage visited Carhenge at the Knights Museum in Alliance, Neb., while looking for ideas to improve the High Plains Museum in McCook.

To get a few ideas moving forward, we traveled to the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering, as well as the Knights Museum in Alliance where we also stopped at the famous Carhenge! These were two very high quality museums, and we were able to pull several new and innovative ideas to potentially apply to the High Plains museum. We invested in flip charts to gather our thoughts after our day of asking questions and note taking at other museums. Since then, we have been photographing items in the museum and, as Carol requested, putting together an inventory of the museum’s assets.

After walking through other museums and brainstorming ideas for the High Plains Museum, we have realized how much potential there really is for the local space. The High Plains Museum could become an important landmark to McCook–one that people will travel from miles around to see and can’t leave town without visiting. Beyond creating a main attraction for tourists, our goal is to make the museum a place that locals keep coming back to through seasonal displays and events. The supportive community of McCook has us excited and hopeful as we proceed with these thoughts in mind!

The Rural Futures Institute Serviceship has taught me that Nebraskans have a shared pride for the rural communities they get to call home.
Emily Frenzen
Serviceship Intern, McCook, Neb.

McCook THETA Camps

We have had an amazing first few days here in McCook. As a trio, THETA is continuing to build upon the foundation laid last summer. We have instantly been thrown into action here in the small community of McCook where we have been making several connections as well as increasing the numbers for our camp attendance this summer.

I’ve felt very welcomed by the community of McCook and in the first week I’ve already seen a large variety of special things that makes McCook stand out from the pack.

BRAD SCHOCH
SERVICESHIP INTERN, MCCOOK THETA CAMPS

 

Our first full day in town, Monday, we started off by stopping by the hospital to visit with Sarah Wolford and let her know that we made it and are ready to get to work. We also visited the local YMCA, the new facility for the THETA camp, to continue to build relationships and look over the utilities and room we will have access to this year. We believe that the YMCA will be a great location for us to have another successful camp this year as we have plenty of space and resources at our fingertips.

The THETA trio talked with Rich Barnett of High Plains Radio about RFI and their camps live on the air.

Continuing on to Tuesday, we were notified in the morning that we were to be at the local radio station, High Plains Radio, in 45 minutes to promote the Rural Futures Institute and our THETA camp live on the air. We had a great time at the radio station where we were able to visit with a few locals as well as the radio host, Rich Barnett. We also connected face-to-face with Rhonda Graft who will give us additional volunteer opportunities that we will be participating in this summer. Bike Across Nebraska will be stopping in McCook in early June, giving us a chance to help out the community since an influx of people will be stopping in McCook. This opportunity is great for us and the businesses in McCook.

We proceeded to stay busy on Wednesday as we visited the hospital again for orientation and to continue meeting more of the locals of McCook. It was a great experience to see this hospital and how the staff all works together in order to accomplish a shared goal–quality patient care. Tyan and Collin visited the physical therapist they shadowed last year and will be shadowing again this year, and Brad connected through a phone call with the clinic whose doctors he will shadow.

It has been great to see all the old faces and reconnect with past connections. I’m looking forward to another great summer.
Tyan Boyer
Serviceship Intern, McCook THETA Camps

Neligh, Neb.

We are conducting a market analyses, or regional mapping report, on both Neligh, Neb., and the greater Northeast Nebraska region. The mapping report will highlight demographics, SWOT assessments, current and future economic trends, infrastructure reports, geography, and identify technologies for integration into Neligh’s “Responsive City” movement. This report will be used to shape the projects within Neligh’s strategic planning process.

Rhiannon and Michayla sat in on the Nebraska Main Street conference in Beatrice, Neb.

On Monday we went on a walking tour of the downtown business district where we met countless active members of boards and business owners. That evening we sat in on a meeting with Nebraska Community Foundation and the Neligh Community Foundation. The next project for Neligh is renovating the old movie theater in town to get it functional again.

Michayla volunteering at the Thriftway Market Burger Bash.

On Wednesday, we had the cool opportunity to travel to Beatrice for a Nebraska Main Street conference. There we heard from economic developers, both private and public, about projects that are going on around the state and learned of funding opportunities for projects. While we were there a discussion occurred where the question was posed, “How do we get young people to come back to rural Nebraska?” It was interesting to see how different generations viewed that challenge differently and had vastly different solutions that could work. On Thursday we worked in the office as well as attended a City Council informational meeting about the nursing home in Neligh. There recently has been some controversy around management so the city is considering leasing the building. On Friday we served burgers at the Thriftway Market Burger Bash.

This week, we both had some key takeaways. Rhiannon learned how nice people are in small towns, that assumptions are detrimental to development and that leadership and knowledge go beyond positions. Michayla learned that misconceptions exist across all divides, that good ideas can come from anyone regardless of title and how often and easy it is to “cut and paste” solutions in economic development.

 

Seward, Neb.

We are working with the Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership (SCCDP) under the mentorship of Jonathan Jank. Our primary project is to develop a sustainable Seward County Newcomers program that will engage new permanent residents and many visitors to Seward County each year. We are also teaming up with local businesses to determine how to attract new customers and to take a fresh look at Seward County to determine what first impressions newcomers have of local communities.

We have specifically started to narrow down our goals for the summer. We will be trying to reach out to newcomers and get more information on how we can make Seward County “sticky.” Some of the questions we will ask members of the community include: “What attracted you to move to Seward?” and “How was your experience moving into Seward? What went great? What could have been better?” We will also try to reach out to leaders of surrounding communities such as Milford, Utica, Bee and Cordova. We also know that the lack of housing has been a problem in Seward County. We are trying to find out the necessary information that can help retain newcomers to staying in Seward County in the long term. Conducting surveys or simply setting up meetings with new families and people to the community may solve this.

 

Maddie poses outside of the Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward.

This week, we met with the local Kiwanis Club, who are a generous child advocacy group consisting of about 50 members. We were invited to join them for lunch on Monday and were introduced to the club’s president Jerry Meyer. Jerry, who is also curator of the Nebraska National Guard Museum, was generous enough to give us a personal tour of the museum and talked with us for an hour about the community. We then participated in the Seward County Chamber & Development Program board meeting, sharing insight into the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals that Seward County will need to be setting for community and economic development.

On Tuesday, we prepared a press release, and then we sat down for a long goal setting conversation with our mentor Jonathan. We also met with Sarah Skinner, who works for Senator Deb Fischer, and she informed us of the work Senator Fischer is doing in rural America. We then made phone calls to influential community members to set up a time to meet with–this meeting would entail information gathering, for us to get better clarity as to what Seward County needs to stay “sticky.”

 

On Wednesday, we met with Mallory Gibreal. She is the Director of Community Relations at Memorial Health Care Systems. She recently moved to Seward with her husband this past February. We met with her to get more information about what attracted her to Seward, what was good about her moving experience and what could have been better. She gave us very useful information to help us start to find more newcomers and how to retain newcomers in Seward County.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 27 Rural Opportunities for the Creative Class with Jeanne Wiemer

May 25, 2018
  May 25, 2018 Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is Jeanne Wiemer, owner of Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room in Seward, Neb., to discuss attracting artists and creatives to rural communities through leadership, passion …

 

May 25, 2018

Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is Jeanne Wiemer, owner of Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room in Seward, Neb., to discuss attracting artists and creatives to rural communities through leadership, passion and entrepreneurship.

Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room, located in a renovated historic building on the Historic Downtown Square of Seward, exhibits creative work of Nebraska artists. Red Path’s intention is to cultivate creativity, keep the arts alive and enhance the culture of their rural community.

“Passion will get you where you need to go, but hard work in Nebraska is what we do too.”

-Jeanne Wiemer

 

A few weeks ago, Chuck was joined by University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Architecture lecturer Stacy Spale and one of her students to discuss their studio projects which were focused on using design to attract the creative class in the rural areas of Nebraska and beyond. Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room is a great example of how to make this happen, as Wiemer is a community leader taking strides to attract and retain the creative class in Seward.

Seward is also one of the 11 rural communities hosting RFI Serviceship students this summer. The interns in Seward County will be developing a welcoming and engagement program for new permanent residents and temporary visitors.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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RELEASE: Nebraska Communities Welcome NU Students For Strategic Projects, Service Learning

May 21, 2018
May 21, 2018 — Today 11 Nebraska communities are welcoming 24 students from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha as well as Peru State College to live, work and serve for …

Rural Futures Institute Student Serviceship interns group photo

May 21, 2018 — Today 11 Nebraska communities are welcoming 24 students from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha as well as Peru State College to live, work and serve for 10 weeks this summer.

Communities include: Alliance, Neb., Broken Bow, Neb., Columbus, Neb., Cozad, Neb., McCook, Neb., Neligh, Neb., Norfolk, Neb., Red Cloud, Neb., and Seward, Neb., as well as communities of practice through Black Hills Energy and Omaha Land Bank Authority.

Organized through the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska, RFI Student Serviceship connects current and future leaders and mentors in acts of service and strategic, future-focused projects that work toward a thriving rural future.

“We are proud to match the talents, perspectives and expertise of high-achieving students with the experience, dedication and knowledge of community leaders through this program,” said RFI Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. “Bringing students together with communities, and for several projects with researchers as well, is where we believe innovation can truly happen.

This program is possible thanks to the time and energy invested by the community host team members—thank you to all of our colleagues throughout the state for making this a rich and rewarding experience.”

The students participating in this year’s experience come from hometowns large and small — from Crofton, Neb., town of approximately 800, to Chennai, India, population 7 million. Students’ areas of study include agribusiness, disease and human health, exercise science, hospitality, political science, public administration and more. They also range from freshmen to graduate students, and each student pair was created to intentionally connect complementary skill sets and varying backgrounds and experiences.

In terms of communities and projects, students will problem-solve and create opportunities within the areas of housing, community recruitment, community planning, welcoming, economic development and more. They will participate and lead projects that will include strategic planning, event planning, assessment creation and analysis, visioning and marketing.

This year marks an important milestone in the growth of the program by more than doubling the total number of student and community participants. The reach beyond rural localities to communities of practice through partnership with the Omaha Land Bank Authority and Black Hills Energy is also new this year. Both of these partners aim to serve the entire state of Nebraska through their work this summer.

“I have interned in Washington, D.C., the past two summers, and I wanted to be in the field working with the people I am supporting in D.C.,” said Rhiannon Cobb, Omaha, Neb., native and sophomore political science and global studies major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “RFI provides such an amazing opportunity to not only work in making Nebraska a better state, but allows the development of rural Nebraska.

“Rural communities are the backbone of the U.S., specifically when looking at the economy. It is important to not only work towards supporting the economic development of rural communities but to work with them to gain the knowledge and equipment we need to have the most economic success and productivity possible.”

Community project details and student bios are available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/2018serviceship.

Host Communities, Lead Mentors & Students

Alliance, Neb.
Lead Mentor: Chelsie Herian, Executive Director, Box Butte Development Corporation

Haley Ehrke
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agribusiness
Hometown: Orleans, Neb.

Mirissa Scholting
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural Education
Hometown: Louisville, Neb.

Black Hills Energy
Lead Mentor: Melissa Garcia, Program Manager, Black Hills Energy; RFI Community Innovation Fellow

Emily Coffey
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Political Science
Hometown: Lincoln, Neb.

Broken Bow
Lead Mentor: Andrew Ambriz, Executive Director, Custer County’s Economic Development Corporation

Leanne Gamet
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Communication
Hometown: Paxton, Neb.

Jessica Weeder
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agribusiness
Hometown: Albion, Neb.

Columbus
Lead Mentor: K.C. Belitz, President, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce

Clayton Keller
University of Nebraska at Omaha, Public Administration
Hometown: Millersport, Ohio

Amber Ross
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agribusiness
Hometown: Callaway, Neb.

Cozad
Lead Mentor: Jennifer McKeone, Executive Director, Cozad Development Corporation

Christy Cooper
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural Education
Hometown: Waverly, Neb.

Shelby Utech
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural Economics
Hometown: Hubbard, Neb.

McCook (2 project teams)
Lead Mentor: Nate Bickford, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Tyan Boyer
University of Nebraska at Kearney, Exercise Science
Hometown: Plainview, Neb.

Collin Fleecs
University of Nebraska at Kearney, Exercise Science
Hometown: Sutherland, Neb.

Bradley Schoch
University of Nebraska at Kearney, Exercise Science
Hometown: Marquette, Neb.

Lead Mentor: Carol Schlegel, Director, McCook / Red Willow County Tourism

Emily Frenzen
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Communication
Hometown: Fullerton, Neb.

Sage Williams
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural Education
Hometown: Eddyville, Neb.

Neligh
Lead Mentor: Gabriel Steinmeyer, Director of Economic Development, City of Neligh

Michayla Goedeken
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Integrated Sciences
Hometown: Humphrey, Neb.

Rhiannon Cobb
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Political Science & Global Studies
Hometown: Omaha, Neb.

Norfolk
Lead Mentor: Tammy Day, co-owner, Daycos, Inc.

Cheyenne Gerlach
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Integrated Sciences
Hometown: DeWitt, Neb.

Samantha Guenther
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Agricultural Education
Hometown: Crofton, Neb.

Omaha Land Bank Authority
Lead Mentor: Marty Barnhart, Executive Director, Omaha Municipal Land Bank

Sydney Armbruster
Peru State College, Disease & Human Health
Hometown: Falls City, Neb.

Kyle McGlade
University of Nebraska at Omaha, Public Administration
Hometown: Council Bluffs, Iowa

Red Cloud, Neb.
Lead Mentor: Jarrod McCartney, Heritage Tourism Development Director

Trenton Buhr
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Political Science, Psychology & Classics
Hometown: Cortland, Neb.

Trevor Harlow
University of Nebraska at Omaha, Political Science & Environmental Studies
Hometown: Waterloo, Neb.

Seward
Lead Mentor: Jonathan Jank, President & CEO, Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership

Raghav Kidambi
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Human Resource Management
Hometown: Chennai, India

Maddie Miller
University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Hospitality, Restaurant & Tourism Management
Hometown: Waverly, Neb.

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About the Rural Futures Institute
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the NU system on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska, the U.S. and around the world. Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, RFI encourages bold and futuristic approaches to address rural issues and opportunities. It works collaboratively with education, business, community, non-profit, government and foundation partners to empower rural communities and their leaders.
ruralfutures.nebraska.edu

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 26 RFI Serviceship Builds Communities and Future Leaders with UNL, UNK Students

May 18, 2018
  May 18, 2018 Chuck sat down with Tyan Boyer and Raghav Kidambi, two 2018 RFI Student Serviceship interns who will be living, working and serving in rural Nebraska communities this summer. Tyan, from Plainview, Neb., is studying exercise science …

 

May 18, 2018

Chuck sat down with Tyan Boyer and Raghav Kidambi, two 2018 RFI Student Serviceship interns who will be living, working and serving in rural Nebraska communities this summer.

Tyan, from Plainview, Neb., is studying exercise science at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He will be part of the first serviceship team to return to a community for a second year to further their project as his serviceship team continues youth day camps focused on health and wellness in McCook, Neb.

“If we start to formulate these families and start to shape them with this futuristic mindset of how important health is … we can really start to change family by family, community by community and eventually grow this across the state.”

-Tyan Boyer

 

Raghav, a human resource management student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, will spend 10 weeks in Seward, Neb., where he will be developing a welcoming and engagement program for new permanent residents and temporary visitors. Coming from Chennai, India, an urban city with a population of 4.647 million, he chose to pursue RFI’s Student Serviceship experience in rural Nebraska to experience a new culture and expand his worldview.

“I want to be that catalyst that can make things happen.”

-Raghav Kidambi

 

In total, 24 students from the University of Nebraska and Peru State College will be serving 11 rural Nebraska communities this summer. Get student bios and project details at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/2018Serviceship.

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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NU Interior Design Students Create Projects To Attract Creative Class Throughout Rural Nebraska

May 10, 2018
UNL Architecture students focused their studio projects on rural communities across Nebraska, including: Plattsmouth, Ord, Valentine, Cozad, Memphis, Firth, Brownville, Hickman, Filley, Stapleton, Ogallala, Holdrege, Franklin, Kimball, Brule, Gibbon, Pender and Johnson Lake. Chuck Schroeder, Founding Executive Director of the …

UNL Architecture students focused their studio projects on rural communities across Nebraska, including: Plattsmouth, Ord, Valentine, Cozad, Memphis, Firth, Brownville, Hickman, Filley, Stapleton, Ogallala, Holdrege, Franklin, Kimball, Brule, Gibbon, Pender and Johnson Lake.

Chuck Schroeder, Founding Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI), helped 26 College of Architecture students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with their spring 2018 studio projects aimed at rural places.

Each student developed an interior design proposal focused on investing in a rural community and using interior design to attract the creative class in the rural areas of Nebraska and beyond. The students, led by Interior Design Lecturer Stacy Spale, examined rural Nebraska communities and typologies, as well as underutilized spaces across the state.

With Chuck’s help, the students researched opportunities for interior design in rural communities across Nebraska. The students were then challenged to investigate the creative class and discover what relationships and opportunities between this demographic and rural areas. Through problem-based exploration, students positioned the interior built environment with informed inquiry and answered the question of how designers can reactivate abandoned, rural space typologies to either generate or attract the creative class. Several of their projects are featured below.

 

The Ogallala Collective

Amanda VanBuren | Ogallala, Neb.

Studio 446

Madeline Payne | Plattsmouth, Neb.

District 160

Taylor Johnson | Firth, Neb.

The Beyond

Megan Jespersen | Memphis, Neb.

Kreativ Hub

Mackenzie Klein | Cozad, Neb.

Experiential Ed

Megan Warbalow | I-80, Neb.

Creator’s Campus

Savannah Scoville | Pender, Neb.

“As we prepare our students to become 21st century leaders who can solve complex problems between people and space, we decided to take a different teaching approach.”

-Stacy Spale

 

Spale and Mackenzie Klein, one of the students involved with studio, joined Chuck for an episode of Catch Up With Chuck to discuss the opportunities for design to invest in a community, attract specific demographics and revitalize rural areas.

If you would like to see your community’s project and it is not featured, please contact ruralfutures@nebraska.edu.

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NEWS RELEASE: Fellows Elected to Great Plains Board of Governors

May 8, 2018
LINCOLN, Neb. — May 8, 2018 — Two fellows from the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska have been elected as members of the Board of Governors for The Center for Great Plains Studies. The fellows, who will serve …

LINCOLN, Neb. — May 8, 2018 — Two fellows from the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska have been elected as members of the Board of Governors for The Center for Great Plains Studies.

The fellows, who will serve three-year terms beginning Sept. 2018, include:

Bree Dority, Ph.D.

Associate Dean, College of Business
University of Nebraska at Kearney

 


Kim Wilson

Professor, Landscape Architecture
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

The Board of Governors provides advice to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Director of the Center for the operation, program priorities, and budgetary matters of the Center for Great Plains Studies. The Board represents all four University of Nebraska campuses, covers a wide range of academic disciplines, and has four standing committees: Academic, Administrative, Nominating and Museum and Outreach.

Dority and Wilson will be joining RFI Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker, J.D., who has been on the Board of Governors since 2016.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 25 Attracting the Rural Creative Class with UNL Interior Design Students and Faculty

May 4, 2018
  May 4, 2018 In this episode of Catch Up With Chuck, Stacy Spale, lecturer of interior design in the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and one of her students, Kenzie Klein, join Chuck to discuss a …

 

May 4, 2018

In this episode of Catch Up With Chuck, Stacy Spale, lecturer of interior design in the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and one of her students, Kenzie Klein, join Chuck to discuss a fascinating interior design project aimed at rural places.

Chuck helped Spale’s class with their studio projects which were focused on investing in a rural community and using design to attract the creative class in the rural areas of Nebraska and beyond. Her students examined rural Nebraska communities and created projects to develop underutilized spaces to promote creativity.

“I didn’t want the students relying on stereotypes or what they think they know about rural Nebraska, so we wanted them to create an informed point of view with their research groups.”

-Stacy Spale

 

RFI believes diverse and inclusive leadership is needed to propel communities forward, and this course was a great example of that. Spale’s class was made up of 26 diverse students from both urban and rural communities in Nebraska and beyond. Klein, a rural Nebraska native from Cozad, noted that the diversity of the students in the course brought a range of backgrounds, viewpoints and approaches to the project.

“I’d love to incorporate, after this project, that rural development side of interior design. It’s really sparked a lot of my interest.”

-Kenzie Klein

 

The Rural Future Institute’s goal is to achieve a “Thriving High-Touch, High-Tech Future for Nebraska and the Great Plains by 2040.” This goal requires creative thinking around the unique assets of a community and encouraging future-focused leaders to have the courage to act on their ideas. Spale’s class and their rural opportunities projects are great examples of using creativity to solve rural challenges in Nebraska and beyond.

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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NEWS RELEASE: Rural Impact Hub to Host RFI Fellows Panel 5/10 in Auburn, Online

May 3, 2018
LINCOLN, Neb. — May 3, 2018 — Four fellows from the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska will join the Rural Impact Hub for a panel titled, “Healthy Rural America: A panel with rural healthcare experts,” on …

LINCOLN, Neb. — May 3, 2018 — Four fellows from the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska will join the Rural Impact Hub for a panel titled, “Healthy Rural America: A panel with rural healthcare experts,” on Thurs., May 10, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (CST) at the Rural Impact Hub at 919 Central Avenue in Auburn, Neb. This event is free to the public thanks to the Rural Impact Hub partners. Live streaming of the event will be available. RSVP is encouraged on Facebook or Eventbrite.

The fellows, who will highlight areas of growth and opportunity within the healthcare industry, include:

Marty Fattig

Chief Executive Officer
Nemaha County Hospital

 

 


Gregory M. Karst, Ph.D., P.T.

Executive Associate Dean
College of Allied Health Professions | UNMC

 


Athena Ramos, Ph.D.

Community Health Program Manager
College of Public Health | UNMC

 

 


Kyle Ryan, Ph.D.

Professor of Kinesiology
Peru State College

 

Panelists will discuss the largest opportunities for growth in rural community healthcare and ways communities can benefit from enhanced access to healthcare and community health resources. They will also take questions from participants centered around rural health.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 24 Entrepreneurial Opportunity-Building for Rural Nebraskans with Bill Udell

April 27, 2018
  Apr. 27, 2018 In this episode, Chuck is joined by Bill Udell of Don’t Panic Labs, a software engineering and corporate innovation company based in Nebraska that focuses on solving problems — accelerating businesses and working through challenges. Born and …

 

Apr. 27, 2018

In this episode, Chuck is joined by Bill Udell of Don’t Panic Labs, a software engineering and corporate innovation company based in Nebraska that focuses on solving problems — accelerating businesses and working through challenges.

Born and raised in Burwell, Neb., Udell values what small towns can produce as both his grandfather and father were entrepreneurs. With his experience in a thriving rural community, he developed civic pride and continues to carry it with him today.

Udell is a rural Nebraska native who is shattering the myth that young entrepreneurs need to flee to the coasts in order to find opportunity in the high tech revolution. He has been a key player in building Don’t Panic Labs, a software development and corporate innovation company based in Lincoln, as well as helping to launch other start up enterprises.

Don’t Panic Labs grew out of the engineering arm of Nebraska Global, a software investment fund founded on the idea that “when nerds and money meet, amazing things can happen.” Udell shares in Nebraska Global’s mission to establish a globally competitive, vibrant and impactful high-tech environment creating sustainable long-term economic development in Nebraska.

 

“It’s about more than just building companies. It’s about building Nebraska.”

-Bill Udell

 

The Rural Future Institute’s goal is to achieve a “Thriving High-Touch, High-Tech Future for Nebraska and the Great Plains by 2040.” Udell describes the intersections of high-touch and high-tech as “collisions” that lead to the greatest successes and bring about “aha” moments.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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RFI project develops conceptual white paper on youth leadership

April 25, 2018
   Read White Paper   According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States is poised to experience one of the largest transfers of leadership in its history, as evidenced by employed individuals aged 45 and over …

 

Read White Paper

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States is poised to experience one of the largest transfers of leadership in its history, as evidenced by employed individuals aged 45 and over holding approximately 56 percent of all management occupations. To address this leadership transfer, two researchers funded by the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) have written a white paper presenting a theory of positive youth leadership identity.

The Rural Civic Action Project (RCAP), a program created from two RFI-funded research and teaching projects, has resulted in increased confidence of rural youth in their community leadership capacity and a white paper conceptualizing a theory of positive youth leadership.

During the teaching project, which created a senior-level course in which University of Nebraska undergraduate student fellows facilitate a service learning project with middle school and high school rural youth in rural communities, 105 undergraduate fellows at UNL and UNK engaged with over 450 middle and high school students to complete 36 youth civic engagement projects at multiple school locations in 26 Nebraska communities. Evidence suggests that the middle and high school students who participated in the RCAP program are more confident in their capacity to engage in community work in the future.

The research component expands the reach and research capacity of RCAP by developing a psychometrically sound measure of youth leadership and examining its relationship to community outcomes, such as retention, civic engagement, entrepreneurial activity and community attachment. Data from 836 youth have been collected and are currently being analyzed to help create a psychometrically sound measure of positive youth leadership identity.

From these RFI-funded projects, L.J. McElravy, Ph.D., and Lindsay J. Hastings, Ph.D., wrote a conceptual paper to build a theory and measure around positive youth leadership identity, which they define as “the dynamic relational influence process that promotes positive attitudes and/or behaviors in others and/or collective group action.”

In the paper, they propose that positive youth leadership identity and its four factors (motivation to lead, positive task affect in groups, social influence capital and human relations capital) provide further conceptualization around self-management in youth leaders.

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KEYNOTE: The Future of the Rural-Urban Opportunity

April 23, 2018
  When it comes to the future, there are many plausible outcomes. Our choices and our willingness to explore collaborations play a major role in the future we will experience.   In her keynote address at the Omaha World-Herald Awards …

Dr. Reimers-Hild keynotes Nebraska Press Association

 

When it comes to the future, there are many plausible outcomes.

Our choices and our willingness to explore collaborations play a major role in the future we will experience.

 

In her keynote address at the Omaha World-Herald Awards Banquet during the Nebraska Press Association annual conference, RFI Associate Executive Director and Chief Futurist Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., shared personal stories of delivering the newspaper in West Point, Neb., every Wednesday at age 9, bold methodologies around strategic foresight and the state of exponential change we are currently experiencing as an intertwined and combined society.

 

Slide: Many plausible futuresThe future is not a straight line, but rather paths of many plausible outcomes.

 

In her discussion, Remiers-Hild stated that strategic foresight or, “futuring,” is now considered a core leadership competency, according to Boris Groysberg in his 2014 Harvard Business Review article, “The Seven Skills You Need to Thrive in the C-Suite.”

From the article: “Strategic foresight”— the ability to think strategically, often on a global basis—was also frequently cited. One consultant stressed the ability to “set the strategic direction” for the organization; another equated strategic thinking with “integrative leadership.”  Others emphasized that strategic thinking also calls for the ability to execute a vision, which one respondent called “operating savvy” and another defined as “a high standard in execution.” One consultant pointed out that strategic thinking is a relatively new requirement for many functional C-level executives, and another noted that the surge in attention to strategic thinking occurred in the decade 2000-2010.

With a room full of community leaders, media publishers, managers and editors Reimers-Hild emphasized this competency and encouraged thoughtfulness around what key areas of technology advancement could truly position Nebraska for the future.

 

Slide: Data never sleeps

 

  • Data never sleeps
  • Amazon is doing 44 percent of all e-commerce in the U.S.
  • Jill Watson, an AI-powered graduate assistant chatbot is answering questions with 97 percent accuracy

 

She also called for mobilization around using some of the key developments occurring for developing countries in our own isolated, rural areas, noting that health care access in particular is an area of critical need of attention at the state, regional and national levels.

 

Slide: rural hospital closures

 

Moving into the work of the Rural Futures Institute, Reimers-Hild highlighted our recent visits:

In her closing Reimers-Hild asked a simple question: What future do we want to create … together?

We welcome your feedback to this question via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!

We offer our sincere congratulations to all of the award winners at this important state-wide event, including Charlyne Berens, emeritus professor and associate dean of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, who was awarded the highest honor of Master Editor-Publisher.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 23 High-Touch Entrepreneurship with Engler Entrepreneur Brooke Lehman

April 20, 2018
  Apr. 20, 2018 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program senior, Brooke Lehman joins us for today’s recorded episode of Catch Up With Chuck. Brooke’s business, Dwell Dinner & Co. provides long-table dinner gatherings that take place within a …

 

Apr. 20, 2018

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program senior, Brooke Lehman joins us for today’s recorded episode of Catch Up With Chuck. Brooke’s business, Dwell Dinner & Co. provides long-table dinner gatherings that take place within a dwelling. Dwell Dinner & Co. was conceptualized by connecting her passions and talents for healthy cooking, photography, and bringing people together in a really meaningful way.

Lehman is passionate about connecting people and giving them a place to share their stories. Her Dwell Dinners are a community event where people can share their passions with those they have never met through a once-a-month dinner that takes place at Lehman’s home is a compilation of recipes, ideas, quotes, photos and other forms of inspiration Lehman has selected.

Dwell Dinner & Co. recently earned Lehman runner up at a pitch competition hosted by the Nebraska College of Business. Dwell Dinner & Co. caught the attention of the judges of the New Enterprise Competition because of her ability to tell its story and the differentiating factors of the entrepreneurial venture.

“More than ever, companies are needing to cultivate a culture that is connected.”

-Brooke Lehman

 

The Rural Future Institute’s goal is to achieve a “Thriving High-Touch, High-Tech Future for Nebraska and the Great Plains by 2040.” Lehman is a great example of being committed to creating positive change on the high-touch side of the future and our society.

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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RFI Discusses Rural-Urban Collaboration At Tufts, Harvard

April 18, 2018
Article By: Katelyn Ideus, Director of Communications & Public Relations, Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska  RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder and Associate Executive Director Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., present “The Future of Rural,” at Tufts University. …

Article By: Katelyn Ideus, Director of Communications & Public Relations, Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska

RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder and Associate Executive Director Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., present “The Future of Rural,” at Tufts University.

 

We believe that our complex future requires mutual respect and collaboration between rural and urban regions and communities.

 

The Rural Futures Institute recently traveled to Boston, Mass., to present, “The Future of Rural,” and visit with several faculty and students of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University as well as the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.

 

Visits With Students

The students we met are working at the graduate level in the areas of food policy, environmental studies, agricultural studies and nutrition. They hailed from Hawaii, California, New York, Illinois, Puerto Rico, and, yes, Nebraska — Omaha to be exact.

With backgrounds and experiences in both rural and urban areas around the world, we gained tremendous energy from their interest in the intersection of agriculture with diversity, inclusion and public health. We explored areas of challenge for migrant workers as well as the recruitment of young people to rural communities. One young woman who intends to move to rural Hawaii shared her uncertainty about what her occupation would be that would best contribute to her community while also providing for her family.

It was with these deep conversations of translational need that we brought forward the work of several RFI-funded research and teaching projects, collaborative projects between the University of Nebraska and rural communities throughout our state. Two in particular resonated with the students:

Many more projects have contributed important movement and context in the areas of community development, education, health care and more, showcasing Nebraska’s rural communities as models for the rest of the world.

“While our intent was to answer their questions and learn, the outcome of these conversations is a demand for immediate action,” said Chuck Schroeder, RFI Founding Executive Director. “These students are high-level, high-energy, motivated and passionate. In this regard, they are so similar to those we interact with here in Nebraska—young people who are driven to build their understanding of others’ experiences.

“We will be hosting an online student-to-student interaction between NU students and Tufts students before they depart for the summer, and we are exploring formal exchanges ongoing.”

 

Visits With Faculty Researchers

Our entire visit was orchestrated by Tim Griffin, Ph.D., Chair of the Division of Agriculture, Food and Environment. He brought forward several of his colleagues including:

 

The unique structure of our Institute across all four campuses of the University of Nebraska, our reach, the scope of our work as well as our social entrepreneurship framework were all of interest to the faculty members. They were also straightforward in their request to interact with agricultural and rural community leaders in action. Access to RFI’s network of successful leaders in this space would be useful as they look to make their policy work increasingly translational and soften the divisive rhetoric that continues to permeate our national narrative.

“We are all intrigued by the idea that the interests and opportunities in urban and rural areas are somewhat different, but they’re not totally different,” Griffin said. “There is overlap there. People who live in different environments have the same interests for themselves and their families and their businesses. With RFI we are looking for opportunities to have a larger conversation about how we can guide our work in a way that is collaborative and beneficial to all of us.”

Tim Griffin, Ph.D., and Tufts graduate student Kelly Kundratic joined Chuck for an episode of Catch Up With Chuck.

 

The Future of Rural

In his portion of the presentation, “The Future of Rural,” Schroeder shared the history and context of our Institute, describing our belief statements and emphasizing the need for future-focused leadership and creativity.

“[Creativity] is not just about business development,” he said. “It’s not just about technology, but creativity combines science and technology, and business management professions, art, design, entertainment. And in a small community, that has to happen. That’s where the energy comes from—when we cross those sectors, it’s where creativity happens.”

Reimers-Hild defined strategic foresight for the group as a discipline, a science for planning for the future, but she also factored in mindset.

“We now know that mindset is incredibly important to achieve outcomes,” she said. “We have to believe things are possible. Just like many of the communities Chuck mentioned. If they believe their future is going to be one of opportunity and growth, then that’s what’s gonna happen. But if they believe it’s going to be desolate, that also will happen. They have to choose, they have to make those choices, and we want to help them with that.”

The Rural Futures Institute has many choices ahead for its future. During the last four years, we have learned a great deal about many areas of critical need for rural communities in our state and as far as Japan. We understand that with our current resources, we must become incredibly focused on what role we can carry forward in a deeply meaningful way to the University, our state and the world.

Our mindset is one of abundance, purpose and passion. With this mindset and the relationships and trust we have built with colleagues, we are preparing a reintroduction of our Institute in the near future for students like Tessa Salzman of Tufts, who was kind enough to answer our two focus questions of 2018 — Why Rural? Why Now?

“To me, rural represents existing and future potential,” she said. “As an urban planner specializing in food systems, I see how we can learn from mistakes of existing urbanized areas and re-think how we develop space and community. Rural agricultural communities in particular have the opportunity to grow into sustainable communities with conscious design and intentional foresight.

Rural brings balance to our rapidly urbanizing world in so many ways: providing food production, community and additional life experiences and perspectives in contrast to our densely populated cities. Rural in some places offers a less complex landscape, inspiring creativity and innovation in diverse ways.”

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NEWS RELEASE: RFI Fellows Present at Community Entrepreneurship Conference in Hastings, Neb.

April 13, 2018
  LINCOLN, Neb. — April 13, 2018 — Four Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Fellows, Don Macke, Kim Wilson, Catherine Lang and Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, presented at Nebraska Extension’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Conference. The conference, held on Apr. 4 and 5, 2018, in …

 

LINCOLN, Neb. — April 13, 2018 — Four Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Fellows, Don Macke, Kim Wilson, Catherine Lang and Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, presented at Nebraska Extension’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Conference.

The conference, held on Apr. 4 and 5, 2018, in Hastings, Neb., brought communities together to share ideas, programs and resources to empower and assist entrepreneurs to grow communities in Nebraska and beyond through a collection of sessions presented by a highly diverse group of community development leaders from around the state.

“Growing businesses is critical to the future of Nebraska,” said Don Macke, program leader of the Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Initiative.

Macke, an RFI Community Innovation Fellow, hosted a session titled, “Growing Nebraska Businesses – A Nebraska Approach.” In this session, community leaders learned about a new model that is being launched in Nebraska as a collaborative effort between the Nebraska Business Development Centers and Nebraska Extension. The effort utilizes U.S. SourceLink to create systematic change in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, while providing complimentary educational programming that leads to an increase in entrepreneurial opportunities and sustainable business enterprises.

University of Nebraska College of Architecture professor and RFI Faculty Fellow Kim Wilson presented a session titled, “Enhancing Quality of Life Through Placemaking.” Participants in this session learned how to strengthen long-term vitality and foster place attachment in rural communities. They were then asked to apply this new knowledge during a walk through of the Hastings downtown during the session.

RFI Community Innovation Fellow Catherine Lang, J.D., state director of the Nebraska Business Development Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, joined three other community development leaders to present the Thursday opening session keynote titled, “Introducing the Nebraska Entrepreneurship Initiative.” Attendees learned about solutions to business development resource challenges for entrepreneurs, rural communities and service providers.

Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Specialist and RFI Faculty Fellow, Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, Ph.D., was one of two Extension educators to present the session titled, “Building on Your Community Strengths: Community Vitality Initiative Resources.” In this session, community development leaders and resource providers learned about the variety of programs and resources available statewide to assist communities in designing their future.

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RFI-funded projects earn $490k USDA grant for high-tech youth entrepreneurship clinics

April 13, 2018
 University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty strategically connected three projects initially funded by the Rural Futures Institute to create “Rural Youth High-Tech Entrepreneurship Clinics,” a program that has earned $493,560 in funding from the United States Department of Agricultural National Institute …

University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty strategically connected three projects initially funded by the Rural Futures Institute to create “Rural Youth High-Tech Entrepreneurship Clinics,” a program that has earned $493,560 in funding from the United States Department of Agricultural National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The program, which will implement clinics in six rural Nebraska communities over the next five years, works to empower rural youth to create opportunities and solutions through entrepreneurship and technology.

“I believe that everyone deserves a fair chance—a fair opportunity,” says Surin Kim, assistant professor in entrepreneurship and program director. “That’s what I like about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship can be a way for people to create their own opportunities.

“In this program, students and local businesses in rural communities will benefit from access and training in growth-oriented business strategies as well as technology experience in coding, artificial intelligence and wearable technology.”

The program differentiates itself from other youth entrepreneurship programs combining:

  • Technology
  • Cognitive and social emotional skills development
  • Research around youth connection to community
  • Systems thinking

Through this construct, researchers believe they can impact the overall well-being of the youth as well as the businesses the students work with and the broader community.

Kim, former senior product manager at Amazon, brought forward the the technology-based entrepreneurial framework from her RFI project Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs and Transforming Local Business Owners. In this project youth participants create and implement solutions for real-world local business challenges. Through the USDA grant, the current clinic model will expand to more actively integrate a growth-oriented mindset for students and provide more hands-on experience with developing technologies.

“It’s really cool to see what entrepreneurs have to go through and all of the hardships, and how they make mistakes and learn from them, so they know what to do in the future,” says Hannah, a current youth participant from Dunning, Neb.

Maria Rosario T. de Guzman, associate professor in youth development, serves as principal investigator of the RFI project Developing A Model for Quality of Life, which brings the youth development research element to the expanded program. Her research focuses on positive development in youth and will explore how to inspire youth connection to community.

Through the RFI project Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future, Ashu Guru, assistant professor of biological systems engineering, incorporates a framework for nurturing systems thinking in youth to help them learn how to solve complex, interconnected problems.

Claire Nicholas, Assistant professor of Textiles, Merchandising, and Fashion Design, will conduct research together to examine socio-economic development by the project in the rural communities.

“We are proud of how the communities already involved in these projects have inspired faculty to create a new, well-rounded approach to youth entrepreneurship and retention,” says Chuck Schroeder, Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute. “This expanded program is already receiving national attention, demonstrating once again how Nebraska and the University of Nebraska continue to serve as a model for the country in rural development.”

Criteria to select communities is initially focused on three communities that have increased net migration and three with decreasing net migration as the research element is to understand rural youth perspective of the future using high-tech entrepreneurship and then their intention to stay or return. Communities that would like to participate should visit go.unl.edu/high-tech-clinics for information.

Due to increasing demand, faculty will begin creating a train-the-trainer model within the next year once the curriculum is created and tested.

“The youth are the ones who are going to create the future in rural communities, and it is our role to create these educational opportunities,” says Kim. “The University of Nebraska really needs to continue thinking about the challenges communities face and creating strategies for current and future residents to create the life they want and the economic opportunities they desire in their rural communities.”

 

Additional Media:

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KEYNOTE: Preparing Students for an Unimagined Future

April 13, 2018
  RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder keynoted the 2018 College Access Symposium hosted by EducationQuest on April 12 in Lincoln, Neb. The event provided strategies and best practices designed to increase the number of students who pursue education beyond …

Schroeder presents to large crowd at EducationQuest conference

 

RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder keynoted the 2018 College Access Symposium hosted by EducationQuest on April 12 in Lincoln, Neb.

The event provided strategies and best practices designed to increase the number of students who pursue education beyond high school. Attendees included high school, middle school, agency and college professionals.

In addressing the gathering of more than 200 attendees Schroeder started by asking:

“What future do we want to create?”

The answer, he said, lies in developing future-focused, hopeful leaders for generations to come.

Calling upon the RFI belief statements, Schroeder highlighted the importance of creativity and inclusion as we seek a thriving combined future.

  • People have the capacity to shape their own futures.
  • Communities are not just localities, but also networked groups of individuals working together toward a common goal and shared purpose.
  • Leaders are known by their vision, ideas, energy, passion and engagement in collective action.
  • Entrepreneurs are individuals and communities that combine strategic foresight and grit to take action to reach their desired futures.
  • Diverse and inclusive leadership is needed to propel communities forward.
  • Our complex future requires mutual respect and collaboration between rural and urban regions and communities.

 

He focused his discussion of creativity on the work of Richard Florida, American urban studies theorist focusing on social and economic theory. Florida can be found on Twitter at @Richard_Florida.

Access Richard Florida’s 2014 publication, “The Creative Class and Economic Development via Sage Journals »

 

Creativity Connects slide

 

“We must create leaders who contribute to a community of creative talent to create the world they want in our unimagined future,” Schroeder said.

One example he provided was the work of Sha Xin Wei from Arizona State University, which demonstrates how seemingly disparate disciplines can be integrated in order to create societal solutions that are sustainable against shifting human and world conditions.

 

Sha Xin Wei

 

Stay in touch, and Catch Up With Chuck every Thursday at 11:15 a.m. on Facebook!

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 22 Crossing Cultural Divides To Create Community with Gladys Godinez of Lexington

April 13, 2018
  Apr. 13, 2018 In this episode, Chuck is joined by Gladys Godinez, a community leader in rural Lexington, Neb., to discuss the work of a committed leadership team in her community to build a welcoming and inclusive space for …

 

Apr. 13, 2018

In this episode, Chuck is joined by Gladys Godinez, a community leader in rural Lexington, Neb., to discuss the work of a committed leadership team in her community to build a welcoming and inclusive space for health, education and a thriving rural future.

Through HealthVoiceVision, a 2016 RFI-funded project, researchers, community participants and students address an important gap in our understanding of local health by providing data at sub-county, community-specific levels with their work in Lexington, Neb., a community with one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the state.

The creation of a cost-effective and accurate means for uncovering health inequalities in rapidly changing, ethnically diverse small communities in the Midwest will lead the way to more accurate health interventions within these communities. Godinez hopes to open a free clinic in Lexington to serve limited income individuals in the rural community.

Godinez was one of the community participants in HealthVisionVoice. She was drawn back to Lexington after seeing how she could help in welcoming, accepting and encouraging its diverse community.

“I think Lexington has so much to offer. We have a little world within Nebraska.”

-Gladys Godinez

 

One of the Rural Futures Institute‘s core beliefs is that people have the capacity to determine their own future. The past is not necessarily prologue when people of character are willing to make choices that will change the course of their community, and eventually the world. Godinez is a living example of this belief.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 21 Connecting Rural and Urban for the Good of Humankind at Tufts University

April 6, 2018
  Apr. 6, 2018 In this episode, Chuck is joined by Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy associate professor Timothy Griffin, Ph.D., and graduate student Kelly Kundratic. They went live from Boston, Mass., at Tufts University.  …

 

Apr. 6, 2018

In this episode, Chuck is joined by Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy associate professor Timothy Griffin, Ph.D., and graduate student Kelly Kundratic. They went live from Boston, Mass., at Tufts University. 

Before becoming a professor at Tufts University, Dr. Griffin graduated with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from the University of Nebraska. He has a very important point of view on urban and rural issues because of history in both. Kundratic, who grew up in rural Maryland, shared after our recording that she served as a State FFA Officer. She will graduate with her master’s degree in May with a focus in public policy and sustainable agriculture.

“Looking for opportunities to have that larger conversation about what do we want in terms of a linkage between rural and urban is something that, having lived in a rural areas for a good part of my life and now living in an urban area, I don’t necessarily see as two totally different things.”

-Timothy Griffin, Ph.D.

 

Chuck talked with them about their perspectives of rural and urban collaboration of the future as well as how the Rural Futures Institute and Tufts University will create opportunities for students and research. RFI looks forward to the collaboration between the two.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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NOW ON DEMAND: Microsoft GM, “Let’s Connect The World To Change The World!”

April 6, 2018
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska hosted Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft for a public presentation entitled, “Let’s Connect The World To Change The World,” Mar. 28. Connectivity and overall access …

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska hosted Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft for a public presentation entitled, “Let’s Connect The World To Change The World,” Mar. 28.

Connectivity and overall access to technology are critical areas of need for rural economic development, health care access, education and more. As Microsoft works to build a better future, Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Microsoft’s Technology and Corporate Responsibility Group, shared how the company is connecting people, so everyone has access to the opportunities that technology provides. She expanded on the use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, to create environmental sustainability, connect 1 billion people around the world with disabilities and prepare the workforce of the future.

VistaBeam CEO Matt Larsen from Scottsbluff, Neb., welcomed attendees to the presentation. Larsen, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate, launched Vistabeam in 2004 to provide broadband access into unserved and underserved areas in Western Nebraska. Vistabeam serves some of the most rural and sparsely populated parts of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming with wireless and fiber broadband connectivity.

Following the presentation, there was a question and answer session for guests to engage with Shelley and Matt about rural broadband in Nebraska and beyond.

Beyond this public presentation, RFI also introduced Shelley to University of Nebraska students and faculty as well as several Nebraska community leaders for relationship building, information sharing and strategic foresight conversations. Check out photos from Shelley’s visit on Facebook!

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 20 Creating The Future For Rural with Microsoft GM Shelley McKinley

March 30, 2018
  Mar. 30, 2018 In this episode, Chuck is joined by Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. The Rural Futures Institute hosted McKinley Wednesday, Mar. 28, through Friday, Mar. 30, to share ideas on rural connectivity, accessibility …

 

Mar. 30, 2018

In this episode, Chuck is joined by Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. The Rural Futures Institute hosted McKinley Wednesday, Mar. 28, through Friday, Mar. 30, to share ideas on rural connectivity, accessibility and sustainability.

Microsoft has placed special importance on rural area connectivity as well as artificial intelligence for inclusion. It is currently partnering with telecommunications companies through its Rural Airband Initiative to bring broadband connectivity to 2 million people in rural America by 2022, hoping to serve as a catalyst to help eliminate the rural broadband gap for the 23.4 million Americans living in rural communities who lack access to the economic, educational and health opportunities the internet provides.

The Rural Futures Institute’s big hairy audacious goal is a thriving high-touch, high-tech future for rural Nebraska and the Great Plains by 2040. As Microsoft works to build a better future, McKinley shared how her company is connecting people within and beyond rural areas, so everyone has access to the opportunities that technology provides. She believes it is important to move forward with technology without leaving people behind.

“The future is a multi-stakeholder discussion. There’s no one company or one person or one institution or one community that can do it alone.”

-Shelley McKinley

 

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. McKinley believes it is important to visit communities and go into the field to better understand the people they serve.

Perhaps one of the best parts of McKinley’s visit to Nebraska was the opportunity to meet and engage with University of Nebraska students. “You have an amazing group of creative, innovative, motivated, passionate students here, and I frankly have no concerns about their ability to be successful,” she said. She believes it is important to invest in youth and help the leaders of the future.

The Rural Futures Institute believes in people’s capacity to shape their own futures, as well as the dependence on collaboration and respect for the development of our complex future. McKinley agrees that the future requires an exchange of ideas and shared learning. She is excited about this new relationship between Microsoft and the Rural Futures Institute and looks forward to a continued collaboration between the two.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 19 Developing Student Potential with RFI Fellow Reshell Ray

March 22, 2018
  Mar. 22, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Community Innovation Fellow Reshell Ray, who serves as the Associate Director of Student Involvement on East Campus at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In this role, Ray bridges the …

 

Mar. 22, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Community Innovation Fellow Reshell Ray, who serves as the Associate Director of Student Involvement on East Campus at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

In this role, Ray bridges the gap between the academic and co-curricular experiences for students. She has a heart for people, especially those who are considered to be at risk, and she works to help individuals develop their full potential building on their strength and talents.

Prior to this role, Ray served as a consulting associate with the Heartland Center for Leadership Development where she worked with grassroots community organizations in the areas of strategic planning, capacity building, leadership and racial reconciliation. Most recently, she collaborated with the Center for Civic Engagement, Engler Entrepreneurial program and Nebraska Human Resources Institute to develop what is now RFI Student Serviceship.

“Collaboration is so vital because none of us can resolve things in a bubble. So, being able to create that connection between urban and rural is really important and very critical as we continue to move forward.”

-Reshell Ray

 

The Rural Futures Institute believes that diverse and inclusive leadership is needed to propel rural communities forward. Ray agrees that diversity and respect is necessary in leadership and participation to develop a community.

Ray agrees with the Rural Futures Institute’s belief that our complex future requires mutual respect and collaboration between rural and urban regions and communities. Ray believes that the success of Nebraska is dependent on collaboration between urban and rural. She believes it is important to recognize the connections and interdependence between urban and rural communities to resolve issues and move forward collectively.

“I can honestly say there is no place like Nebraska,” said Ray. She values the relationships she has built with students on a one-on-one basis while developing their individual potential at the University of Nebraska.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Graphic Design, Project Management Summer Internships at RFI!

March 18, 2018
  The Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska is seeking TWO stellar University of Nebraska students to be part of our bold voice for rural. Apply April 8, 2018!   Join us in an engaged working environment that …

 

The Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska is seeking TWO stellar University of Nebraska students to be part of our bold voice for rural.

Apply April 8, 2018!

 

Join us in an engaged working environment that will expand your leadership and professional skills as well as your comfort zone and network. All details and application instructions available via the links below!

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 18 Rural Economic Development with Neb. DED Director David Rippe

March 15, 2018
  Mar. 15, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is David Rippe, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. He is passionate about Nebraska’s economic vitality in all parts of the state. Leadership …

 

Mar. 15, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is David Rippe, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. He is passionate about Nebraska’s economic vitality in all parts of the state.

Leadership is important to Rippe, and he believes that communities require strong leadership to move forward and shape their future. His vision for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is to work with the University and its partners, including the Rural Futures Institute, to develop the next generation of leaders that will help rural Nebraska and beyond to thrive.

Thriving and successful communities require investment, initiative and leadership to position themselves as a best choice for worthwhile living. Rippe believes that all components of a community must work together and come together in the spirit of collaboration toward the end goal.

“The communities that will be successful will be the ones that take the investment, the initiative and the leadership to position themselves as communities of choice.”

-David Rippe

 

The Rural Futures Institute believes that one of the characteristics of a successful community is a hopeful vision backed by grit. Rippe also believes that communities in Nebraska and beyond need to have leadership and grit to take control of shaping their own futures.

The mission of the Rural Futures Institute is to “harness the intellectual energy of the University of Nebraska and its partners to positively impact the future of humankind.” Rippe agrees that collaboration among the government, University and private business is crucial to Nebraska’s rural dimension and the state’s success.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Students of RFI | Amber Ross

March 14, 2018
Article by: Amber Ross, sophomore agribusiness major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln   Ross speaking during the student panel portion of the 2015 Rural Futures Institute International Conference My Experiences In 2015, as senior at Callaway High School, in Callaway, …

Article by: Amber Ross, sophomore agribusiness major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

 

Ross speaking during the student panel portion of the 2015 Rural Futures Institute International Conference

My Experiences

During one event, I was able to spend some time with the future of West Point. (Pictured L-R: Ross, Silva, Severin)

In 2015, as senior at Callaway High School, in Callaway, Neb., I did not really know what I wanted to do with myself after graduation or where I was going to head after college. I had been working with a leadership team on the development of Custer County and was asked to share my experience at the Rural Futures Institute’s Annual Conference. Hearing all the stories of development, growth, retention, and the social impact from the other people on the panel changed my outlook on the rural communities around Nebraska.

In 2017, I had the chance to really immerse myself in a new community and understand what all those people had been talking about. As an RFI Student Serviceship intern I was able to live, work and play in West Point, Neb., for the summer. I learned about the community’s hidden gems, passion for development and hope for the future. Working in West Point helped me realize my passion for developing rural communities in Nebraska.

Since completing my serviceship experience, I have started looking for ways to reach out to communities and change the narrative surrounding “rural,” which I have been able to accomplish as a student intern in the RFI office. I have been helping research and plan various events and interviews. Working in the office has helped me expand my network with people from across the nation that are also interested in rural and everything that surrounds it. This will come in handy as I pursue a career in community development post-graduation. As the summer approaches, I look forward to completing a second serviceship experience, this time in Columbus, Neb., where I will work on a number of high-priority projects with the Chamber of Commerce.

“I can tell you that I would not be the person I am, or be on the path I am, without RFI. RFI gives me hope for the future of rural communities across the state, the nation, and the world. RFI means HOPE.”

 

My Definition of RFI

My experience with RFI can be summarized in three words:

  • Connections
  • Service
  • Innovation

The connections that RFI has made for people around the state are invaluable. The network that RFI has established is far reaching, on both the national and international levels. They work with people from Australia, Japan, Washington D.C., and Washington state, just to name a few.

The service that RFI has provided to students, like myself, and to communities is unparalleled. RFI has inspired students to learn more about rural communities and has empowered Nebraska’s communities to grow and advance. There is no way that I could have served communities the way I have without RFI.

Finally, RFI is encouraging people to think about “rural” in a totally new way. RFI is using podcasts, Facebook Live posts and Instagram posts to show people what rural really is and how important rural communities are. They are reaching out to forward-thinking leaders to help start the conversation.

What RFI Means

I can tell you that I would not be the person I am, or be on the path I am, without RFI. RFI gives me hope for the future of rural communities across the state, the nation and the world. RFI means HOPE.

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Microsoft GM to Discuss Tech for Rural Connectivity, Accessibility, Sustainability 3/28 at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Online

March 14, 2018
“Technology can be a powerful tool in helping create change and improve people’s lives,” Shelley McKinley, Microsoft Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft, will discuss this fundamental belief and its application for the future on …

Let's Connect To Change The World

“Technology can be a powerful tool in helping create change and improve people’s lives,” Shelley McKinley, Microsoft

Shelley McKinley, Microsoft GM

Shelley McKinley, Microsoft

Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft, will discuss this fundamental belief and its application for the future on Mar. 28, 3 – 4 p.m. (CST), at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management. Her presentation entitled, “Let’s Connect The World To Change The World,” is hosted by the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska. It is free, and students, faculty, staff and the public are encouraged to attend in the Kauffman Academic Center, Great Hall.

Connectivity and overall access to technology are critical areas of need for rural economic development, health care access, education and more. As Microsoft works to build a better future, McKinley will share how her company is connecting people within and beyond rural areas, so everyone has access to the opportunities that technology provides. She will deep dive into the use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, to create environmental sustainability, connect 1 billion people around the world with disabilities and prepare the workforce of the future.

“The Rural Futures Institute continues to connect rural communities and our University community to bring our conversations to the leading-edge of possibility,” said Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI Associate Executive Director and Chief Futurist. “Exponential changes in technology require evolution in leadership, strategy and mindset. The way we view the world shapes what we see and what we think is possible. Increasing our awareness about the use of current and future technologies with companies like Microsoft will help us create new possibilities for rural communities.”

McKinley assumed her role as GM for Technology and Corporate Responsibility in September 2017. Throughout her 10-year career at Microsoft, she has served as Associate General Counsel, based in Amsterdam, where she led all corporate, external and legal affairs work for the company’s European subsidiaries. She has also been responsible for the legal work for Microsoft’s hardware products, manufacturing and supply chain, as well as the Xbox games publishing business and Microsoft Learning.

Microsoft has recently placed special importance on rural broadband throughout the U.S. It is currently partnering with telecommunications companies through its Rural Airband Initiative to bring broadband connectivity to 2 million people in rural America by 2022, hoping to serve as a catalyst to help eliminate the rural broadband gap for the 23.4 million Americans living in rural communities who lack access to the economic, educational and health opportunities the internet provides.

VistaBeam CEO Matt Larsen from Scottsbluff, Neb., will welcome attendees to the presentation. Larsen, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate, launched Vistabeam in 2004 to provide broadband access into unserved and underserved areas in Western Nebraska. Vistabeam serves some of the most rural and sparsely populated parts of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming with wireless and fiber broadband connectivity.

“Companies like mine have been working for years with minimal outside support to deliver broadband to rural communities,” Larsen said. “We are very excited to have Microsoft getting involved in this space and their Airband initiative, digital skills training and technology licensing of TV white space technology will move the needle toward far better broadband services in rural areas.”

Event details and live stream at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/events.

Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/746729432167515/.

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About the Microsoft Technology and Corporate Responsibility Group
The Microsoft technology and corporate responsibility group delivers on Microsoft’s mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more by driving the digital transformation and readiness of high impact organizations including universities, cities and political campaigns, and through leadership and innovation of technology in the high impact areas of human rights, accessibility, environmental sustainability and broadband access.
microsoft.com/en-us/about/corporate-responsibility

About the Rural Futures Institute
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the NU system on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska, the U.S. and around the world. Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, RFI encourages bold and futuristic approaches to address rural issues and opportunities. It works collaboratively with education, business, community, non-profit, government and foundation partners to empower rural communities and their leaders.
ruralfutures.nebraska.edu

About Vistabeam
Vistabeam has deployed fiber and wireless broadband systems covering approximately 40,000 square miles across Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska. Vistabeam was named WISPA Operator of the Year for 2010. Vistabeam CEO, Matt Larsen, is one of the founders of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association. He also serves on the Broadband Infrastructure Technology Advisory Group and has been a speaker at WISPCON, ISPCON, EC-Expo, FCC Wireless Broadband Access Task Force, The Broadband Expo, WISPAPALOOZA, WISPAMERICA and the Tom Osborne Leadership Conference.
vistabeam.com

Media Contact
Katelyn Ideus
Director of Communications
Rural Futures Institute
C: (402) 695-5886
E: kideus@nebraska.edu

Media are welcome to attend the 3/28 presentation, and media availability will immediately follow. There is also media availability 3/29, 9 – 10 a.m. (CST). Contact Katelyn Ideus to schedule.

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University of Nebraska Leaders Discuss Rural Strategies, Opportunities

March 12, 2018
 Video features: Charles Bicak, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs; B.J. Reed, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Dele Davies, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Senior Vice …

Video features: Charles Bicak, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs; B.J. Reed, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Dele Davies, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Michael Boehm, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Vice Chancellor for Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Through the Rural Futures Institute and other initiatives, the University of Nebraska works to create a thriving rural future for the state. This means providing access to education that encourages leadership and entrepreneurial development and focusing on recruitment and retention efforts by creating economic development opportunities, health care access, technology connectivity and more.

University of Nebraska academic leaders from each of the four campuses spoke with RFI Fellows last fall. This video shares some clips of what they had to say.

Check out a listing of several resources and programs for rural communities from the University of Nebraska at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/why/.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 17 Creating Rural Opportunities with NU Student Shelby Riggs

March 9, 2018
  Mar. 8, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is University of Nebraska student Shelby Riggs from Mitchell, South Dakota. She is involved with the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and is a RFI Student Serviceship alum. Riggs decided …

 

Mar. 8, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is University of Nebraska student Shelby Riggs from Mitchell, South Dakota. She is involved with the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and is a RFI Student Serviceship alum.

Riggs decided to go out-of-state to further her education after seeing the personalization of programs at the University of NebraskaLincoln. She was also drawn to Nebraska because of the indoor arena at the Animal Science Complex on campus and the many activities offered. She sees extracurricular activities as areas in which a student can supplement his or her education and put it to use.

Because she is interested in serving rural communities and seeing rural opportunities, Riggs was drawn to the RFI Student Serviceship program. Her serviceship was focused on helping with a community marketing project in York, Nebraska, and preparing for an LB840 election.

The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program has allowed Riggs to create her own “Engler experience” with a family business management class, the innovation studio, Engler rallies and networking opportunities.

 

“If we are able to capture the essence of our rural communities—what makes us special, why do we stay here—and then share it with other people. “

-Shelby Riggs

 

Riggs believes in the importance of rural areas, and she hopes to return to a rural community to build her career after she graduates. She is passionate about using agri-tourism, ecotourism and other rural-based adventures as economic development tools for rural areas. RFI believes in people’s capacity to shape their own futures.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 16 Education Leadership for the Future with UNL CASNR Dean Tiffany Heng-Moss

March 7, 2018
  Mar. 1, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is Tiffany Heng-Moss, Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Utilizing a collection of critical thinkers and …

 

Mar. 1, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is Tiffany Heng-Moss, Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Utilizing a collection of critical thinkers and individuals who think outside the box to make important decisions is important to Heng-Moss. She believes in challenging students to look through transdisciplinary lenses to better respond to grand challenges related to food, energy, water and landscape systems.

“It’s going to be a collection of critical thinkers and those individuals that look outside of the box and think creatively to solve these different types of solutions. And, I can’t think of a better place for us to start that than in our college classrooms.”

-Tiffany Heng-Moss, Ph.D.

 

Heng-Moss believes that students need a global perspective on the world to be successful in both rural and urban communities. Solving grand challenges in Nebraska and beyond is dependent on utilizing a community of global learners and thinkers.

In order to best serve a holistic student, Heng-Moss believes service learning is a critical component in innovative higher education. As seen in RFI Student Serviceship, Heng-Moss believes in intentionally infusing service learning into higher education to develop holistic students while they serve Nebraska’s communities.

RFI’s mission is to harness the intellectual energy of the University of Nebraska and its partners to positively impact the future of humankind. Central to that impact is preparing the next generation of business and civic leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and health care professionals who can be successful in a very different and largely unpredictable future and world. Heng-Moss is one of many administrators at the University of Nebraska working toward this goal for the betterment of Nebraska and beyond.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 15 Building a Thriving Rural Community with Harry Knobbe

February 23, 2018
  Feb. 22, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is rural entrepreneur Harry Knobbe. He is dedicated to the success of his rural community in West Point, Neb. and believes in investing in the …

 

Feb. 22, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is rural entrepreneur Harry Knobbe. He is dedicated to the success of his rural community in West Point, Neb. and believes in investing in the future of its leadership and community development.

Knobbe has dedicated more than 50 years to the cattle-feeding industry. A few years after moving onto his farm in 1960, he started Knobbe Commodities, a successful business that now includes six commodities brokers. He believes in the importance of investing in the future of rural leadership and entrepreneurship to help a community thrive.

His participation and leadership, however, extends further than the cattle-feeding industry. His volunteer spirit also can be found in many areas of community involvement. Knobbe is involved in numerous organizations, ranging from agriculture-related groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to community economic development groups like Partners in Progress.

 

“What you’re doing here is going to help a lot of communities… but, at the same time, it doesn’t happen overnight.”

-Harry Knobbe

 

Knobbe shares RFI’s belief in people’s capacity to shape their own futures. He agrees that a thriving rural community is a hopeful vision backed by grit, and his hope has always persisted in the face of adversity or challenges.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Announcement: Proposed RFI Budget Reduction

February 13, 2018
  FROM | Chuck Schroeder, RFI Founding Executive Director & Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI Associate Executive Director & Chief Futurist   As many of our colleagues, advocates, supporters and friends continue to inquire into the recently proposed deep budget cut to our Institute, …

 

FROM | Chuck Schroeder, RFI Founding Executive Director & Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI Associate Executive Director & Chief Futurist

 

As many of our colleagues, advocates, supporters and friends continue to inquire into the recently proposed deep budget cut to our Institute, here are a few details of our thought process to this point.

The University of Nebraska (NU) has faced and is currently facing significant reductions in state funding.

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) absorbed a $500 thousand budget cut in November, contributing to the initial NU budget reduction of $30 million. At that time we discontinued the RFI Competitive Awards program, which has funded 50 research and teaching projects to this point. These projects have led to numerous ongoing and expanding partnerships, programs and events across our state, the four NU campuses and beyond. RFI has also been on a hiring freeze since November 2016 and was reduced by one full-time position last fall.

The now proposed additional $1 million reduction of our remaining budget will have a tremendous effect on our reach, impact and staff positions. We want to emphasize here that this reduction is proposed, not imminent; however, we must be responsible and prepare accordingly.

  • To our 26 RFI Student Serviceship interns and 11 communities planning on an experience this summer, our goal is to still offer the training session May 14 – May 18, 2018, as well as guidance and support to you through the end of this fiscal year, which is June 30, 2018.
  • The inaugural class of RFI Fellows will remain in place through June 30, 2018, as planned, but we will not be pursuing a second class until our budget is explicitly defined.

If you know us at all, you know we are full of bold ideas. We are full of energy. We are full of hopeful grit.

And we know that thriving rural communities are critical to our state, to our country and to the world. We find ourselves—like many communities, leaders and entrepreneurs—at a crossroads. We are at a moment in time when we can choose how to approach our desired future and work strategically toward it.

We are focused on a future with measurable impact for communities of place and practice as well as a sustainable business model for our Institute, so we can thrive along with our partners. We will share details of our evolution as appropriate throughout the coming months.

If you are so inclined, you may share your support for RFI with your Nebraska state senator and via your social media channels. You may also give to RFI via the University of Nebraska Foundation.

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 13 The Future of Rural Leadership with Matthew and Joseph Brugger

February 9, 2018
  Feb. 8, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck are Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program students Matthew and Joseph Brugger who are passionate about their rural hometown of Albion, Nebraska. They plan to bring their commitment, mentorship and …

 

Feb. 8, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck are Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program students Matthew and Joseph Brugger who are passionate about their rural hometown of Albion, Nebraska. They plan to bring their commitment, mentorship and business back to their rural community after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Coming from a farming background in a small rural community, Matthew and Joseph developed a responsible work ethic very early on in their childhood. They specifically noted their mother’s mindful practices that taught them the value of being present and living in the moment.

Albion’s education system empowered the brothers to reach their full potential by giving them space and tools to learn, lead and be creative and innovative. The support from their community led them to see the opportunities in the world to build their future in the way that they wanted, and it ultimately influenced their decision to want to go back to the community after they graduate. RFI believes that people have the capacity to shape their own futures.

“Engler puts the tools in our toolbox to be able to control our own destiny.”

-Joseph Brugger

 

The transition from their hometown of Albion to the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln made sense for Matthew and Joseph. RFI believes that entrepreneurs are individuals and communities that combine strategic foresight and grit to take action to reach their desired futures. Their business, Upstream Farms and Enterprises, is a fourth generation farm that provides integrated solutions for producers and healthy food options for families, while building rural communities.

The brothers believe that economic development and community development in rural communities are complexly linked. Through building their business, they have become a “backbone”  to inspire the next generation of rural leaders in their community. They believe that empowering youth to take ownership of their future allows them to find their home in their community to which they will want to return.

 

“If you want to be successful as a rural community, you have to be able to pass on the torch to the younger generation, believe in them, and take a risk in them.”

-Matthew Brugger

 

Matthew and Joseph believe that it is important for young people to know that they can make an impact in their community and a difference in the world. They also shared how older generations can empower the youth in their community to develop their future. They believe that youth empowerment in this way will lead to more and more young people wanting to return to their rural communities.

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 12 Diversity in Rural Communities with RFI Fellow Athena Ramos, Ph.D.

February 2, 2018
  Feb. 1, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Faculty Fellow Athena Ramos, Ph.D. of the UNMC College of Public Health Center for Reducing Health Disparities, whose work focuses on health and wellness …

 

Feb. 1, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Faculty Fellow Athena Ramos, Ph.D. of the UNMC College of Public Health Center for Reducing Health Disparities, whose work focuses on health and wellness factors of immigrant populations, often in rural settings, but not exclusively.

Ramos served as the principle investigator on two RFI-funded research projects in 2016 and 2017. The first project, “Understanding Hispanics and Sense of Community”, was conducted in two Nebraska counties to better understand the assets and challenges associated with being Hispanic in rural Nebraska. This project explored immigrants’ sense of community, life satisfaction and types of participation in community life.

The second project, “Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities”, used appreciative inquiry to interview community leaders about creating welcoming communities and worked with partners to develop powerful narratives, provide access to resources and disseminate best practices.

Between 2010 and 2015, there was tremendous growth of the Latino population in the United States. Nebraska alone gained 18,863 new Hispanic residents in that timeframe. Both projects focus on how to better integrate and engage these immigrant newcomers in community life.

Bringing people together despite their differences is important to Ramos. She believes in the power of community and the importance of engaging community partners in her research. The “Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities” research project has partnered with Heartland Workers Center, Comite Latino de Schuyler, Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Nebraska Power District. RFI also believes that communities are not just localities, but also networked groups of individuals working together toward a common goal and shared purpose.

Disseminating the findings of her research in creative and effective ways is also important to Ramos. Besides writing a journal paper, her team also wrote a community report and one page fact sheets in both English and Spanish. She believes in helping the community understand the project and its results, as well as with being transparent and sharing data with her partners from the research projects.

 

“The end goal for me and most researchers who are involved at the University is we want our research to be meaningful, to be relevant, and to be useful … I really believe that I can make a difference, so that is what I really try to do.”

-Athena Ramos, Ph.D.

 

Ramos was chosen as an RFI Faculty Fellow because of her understanding of the relationships between the University and the community. She knows how the University can resonate and should create impact with rural communities throughout the state.

***

Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 11 Building Hope in Native Communities with Judi Gaiashkibos

January 26, 2018
  Jan. 25, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is the Executive Director of the Nebraskan Commission on Indian Affairs, Judi Gaiashkibos, who is a leader on Native issues. She is an enrolled member …

 

Jan. 25, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is the Executive Director of the Nebraskan Commission on Indian Affairs, Judi Gaiashkibos, who is a leader on Native issues. She is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, and she serves as a board member of the Nebraska Rural Development Commission.

Leadership is important to Gaiashkibos, who descends from a legacy of leaders, including Ponca Chief Smoke Maker. RFI believes that leaders are known by their vision, ideas, energy, passion and engagement in collective action, and Gaiashkibos is no exception.

Since 1995, Gaiaishkibos has been providing a voice for her people through the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. The commission’s motto is: “to join representatives of all Indians in Nebraska to do all things which it may determine to enhance the case of Indian Rights and to develop solutions to the problems common to all Nebraska Indians.”

Gaiashkibos discussed the history of the native people of Nebraska and emphasized the importance of forward-thinking leadership, diversified economies and pride of place. She told the stories of successful leaders who helped build community, economic diversity and representation for Native people.

Recently the commission worked with members of the state government to leave a footprint of Native presence on Centennial Mall in Lincoln, Neb. through a statue honoring Ponca Chief Standing Bear. Chief Standing Bear protested the federal government’s eviction of the Ponca Tribe from their northeastern Nebraska land, and he later returned to Nebraska to bury his son. The resulting landmark court case established that a Native American is a “person” under the law.

Working with other state and federal government agencies and federal and state elected officials is an important aspect of the commission, and Gaiashkibos values this collaboration.

“Wherever possible, what I try to do is bring the voice of the First People in a proud, good way that can benefit the whole state.”

-Judi Gaiashkibos

 

Sharing stories of Native history is important to Gaiashkibos, who believes in developing leaders in her community, giving her people a voice, and advocating on their behalf for the betterment of all people in Nebraska and beyond.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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Catch Up With Chuck Episode 10 Entrepreneurship in the Rural Future with RFI Fellow Robert Stowell

January 18, 2018
  Jan. 18, 2018 Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Community Innovation Fellow Robert Stowell, J.D., founding member of Stowell & Geweke, PC, LLO. Since opening his law practice in Ord, Neb., in …

 

Jan. 18, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Community Innovation Fellow Robert Stowell, J.D., founding member of Stowell & Geweke, PC, LLO. Since opening his law practice in Ord, Neb., in 1972, Stowell has been a driving force in entrepreneurship, community engagement and economic development in Ord.

Rural communities are important to Stowell. He grew up in a thriving rural area in Valley County, Neb. After leaving when he was 17 years old, he and his wife decided to move back and raise their children in a rural environment.

Stowell shares RFI’s belief in people’s capacity to shape their own futures. He agrees that community development in rural places depends on the people rather than the location, demographics or history. Over time, Stowell decided that a widespread investment in the leadership capacity of area residents would be key to the long term vitality of not only Ord, but Valley County as well.

Community development is not a simple task, and Stowell has the needed grit to accomplish great things in rural communities. One of RFI’s core values is hopeful grit, and we value courageous determination and passionate confidence.

“It takes some grit and a little thick skin, but if we just keep our eye on the ball, if we just keep our eye on the goal, it is worth it.”

-Robert Stowell, J.D.

 

In order for the future of rural America to thrive, Stowell believes it is important for the older generations to create opportunities and develop leadership skills in the younger people in rural areas.

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Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.

 

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RFI Founding Executive Director To Retire June 2018

December 21, 2017
RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder announced his plans to retire in June 2018 as well as some of the plans for the Institute via today’s Catch Up With Chuck, our weekly Facebook video series.

RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder announced his plans to retire in June 2018 as well as some of the plans for the Institute via today’s Catch Up With Chuck, our weekly Facebook video series.

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RFI Project Update: Building Capacity for the Family Health and Wellness Coalition

December 21, 2017
Social, environmental and behavioral determinants of health account for 60 percent of a person’s health status. Consequently, community development can influence health and a healthy community has a significant economic impact. Faculty from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University …

Social, environmental and behavioral determinants of health account for 60 percent of a person’s health status. Consequently, community development can influence health and a healthy community has a significant economic impact.

Faculty from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Kansas are honored to work on this RFI-funded project that is focused on building the capacity of the Family Health and Wellness Coalition of Nebraska’s Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties.

With RFI funding, the group of local leaders have the time and space to engage with experts around coalition building that can give them the next level of strategic planning, implementation and evaluation of their efforts to improve community health.

“It’s this type of empowerment that pays itself forward for years to come,” says UNK Professor and RFI Fellow Todd Bartee

More RFI-funded project details >>> 🤓

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NEWS RELEASE: RFI Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker Presents at International Workshop

December 19, 2017
LINCOLN, Neb. — December 19, 2017 — Rural Futures Institute Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker recently presented as an invited scholar at the Legal Reforms for Indigenous Economic Growth workshop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The workshop, held on Oct. 20 and 21, 2017, …

LINCOLN, Neb. — December 19, 2017 — Rural Futures Institute Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker recently presented as an invited scholar at the Legal Reforms for Indigenous Economic Growth workshop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The workshop, held on Oct. 20 and 21, 2017, at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law, brought together scholars to explore the challenges and solutions facing indigenous economic growth internationally.

The international and interdisciplinary workshop fostered discussions through six sessions focused on a range of important topics associated with legal reforms for indigenous economic growth. The legal reform issues discussed during these sessions included land tenure, private sector economies, poverty, business, autonomy and private property rights.

In addition to engaging in a series of discussions around the theme of indigenous economic growth, Shoemaker presented her ongoing research project in a presentation entitled, “Transformational Property: Consistency versus Flexibility in American Indian Land Tenure.”

In her presentation, Shoemaker analyzed the important relationships between law and economic and community development outcomes in American Indian reservations in the United States. She also explored possible legal and other strategies for more holistic and community-driven land tenure reforms going forward.

There are many unique property rules that apply exclusively in American Indian reservations, and many experts agree that these rules often create obstacles to economic development and are at least one important factor in persistent poverty on many reservations. However, these legal systems have proven hard to change for complex reasons. Shoemaker’s work is aimed at helping build a more robust legal and social framework for further local efforts to create meaningful system change.

“My hope is that further careful legal reforms could help improve social welfare outcomes in reservation communities and simultaneously support tribal government’s land-based sovereignty and governance capacity,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker’s presentation was one of twelve by internationally invited scholars from the United States, Australia and Canada. By bringing international voices into the conversation, the workshop offered collaboration and comparative thinking for its participants.

According to Shoemaker, this interdisciplinary and international workshop fostered the creation of genuine connections of substance. She looks forward to working on more projects with her new connections from the workshop, including a project that will focus on creating beneficial cooperation and building partnerships between rural communities and reservation communities.

Learn more about Professor Shoemaker’s work at https://law.unl.edu/jessica-shoemaker/.

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RFI Project Update: Assessment of and Treatment Applied to Food Addiction

December 18, 2017
“That’s what I love about the RFI Nexus—is that it sees how we can all be stronger together.” — Martha Stricker, Executive Director of Operations, Regional West Physicians Clinic   This is a collaborative research project between Regional West Physicians …

“That’s what I love about the RFI Nexus—is that it sees how we can all be stronger together.” — Martha Stricker, Executive Director of Operations, Regional West Physicians Clinic
 
This is a collaborative research project between Regional West Physicians Clinic in Scottsbluff, Neb., and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The primary objective is to evaluate the efficacy of four interventions in obese patients with and without food addiction to develop effective, better-targeted interventions to help obese residents in rural communities successfully self-manage their obesity to enable them to live healthier lives and reduce the high cost of treating the comorbidities associated with obesity.
 
Find out more about RFI’s 50 research and teaching projects >>>
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RFI Project Update: Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs, Transforming Local Business Owners

December 13, 2017
 We’re keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive today as we highlight the 2017 RFI-funded research and engagement project, “Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs, Transforming Local Business Owners.” Led by Nebraska Extension specialist Surin Kim, the project brings together private partners, local businesses and …

We’re keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive today as we highlight the 2017 RFI-funded research and engagement project, “Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs, Transforming Local Business Owners.”

Led by Nebraska Extension specialist Surin Kim, the project brings together private partners, local businesses and area youth to create a research-based entrepreneurship curriculum focused on developing growth-oriented mindsets and business strategies.

Kim, whose background includes time in product development at Amazon, is determined to empower youth by having them partner with local business owners to solve real-world challenges.

We can’t wait to see what solutions the students create.

More information about all 50 of RFI’s funded research and teaching projects >>>

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NEWS RELEASE: RFI-Funded Research Project Receives International and National Attention

December 12, 2017
LINCOLN, Neb. — December 12, 2017 — Marketing Hometown America, a funded research project from the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, is receiving national and international attention.  Led by RFI Faculty Fellow Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, the project is designed …

LINCOLN, Neb. — December 12, 2017 — Marketing Hometown America, a funded research project from the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, is receiving national and international attention. 

Led by RFI Faculty Fellow Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, the project is designed to help rural communities market themselves to improve new resident recruitment as well as retention. After the program’s pilot across three Great Plains states, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, the research group used Ripple Effects Mapping to evaluate both the intended and unintended community outcomes in each location.

Burkhart-Kriesel recently co-authored an article about the project in the second volume of the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute Program Evaluation Series titled “A Field Guide to Ripple Effects Mapping.” The article discusses the importance of evaluation when planning and implementing community development projects.

“Coming together as a community to evaluate the effort is a way to share the broader story and to see how all the pieces came together,” Burkhart-Kriesel said when discussing the importance of evaluation processes.

The research team from North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska were also invited to Sioux City, Iowa, this fall to share the Marketing Hometown America program with Extension faculty from Iowa State University. After the six-hour training session, two pilot communities in western Iowa were identified with the intent to offer the program statewide.

Burkhart-Kriesel also recently presented a paper at the North Atlantic Forum in Bø, Telemark in Norway. The North Atlantic Forum was originally formed as a way to bring rural coastal communities in the north Atlantic together to share issues, opportunities and resources. Presenters and participants came from Canada, the British Isles, Scandinavia, the countries surrounding the North Sea, Central Europe, Central America and Asia.

“It might appear that the North American Great Plains would have little in common with this region, but just the opposite is true. Issues such as rural migration and depopulation, identifying processes that help communities develop a vision and development plan, finding ways to build diverse economies and strengthening youth and young adult connections are themes in rural areas all over the world,” Burkhart-Kriesel said.

During her presentation titled “Rural New Resident Recruitment: A Critical First Step Toward Sustainability,” she focused on the importance of attracting new residents to rural communities despite a decline in North American Great Plains population. The theme of the forum focused on the many ways rural communities can help sustain and strengthen their natural resource base as a necessary strategy to better position themselves for the future.


Highlights from the presentation:

Almost two-thirds (roughly 600,000 people) of the counties in the North American Great Plains lost population between 1950 and 2007. In 69 Great Plains counties, more than 50 percent of their population was lost (U.S. Census Bureau).

There has been long-term decline in the North American Great Plains population, but research has shown that in some rural areas there is a growing interest in in-migration, especially from more urban areas.

The rural landscape and both natural and human resources can be taken for granted and overlooked as assets that can be marketed to potential new residents. These rural assets can be showcased using the community marketing process to enhance new resident recruitment.


Burkhart-Kriesel had also previously received international attention when she was invited to present the Marketing Hometown America curriculum at the 2015 International Association of Community Development (IACD) conference held in Glasgow, Scotland. After the conference, an urban neighborhood organizer in Glasgow was interested in adapting the Marketing Hometown America material as a way to recruit new residents.

“Listening to the various presentations from diverse places across the world, I am convinced that rural issues are more similar than different,” Burkhart-Kriesel said.

Burkhart-Kriesel is located at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Her position in western Nebraska gives her an important viewpoint on the opportunities and challenges that impact rural communities. Her research and extension programs focus on demographic renewal and economic opportunities in rural communities in Nebraska and beyond.

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RFI Project Update: Ending Mental Health Stigma

December 11, 2017
We’re talking brain health today. In Nebraska in 2014, 1 in 6 adults reported having experienced depression and 1 in 12 reported frequent mental distress. Studies have shown that overall suicide deaths between ages 10 and 24 double in rural areas. …

We’re talking brain health today. In Nebraska in 2014, 1 in 6 adults reported having experienced depression and 1 in 12 reported frequent mental distress. Studies have shown that overall suicide deaths between ages 10 and 24 double in rural areas.

See what researchers from the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska and Wayne State College are working on with students to help end mental health stigma for rural college students.

More about RFI’s research and teaching projects >>>

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RFI PROJECT UPDATE: Increasing Rural Civic Engagement in the Digital Age

December 6, 2017
 Now that you know more about rural broadband expert Roberto Gallardo (see yesterday’s feature!), here are the details about the 2017 RFI-funded research and engagement project he is leading with Jeremy Harris Lipschultz, professor with the UNO Social Media …

Now that you know more about rural broadband expert Roberto Gallardo (see yesterday’s feature!), here are the details about the 2017 RFI-funded research and engagement project he is leading with Jeremy Harris Lipschultz, professor with the UNO Social Media Lab at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as Charlotte Narjes and Connie Hancock with Nebraska Extension.

Through this project, faculty, students and communities are coming together (RFI Nexus!) to research the use of digital platforms for civic engagement in rural communities. The research basis of this project is important in that the models and best practices coming out of this work will be empirically sound when other rural communities look to implement them.

We’ve loved seeing the UNO students immersed in the rural Nebraska communities of Ashland, Nebraska City and Ravenna throughout the last several weeks, and they recently presented their social media plans! Follow the Social Media Lab on Twitter for all of the latest details.

More about RFI-funded research and teaching projects >>>

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FEATURE: Get an overview of the rural broadband issue from expert Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D.

December 5, 2017
 “The Digital Age is in full swing,” says Dr. Roberto Gallardo, assistant director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Hear from him about the importance of bringing rural and urban communities together to address the digital divide so …

“The Digital Age is in full swing,” says Dr. Roberto Gallardo, assistant director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Hear from him about the importance of bringing rural and urban communities together to address the digital divide so that both can thrive.

In the United States, 10.4 percent of households and 34.2 percent of people living in non-metropolitan counties lack access to broadband, resulting in a missed opportunity of $22.5 billion per year.

“The conversation is circling around urban areas, and I believe that rural have a lot to gain as well,” said Gallardo. The Rural Futures Institute believes our complex future requires mutual respect and collaboration between rural and urban regions and communities.

Gallardo’s recent publication for the Purdue Center for Regional Development, titled “Broadband’s Impact,” summarizes technology’s impact on economic development, civic engagement, education, telework, telehealth and agriculture.

Gallardo also leads a 2017 RFI-funded research project titled, “Increasing Rural Civic Engagement in the Digital Age,” that seeks to increase civic engagement in three rural Nebraska communities by developing strategies and tactics for engaging in conversations online, as well as social media training, to assist rural communities in increasing and improving overall engagement.

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RFI PROJECT UPDATE: Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities

December 4, 2017
 We are excited to share the latest about each of our 2017 RFI research and teaching projects throughout the next few weeks. First up, “Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities,” which is led by RFI Faculty Fellow Athena Ramos of …


We are excited to share the latest about each of our 2017 RFI research and teaching projects throughout the next few weeks. First up, “Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities,” which is led by RFI Faculty Fellow Athena Ramos of the UNMC College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center – UNMC.

Rural communities are changing demographically, physically and socially. Three major trends driving these new patterns include the in-migration of adults in their prime earning years returning to small towns and rural areas, the growth of the Latino population, which is the most rapidly growing population segment in rural America, and regionalization. Because of these trends, strengthening resiliency, flexibility and positivity in rural communities is essential.

Successful rural community development requires a healthy community ecosystem. In order for rural communities to maintain and build a healthy community ecosystem, it is important to effectively foster human and social capital among all community residents, which is what Ramos is working toward through this project.

UNMC students have been learning about community-based research and Appreciative Inquiry, which is based on principles of positive psychology, social constructionism, and resonance. Now, Ramos and students are co-developing and conducting key informant interviews with local community leaders to spark stories that highlight the best of what is in rural communities and help these community leaders plant seeds about what COULD BE when all residents and newcomers are fully welcomed and integrated into the fabric of their communities.

The insights gathered in this specific project will help Columbus, Neb., and Schuyler, Neb., better understand their assets and what positive messaging is needed to move their community initiatives forward.

Learn more about RFI’s funded research and teaching projects at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/research.

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RFI Connects “Fierce” Rural Innovators From Japan and Nebraska

November 6, 2017
  Article By: Katelyn Ideus, Director of Communications & Public Relations, Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska Video By: Avery Sass, former RFI Communications Intern   Rural communities in the Great Plains face similar challenges to rural communities …

 

Article By: Katelyn Ideus, Director of Communications & Public Relations, Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska
Video By: Avery Sass, former RFI Communications Intern

 

Rural communities in the Great Plains face similar challenges to rural communities around the world. But, more importantly, we share a mindset of determination and impact with innovative counterparts also attacking these challenges head on.

We knew this.

But we confirmed it again with resounding certainty when we hosted entrepreneurs and community leaders from rural Japan on Oct. 27 and 28.

“The challenges in Japan are grand,” said Connie Reimers-Hild, associate executive director of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Indeed.

Japan faces:

Depopulation
It has a -.24% growth rate.
The total population is currently just over 127 million with 32% living in rural areas.

For comparison:
The U.S. has a .72% growth rate. Nebraska has a .69% growth rate.
Rural areas cover 97 percent of the land mass in the U.S. but only 19.3% of our population lives there.

Aging
The median age in Japan is 47, and 25% of its population is age 65 or older. Of note: A majority of the country’s population age 65 and older lives in rural areas—63%.

For comparison:
The median age in the U.S. is 38, and only 15% of our population is age 65 or older.

Rural Community Extinction
An influx of abandoned land and the possible extinction of rural communities 1,000 years old weighs heavily on the minds of the millennial generation charged with these areas’ survival.

“As an expert in this space, RFI has once again connected those fierce enough to acknowledge the grand challenges they face and do something about it,” Reimers-Hild said.

Japan Society, based in New York City, and Japan NPO Center, based in Tokyo, contacted RFI to participate in their two-year funded project, “Resilient and Vibrant Rural Communities in Japan and the U.S.” The project aims to inspire, connect and develop passionate and innovative leaders in both countries to find solutions for rural areas. The first phase was to immerse rural Japanese leaders in the rural U.S. and introduce them to American rural leaders.

Connecting is what we do, so we happily assisted. Following is who we were honored to meet.

Atsuhisa Emori, general manager of the Nippon Taberu Journal League, is taking on the producer-consumer “divide.” His network of Journals connects rural and urban residents over food and the stories behind the food, creating a joined community that works to solve challenges in the region and in society.

Kenji Hayashi left university to move to the rural community of Tsuwano, Shimane Prefecture, where he co-founded FoundingBase, a network designed to give young people meaning and purpose by connecting them to each other, ideas and rural opportunities. #IseeyouCYNers

Ryoko Sato is an assistant professor of law at the Ehime University Research Center for Regional Community Innovation and author of four books around community vitality. Universities in Japan aim to work regionally, so Sato connects university research and students to rural communities in the region to find solutions and motivate. She and RFI speak the same language, even though we technically don’t.

Tsuyoshi Sekihara is the founder of the Kamiechigo Yamazato Fan Club, a regional management organization (RMO) working around Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, where 25 hamlets have existed for more than 1,000 years. Due to rapid depopulation and aging many of these hamlets are on the verge of extinction. The population of the area is currently 2,000, but it is estimated to drop to 400 by 2050.

Junichi Tamura is chief director of Next Commons Lab (NCL). He started NCL in Tono, Iwate Prefecture, in 2016 to identify and visualize local resources, create multi-sector partnerships, invite and nurture entrepreneurs and create local hubs. Today there are eight hubs. By 2020, Tamura wants 100 hubs in and beyond Japan. #GreatPlainsCommunitiesWelcome

Each of our visitors presented formally at our public forum entitled, “A Thriving Rural Future In Japan and the United States,” on Oct. 27. The forum was hosted in partnership with Japan Society and Japan NPO Center.

 

Watch The Forum >

 

Sekihara opened with an important question: “What is the ideal community size?”

His analysis:

Tsuyoshi Sekihara, Kamiechigo Yamazato Fan Club

Hayashi then discussed the anxiety of young people who do not see as clear of a path to success in Japan as their parents and grandparents.

“We bring young people together, not with the intention to have them to choose to move to a rural area, but to create motivation and meaning,” he said while discussing his startup, FoundingBase, which you can check out on Facebook. “Any young person we work with who says they want a challenge, that’s when we suggest they start something in a rural area.”

Sato explained how her students work closely with communities to create businesses and organizations to help the communities survive. In one community with 350 residents her students participated in multiple components — festivals, a vision-making workshop, the renovation of child care home and delivery of food to the elderly. In another community they created a student-run farmers market, which connects them to farmers face-to-face. The market has started to include high school students as well.

Tamura presented about his entrepreneurial network of Next Commons Lab, which intends to break down barriers and create a niche for communities.

“Rather than living in silos, we can co-solve problems,” Tamura said.

He also presented his vision for the future:

Junichi Tamura, Next Commons Lab, The Future

Emori presented last, leading with the ratio “98:2.” In 1970 there were 10 million farmers in Japan. Today, there are less than 4 million farmers, creating a 98 percent consumer to 2 percent producer ratio.

To bring producers and consumers together more purposefully, Taberu Journal magazines feature local producers and the printed magazines are accompanied by samples of the producers’ food items. The league also hosts in-person events to get consumers and producers face-to-face, and there are private Facebook groups to keep these connections going.

Emori, Taberu Journal League

Atsuhisa Emori presents the model of the Nippon Taberu Journal League as well as one of the printed editions.

Prior to the public forum, the group was formally welcomed to the University of Nebraska by Susan Fritz, Ph.D, Executive Vice President and Provost.

From left: Betty Borden, Japan Society; Kazuho Tsuchiya, Japan NPO Center; Susan Fritz, University of Nebraska; Fumiko Miyamoto, Japan Society; Shinji Nagase, Japan NPO Center.


The Tour

There is a reason that the Rural Futures Institute is located in the state of Nebraska. It is so we can take visitors to where the American rural innovators live and work.

On Saturday, RFI’s Reimers-Hild, Theresa Klein and I hosted the group at the Kimmel Education and Research Center and Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard. Richard P. Kimmel & Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation, Inc., President Ernie Weyeneth welcomed the group, and Nebraska Extension Educators Deb Weitzenkamp and Rex Nelson shared their work with youth entrepreneurship, technology and community vitality.

An ensuing discussion focused on what was needed in addition to job creation to create attractive rural communities for young people. Hayashi explained how a neighboring rural community in Japan attracted a factory but then realized that factory jobs were not enough to recruit young people to their community.

Tamura shared his experience of the importance of recognizing your community’s niche asset and storytelling around it. His community of Tono, Iwate Prefecture, is well known for hop farming, but this has actually dropped by 75 percent since its peak decades ago. To resurrect Tono, Tamura and his fellow residents envisioned their community 50 years into the future and created assets to represent their vision. Then they designed projects to actualize it. They intend to become the brewing capital of Japan. See more on Facebook.

At 40 degrees and windy, we decided it was the perfect Nebraska day for a hayrack ride around the orchard. Blankets were shared. Bonding was accomplished.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard

The group before the ride around Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard begins! (Not too cold yet!)

With our group of 15 seated cozily side by side on hay bales, the tractor slowly wove through the Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard. Since 1925, the orchard has drawn visitors from across the country and the world. Orchard manager Vaughn Hammond, was peppered with questions from the group about revenue, size and production.

After the ride, and a bit of shopping, next up was Nemaha County Hospital in Auburn, Neb.

Nemaha County Hospital

Nemaha County Hospital CEO Marty Fattig takes the group on a tour.

This hospital is best known for being one of the first to incorporate an electronic medical record, and it is the only hospital in Nebraska to be ISO-certified. It has also won the national “Most-Wired Hospital” award 10 of the last 11 years. Our guide was hospital CEO Marty Fattig, who also serves as a RFI Community Innovation Fellow.

Sekihara shared that in Japan, rural people have a higher health status than urban people, but Fattig explained that the opposite is true in the U.S. and that his hospital is working diligently on well-being initiatives. Fattig also shared the rural hospital closure rate—82 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S. since 2010.

The second stop in Auburn was BCom Solutions with CEO Brent Comstock who shared details about his company’s international success and his recent efforts through the Rural Impact Hub.

BCom Solutions

Brent Comstock presents about his company, BCom Solutions, and the Rural Impact Hub in Auburn, Neb.

The group was particularly interested in the goals of the hub, which currently hosts a monthly speaker series and a monthly workshop series. The audience is not just entrepreneurs, but families and residents of the area as well, which the group found unique.

Ideally, Comstock said, he would like to create a network of hubs doing this work throughout rural America and beyond. Currently, he is in conversations with 12 communities in the U.S. Tamura and the Emori were particularly energized by this given their experience in creating networked rural areas in Japan.

The immersion wrapped up with a homecoming football game at Peru State College (PSC) thanks to PSC Professor and RFI Faculty Fellow Kyle Ryan. #PeruState150

PeruStateCollege_Japan

Taking in an American football game at Peru State College


With Gratitude

Thank you to Japan Society and Japan NPO Center for giving us this opportunity.

We are proud of everyone who led our group in discussion, and we sincerely appreciate how welcoming everyone was—literally, our guests said every single person they met in Nebraska was genuine and generous.

We can confidently say that the first goal of the project is already met. Everyone involved is inspired to move forward in partnership. On behalf of the Rural Futures Institute, we are motivated and incredibly energized by the passion and ideas brought forward by this impressive group of rural game changers from Japan.

It was an important introduction to our ongoing work together, and we look forward to many more opportunities to engage in action-oriented conversations for the sake of rural people and places worldwide.

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Rural Futures Institute to host panel discussion, tour with rural innovators from Japan

September 28, 2017
Rural communities in Japan and the United States face similar challenges such as recruitment and retention of young people, decline of primary and local industries, sustainability of natural resources. Similarly, entrepreneurial leaders in both countries are thinking and acting boldly …

Rural communities in Japan and the United States face similar challenges such as recruitment and retention of young people, decline of primary and local industries, sustainability of natural resources. Similarly, entrepreneurial leaders in both countries are thinking and acting boldly to identify and build on resources to develop creative, strategic solutions.

In partnership with Japan Society, based in New York City, N.Y., and Japan NPO Center, based in Tokyo, the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska will host five Japanese entrepreneurs and community leaders for a panel discussion entitled, “A Thriving Rural Future in Japan and the United States.” This free, public event is 3 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, 1505 S Street. A reception will follow from 4:30 – 6 p.m.

Panelists and guests will explore alternative models, best practices and strategies for creating resilient and vibrant rural communities of the future. Panelists from Japan include:

  • Atsuhisa Emori, Taberu Journal League in Hanamaki, Iwate
  • Kenji Hayashi, FoundingBase in Tsuwano, Shimane
  • Ryoko Sato, Ehime University in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture
  • Tsuyoshi Sekihara, Kamiechigo Yamazato Fan Club; Joestu, Niigata Prefecture
  • Junichi Tamura, Next Commons Lab in Tono, Iwate Prefecture

The panel will be moderated by Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., RFI Associate Executive Director and Chief Futurist, and Japan Society and Japan NPO Center representatives will be present.

This is one of two public forums to be hosted in the U.S. during a two-year funded project received by Japan Society and Japan NPO Center. Through RFI, the University of Nebraska is the only higher education institution from the United States involved.

On Oct. 28 RFI leadership will take the guests to Nebraska City, Neb., to tour the Kimmel Education & Research Center and Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard, and Auburn, Neb., to tour Nemaha County Hospital and visit BCom Solutions and the Rural Impact Hub.

Overall, the project seeks to build leadership capacity and consolidate lessons and learning from efforts to revitalize small towns and rural areas in the U.S.-Japan context. Specific topical areas of exploration include:

  • Economic revitalization and rural entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Leadership opportunities for a younger generations
  • Meeting the needs of the elderly in smaller communities
  • The role of arts and culture in regional revitalization
  • Creating an ecosystem conducive to engaging new community members

Extended guest biographies at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/Japan-US.

###

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the NU system on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska, the U.S. and around the world. Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, RFI encourages bold and futuristic approaches to address rural issues and opportunities. It works collaboratively with education, business, community, non-profit, government and foundation partners to empower rural communities and their leaders.

ruralfutures.nebraska.edu

@rural_futures | /ruralfutures

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Nebraska Communities—Apply To Host NU Students Throughout Summer 2018

September 20, 2017
LINCOLN, NEB – September 20, 2017 – Calling all Nebraska communities! The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska (NU) is accepting community applications for 2018 RFI Student Serviceship, a program that places high-capacity NU students throughout the …

LINCOLN, NEB – September 20, 2017 – Calling all Nebraska communities! The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska (NU) is accepting community applications for 2018 RFI Student Serviceship, a program that places high-capacity NU students throughout the state to work, live and serve. The application deadline is Nov. 20, 2017.

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.

“This program is designed to help motivated communities move critical strategies and projects forward,” said RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. “We select and train some of the University’s most ambitious student leaders—the biggest thinkers, highest achievers and most enthusiastic doers—so rural communities can reach their goals. And, with stellar students and partners, we have accomplished meaningful results.”

Since 2013, 38 NU students have worked and served in 19 Nebraska communities for a total estimated economic impact of $331,590. They have also logged 581 volunteer hours at an estimated impact of $13,688.

The students, who are recruited by RFI from a variety of disciplines at all four NU campuses, complete a rigorous one-week training course with NU faculty and community leaders, preparing them to serve in many roles with entities throughout a community.

Through the application process, rural community host teams articulate their community’s vision and purpose while scoping and defining projects for intern pairs to work on and lead during the 10-week summer internship. Host teams, which include subject-matter experts and leadership mentors, must also identify funding for the students’ stipends, housing, office space and materials. Communities are supported throughout the process by RFI and Nebraska Community Foundation.

“All communities should take advantage of the opportunity,” said 2017 community host team member Madonna Mogul, Executive Director of the York Chamber of Commerce. “I think it’s important as communities and business leaders that we work with these young men and women who will eventually be our leaders and our bosses. This program is a way we can work toward retaining young leaders in our state.”

Details and application are available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/serviceship/.

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Create The Future In Rural Nebraska—Apply for RFI Student Serviceship

September 20, 2017
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) is seeking highly-motivated University of Nebraska student leaders to help create the future of Nebraska’s rural communities through 2018 RFI Student Serviceship. A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, “serviceships” provide students with resume-building …

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) is seeking highly-motivated University of Nebraska student leaders to help create the future of Nebraska’s rural communities through 2018 RFI Student Serviceship. A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, “serviceships” provide students with resume-building work and insight into the career and life opportunities in rural places.

During this 10-week paid summer experience students participate in strategic community initiatives, lead priority projects, build their networks and improve their leadership skills while living, working and serving in a rural community. Apply at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/student-serviceship by Nov. 20.

“If you’re a game-changer, innovator or explorer, I encourage you to take this opportunity and run with it,” said RFI Director of Leadership Kayla Schnuelle. “Out of this experience, you will gain many technical skills, and you will also learn what it takes to be a catalyst in a community, which is something that employers in many fields are looking for.”

 

“If you’re a game-changer, innovator or explorer, I encourage you to take this opportunity and run with it. Out of this experience, you will gain many technical skills, and you will also learn what it takes to be a catalyst in a community, which is something that employers in many fields are looking for.”

— Kayla Schnuelle, RFI Director of Leadership

 

Working in pairs, students will attack rural challenges and opportunities in areas such as economic development, workforce recruitment and retention, housing, marketing and more. They will work closely with a community host team and a dedicated mentor to help them with their specific projects and bring them into the life of the community in a meaningful way. They will also be connected to RFI staff and University of Nebraska faculty in order to better serve their communities.

After completing the application, students will be interviewed by Dec. 8. Upon final selection, interns will be matched with rural communities with projects that fit their expertise and interests. All interns are required to complete a one-week RFI Student Serviceship training course with University of Nebraska faculty and community leaders, May 14-18, before they begin their serviceship, May 21-Aug. 1.

“Through the course of my serviceship, I learned to advocate for myself and my ideas,” said senior political science major and 2017 serviceship intern Emily Coffey. “In other internships, I’ve been assigned duties and projects with minimal autonomy or room for innovation. This experience allowed me to think critically about the projects I was assigned, identify the people I needed to connect with, determine the necessary steps in reaching solutions and take ownership of the project to make it my own.”

Get details and apply at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/student-serviceship.

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Rural Futures Institute Invests in Research, Teaching Projects to Address Critical Rural Challenges, Find Solutions

July 6, 2017
Rural mental and physical health care access, entrepreneurship and technology are among the critical topics addressed by this year’s competitive teaching and research grants through the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska (NU).

Awards_ChuckQuote_Twitter

 

Rural mental and physical health care access, entrepreneurship and technology are among the critical topics addressed by this year’s competitive teaching and research grants through the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska (NU).

Worth almost $400,000 in total, the 2017 grants engage faculty and students from across the four NU campuses as well as Kansas University, Purdue University, Peru State College and Wayne State College. At least 32 Nebraska communities, non-profit and business partners will be involved, and nearly all projects will include participation from K-12 students across the state.

“For America to thrive, our rural residents must thrive. The challenges and opportunities facing rural communities in Nebraska and across the country require action-oriented collaboration and commitment,” said RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. “The University of Nebraska, together with partners, is rigorously seeking and developing solutions that will help our rural people and places. Even more exciting, what we learn here can be scaled broadly, so Nebraska becomes a national model for building and sustaining vibrant rural communities of the future.”

The grants build on RFI’s successful Competitive Awards program that so far has funded 50 teaching and research projects in more than 100 Nebraska communities. The projects address unique challenges and opportunities facing rural populations in the areas of economic development, education, health care, diversity and inclusion and more.

 


 

2017 Teaching & Engagement Projects

Ending Mental Health Stigma & Promoting Mental Health Among Rural Nebraska College and University Students

Principal Investigator: Sonja Franziska Tutsch Russell, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Rural Health Education Network

The growing shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas, alongside the rising number of rural college and university students who experience mental health difficulties, calls for a comprehensive public health approach to addressing underlying causes of mental illness and related stigma. In collaboration with faculty and students at Wayne State College, the team seeks to develop and implement a promising mental health promotion curriculum aimed at addressing stigma and alleviating mental health difficulties among college and university students in Nebraska.

 

Obesity Intervention and Service Learning

Principal Investigator: Danae Dinkel, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Health Physical Education & Recreation

In an effort to combat the epidemic of rural pediatric obesity, Peru State College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, in partnership with rural stakeholders, seek to develop a new service-learning course for undergraduates. The course will introduce post-secondary students to service learning and the prevalence of overweight and obesity in rural areas. It will also seek to engage existing and new partnerships with community-based organizations for students’ service learning.

 

Teaching Health, Exercise, Technology, & Aquaponics (THETA) Day Camps to Grow Future Health Professionals

Principal Investigator: Gregory Brown, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kinesiology & Sports Sciences

Developed by a team of seven faculty members at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) this project focuses on inspiring and motivating rural middle school students to pursue careers in health science. Students will participate in a series of half-day science education camps during which they will learn about various careers that are associated with health science topics through physical activity, nutrition and food growing programs. UNK undergraduate students with career goals in health science will lead the camps.

 

Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future

Principal Investigator: Ashu Guru, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

This project provides an opportunity for youth to develop system-thinking skills by understanding how food, energy and water systems are interconnected. Undergraduate students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Engineering will design and develop aquaponics system kits as well as lesson plan trainings and implement the project in K-12 schools in rural Nebraska. They will use a train-the-trainer model to prepare middle school educators and high school students to implement the plan in their school system.

 

Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities

Principal Investigator: Athena Ramos, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, Center for Reducing Health Disparities

The team will use appreciative inquiry to interview community leaders about creating welcoming communities and work with partners to develop powerful narratives, provide access to resources and disseminate best practices.

 


 

2017 Research & Engagement Projects

Building Capacity for Developing, Implementing, and Evaluating the Family Health and Wellness Coalition’s Community Health Improvement Plan

Principal Investigator: Todd Bartee, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kinesiology & Sports Sciences

The Family Health and Wellness Coalition was formed in 2015 with the focus of reducing chronic disease risk among Nebraska residents of Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties. This emerging coalition is motivated yet hampered by challenges to participation, resources and other core capabilities such as planning, implementing and evaluating their work. Through this project, partners will produce a systematic community change process that can be replicated in other rural areas.

 

Assessment of and Treatment Applied to Food Addiction to Encourage Self-Management of Obesity

Principal Investigator: Trina Aguirre, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing

The research team will evaluate the efficacy of using nurse practitioners to deliver interventions to patients referred to an outpatient clinic for the treatment of obesity. The primary objective is to evaluate the efficacy of four interventions in obese rural patients with and without food addiction to develop effective, better-targeted interventions to help obese rural residents successfully self-manage their obesity, enabling them to live healthier lives and reduce the high cost of treating the comorbidities associated with obesity.

 

Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs and Transforming Local Business Owners

Principal Investigator: Surin Kim, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Education and Human Sciences

There is a substantial need for educational programs that promote entrepreneurship and vocational skills for both adults and youth whose retention will be critical for rural futures. Such programs can help local business owners maintain and grow their enterprises and promote career readiness and entrepreneurship for youth. This project intends to analyze the unique needs of rural businesses and youth to implement a highly successful entrepreneurship program within the local context, modify as needed and disseminate via extension professionals and relevant educational entities.

 

Increasing Rural Civic Engagement in the Digital Age

Principal Investigator: Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University, Purdue Center for Regional Development with University of Nebraska at Omaha and Nebraska Extension Co-Principal Investigators

There is significant interest in the role digital platforms play on increasing civic engagement in urban communities. However, their role in rural settings is not understood but critical as well. This project seeks to increase civic engagement in three rural Nebraska communities by developing strategies and tactics for engaging in conversations online, as well as social media training, to assist rural communities in increasing and improving overall engagement.

 

Extended project descriptions and lists of all current contributors and partners are available at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/awards.

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RFI Student Serviceship Interns Start Their Rural Nebraska Experiences

June 6, 2017
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 …

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).

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RFI Student Serviceship Interns Start in Rural Communities

June 5, 2017
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. …

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.

 

« Back to RFI Student Serviceship 2017

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Rural Futures Institute’s Connecting Young Nebraskans Network Announces Steering Team

April 28, 2017
Connecting Young Nebraskans, a network of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska, has announced its 2017 steering team. For the next year, the team of 17 will direct the engagement and professional development efforts of the …

Connecting Young Nebraskans, a network of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska, has announced its 2017 steering team. For the next year, the team of 17 will direct the engagement and professional development efforts of the 840-member network of young leaders located throughout Nebraska.

Fourteen Nebraska communities—from Cody to West Point to McCook—are represented by the steering team as are many professions including economic development, tourism and education.

“Connecting Young Nebraskans is designed to be guided by a group of young leaders who have shown future-focused thinking and immense dedication to rural Nebraska,” said Chuck Schroeder, RFI Executive Director. “We are proud to work with these leaders and the entire network to facilitate critical conversations and actions that will benefit individuals and communities across the state.”

According to Connecting Young Nebraskans summit attendees in October, the biggest challenges young leaders face in rural communities include isolation, lack of formal transfer of leadership practices, leader burnout, limited opportunities to engage with peers and lack of professional development opportunities.

Connecting Young Nebraskans addresses each of these issues to connect, empower and retain young people ages 21 to 40 in rural communities. It expands young peoples’ networks, grows their professional and leadership skills and helps them think boldly on behalf of their communities. In total, 118 Nebraska communities, not including Lincoln and Omaha, are represented in the network.

“Connecting Young Nebraskans is all about the future, including motivating our young people and facilitating progress within our local communities that creates impacts,” said steering team member Chelsea Luthy, Community Development Specialist for Central Nebraska Economic Development District. “The Rural Futures Institute having the Connecting Young Nebraskans network is critical in terms of entrepreneurship and collaboration. RFI helps us ideate and makes our ideas available in a way that stimulates our rural areas.”

 

2017 Connecting Young Nebraskans Steering Committee

  • Ginger Ady | Ady Marketing & Consulting, Founder, North Platte, NE
  • Selena Aguilar | Nebraska State Fair, Entertainment Assistant, Grand Island, NE
  • Andrew Ambriz | McCook Economic Development, Interim Executive Director, McCook, NE
  • Bradley Averill | Nebraska Extension, Extension Educator, Neligh, NE
  • Mary Berlie | Grand Island Area Economic Development Corporation, Executive Vice President, Grand Island, NE
  • Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong | West Point Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director, West Point, NE
  • Tiffany Crouse | Hasting Downtown Center Association, Director, Hastings, NE
  • Abigail Frank | Full-Time M.A. Graduate Student, Neligh, NE
  • Jonathan Jank | Seward County Economic Development Corporation, Executive Director, Seward, NE
  • Chris Kreikemeier | Nielsen Center, Manager, West Point, NE
  • Chelsea Luthy | Central Nebraska Economic Development, Community Development Specialist, Cody, NE
  • Andrea McClintic | University of Nebraska-Lincoln Career Services, Associate Director of External Relations, Lincoln, NE
  • Jacie Milius | Southeast Research & Extension Center, Assistant Extension Educator, Nelson, NE
  • Penny Parker | Nebraska Total Care, Community Relations Coordinator, Kearney, NE
  • Crystal Ramm | Central Community College/Ord Learning Center, Regional Coordinator, Ord, NE
  • Kayla Schnuelle | Rural Futures Institute, Leadership Engagement Director, Diller, NE
  • Rhonda Veleba | York Chamber of Commerce, Towne Centre Coordinator, York, NE

For more information visit ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/CYN. CYN is active on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rural Futures Institute Launches Faculty, Community Fellows Program

March 7, 2017
  LINCOLN, Neb. – March 7, 2017 – Innovation is most likely to occur where disciplines intersect and when a diverse and inclusive group of stakeholders is working hard on an issue or opportunity. The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at …

RFI Fellows Group Photo

 

LINCOLN, Neb. – March 7, 2017 – Innovation is most likely to occur where disciplines intersect and when a diverse and inclusive group of stakeholders is working hard on an issue or opportunity. The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska has employed this fundamental principle to launch a distinctive fellows program dedicated to research, teaching and application with and in rural communities in Nebraska and beyond.

Fifteen faculty researchers from the University of Nebraska and other institutions as well as 10 community practitioners from across Nebraska have assembled to think strategically about opportunities in rural business, health care, education, technology and more.

“Rural communities and their leaders face a complex, interwoven universe of factors that cannot be neatly split apart for observation and lone actions,” said RFI Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. “RFI Fellows already understand this and have been working diligently throughout their careers to create solutions and opportunities for rural people and places.

 

“By bringing various disciplines of researchers together with community leaders in this purposeful way, we not only intend to help rural residents thrive, but to also give rural America a significant and consistent voice, and position it as vital to the future of our country.”

 

Through their work, RFI Fellows will connect with partners from across the University of Nebraska system, scholars from other academic institutions and experts in the public and private sectors to strengthen their capacity for research and application. They will foster student experiences in concert with communities, strengthening the community-by-community presence of RFI throughout Nebraska, the Great Plains and the world.

 

2017 RFI Faculty Fellows
RFI Faculty Fellows are professors and researchers who have contributed significantly to rural communities and people through research, teaching and outreach and intend to continue to strengthen the statewide, national and international knowledge resource of rural.

  • Todd Bartee, Professor, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kinesiology and Sports Sciences
  • Robert Blair, Professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Public Administration, Public Affairs, and Community Service
  • Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, Extension Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Panhandle Research and Extension Center
  • Randy Cantrell, Rural Sociologist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Jim Cavaye, Professor, Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Queensland, Australia
  • Bree Dority, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Economics
  • Gregory Karst, Executive Associate Dean, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Allied Health Professionals
  • Peter Longo, Professor, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Political Science
  • Bradley Lubben, Extension Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Agricultural Economics
  • Athena Ramos, Community Health Program Manager/Instructor, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, Center for Reducing Health Disparities
  • Kyle Ryan, Associate Professor, Peru State College, Exercise Science
  • Jessica Shoemaker, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law
  • Eric Thompson, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Business Administration, Economics
  • Kim Wilson, Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Architecture
  • Amanda Witte, Project Manager, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools

 

2017 RFI Community Innovation Fellows
RFI Community Innovation Fellows are community leaders, alumni and professionals from both the private and non-profit sectors working to advance rural people and places. This group represents rural places that have creatively partnered with RFI to inform outreach and programming efforts while connecting research and resources directly to communities and leaders. They are innovators in their industries and the communities they represent.

  • Tiffany Crouse, Director, Hastings Downtown Center Association, Hastings, Neb.
  • Marty Fattig, CEO, Nemaha County Hospital, Auburn, Neb.
  • Melissa Garcia, Community Affairs Manager, Black Hills Energy, Broken Bow, Neb.
  • Rachel Herpel, Assistant Director, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.
  • Don Macke, Co-Founder, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Lincoln, Neb.
  • Greg Ptacek, Director, Economic Development, City of Neligh, Neligh, Neb.
  • Reshell Ray, Assistant Director of Student Involvement, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Neb.
  • Robert Stowell, J.D., Stowell & Geweke, P.C., L.L.O., Ord, Neb.
  • Milan Wall, Co-Director, Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Lincoln, Neb.
  • Jeff Yost, President and CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation, Lincoln, Neb.

 

Extended details and video introductions of each of the fellows are available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/fellows.

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Lectures from Visiting Presenter Paul Genho, Ph.D., Now Available

November 2, 2016
Frank and Margaret Leu Lecture Fifty Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward October 31, 2016 | UNL East Campus Over the past 50 years, there have been unprecedented changes in the beef industry, but it’s nothing compared to what’s to come …

Frank and Margaret Leu Lecture
Fifty Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward

October 31, 2016 | UNL East Campus

Over the past 50 years, there have been unprecedented changes in the beef industry, but it’s nothing compared to what’s to come in the next 50. Agricultural systems expert Paul Genho offered his thoughts on the changes to come during the 2016 Leu Distinguished Lecture on Oct. 31 at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

 

Presentation and Reception
The Future of U.S. Agriculture in a Global Market

November 1, 2016 | UNL East Campus

 

 

paul_genho

Dr. Paul Genho, a Visiting Professor at the University of Florida and independent consultant for various agricultural firms, visited the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for two presentations on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Both presentations are available below for viewing.During his career Dr. Genho served as Chairman of the Board of AgReserves, Inc., vice president and general manager of King Ranch and manager of Deseret Ranches of Florida. He has held numerous leadership positions within the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, scientific, agricultural and academic communities.

Dr. Genho’s visit was made possible by UNL’s Center for Grassland Studies and Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program in partnership with the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.

 

cgs-graphic Rural_Futures_at_Nebraska_horizontal_stack_Color englericon_huskerredwhitefill1
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Results From 2016 CYN Summit

November 1, 2016
  CYN, and young leaders from the area, hosted the 2016 Connecting Young Nebraskans Summit on October 27-28, 2016 in York, NE. This was the fifth state-wide summit of the CYN network. The Summit was a unique statewide event that …

 

CYN, and young leaders from the area, hosted the 2016 Connecting Young Nebraskans Summit on October 27-28, 2016 in York, NE. This was the fifth state-wide summit of the CYN network. The Summit was a unique statewide event that brought together young professionals to develop new skills and share life experiences.

The 2016 theme was “Creating Life Balance” and featured 27 engaging speakers on a variety of topics from five holistic wellness categories: Purpose, Social, Community, Physical and Financial. A personalized experience was made available through interactive breakout sessions, which included GLOW Leadership founder, Jodi Sell discussing Crucial Conversations.

264 Nebraskans from 57 communities attended the summit held at the Holthus Convention Center on October 28. Lisa Gunderson was keynote speaker. She is certified by Cy Wakeman, Inc., to delivered reality-based leadership programs to audiences of all professional levels. An exciting evening social was held the night before, on October 27, at the Chances R’ restaurant where Arthur Fratelli, a mentalist and entertainer, presented.

 

cynsummit_attendance_graphic2

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Transformational Agricultural Systems Leader Paul Genho to Provide Leu Lecture Oct. 31, Presentation Nov. 1

October 20, 2016
Agricultural systems expert Paul Genho will visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to share insights into the beef and agricultural industries as well as lessons in leadership and entrepreneurship from his 50 years of experience in acquiring and managing agricultural properties …

Agricultural systems expert Paul Genho will visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to share insights into the beef and agricultural industries as well as lessons in leadership and entrepreneurship from his 50 years of experience in acquiring and managing agricultural properties worldwide.

Dr. Genho will provide the 2016 Leu Distinguished Lecture Oct. 31 from 3-4 p.m. at the UNL East Campus Union and an evening presentation and reception Nov. 1 from 7-9 p.m. at Hardin Hall. Both events are free, and the public is encouraged to attend. Details, including registration for the Nov. 1 event, are available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/genho.

This visit is made possible by UNL’s Center for Grassland Studies and Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program in partnership with the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.

“These presentations are important opportunities for university students, faculty and staff, as well as business and community leaders, to not only learn from a beef and agricultural expert who is known the world over, but to gain important lessons about what innovative entrepreneurship and leadership looks like in practice,” said Chuck Schroeder, Founding Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI). “Dr. Genho will inspire us to embrace and encourage change and find innovative solutions that are required to move our enterprises and rural communities forward.”

Dr. Genho is a Visiting Professor at the University of Florida and independent consultant for various agricultural firms. Throughout his career he served as Chairman of the Board of AgReserves, Inc., vice president and general manager of King Ranch and manager of Deseret Ranches of Florida. He has held numerous leadership positions within the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, scientific, agricultural and academic communities.

The Leu Lecture Series seminar entitled, “Fifty Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” is made possible, in part, by a gift from the Frank and Margaret Leu family to the University of Nebraska Foundation. In his comments, Dr. Genho will present five big ideas affecting the beef industry in the future. The ideas were garnered from his five sons who are deeply involved in the beef supply chain from production through processing and merchandising. These ideas will provide a framework for moving the industry forward.

“We’re delighted that donations such as that from the Leu family allow us to bring someone of Dr. Genho’s stature to campus,” said Martin Massengale, director of the Center for Grassland Studies.

During the Nov 1. presentation, “The Future of U.S. Agriculture in a Global Market,” Dr. Genho will draw from his experience as a systems thinker, manager and leader, to provide perspective about the role of U.S. agriculture in a competitive and ever-changing global market. His experience in pulling together unified management systems that assure healthy landscapes, enterprises and people will frame the discussion.

“Dr. Genho’s ability to connect the lessons of the past with anticipated future transformations in the beef business will make for an invigorating and thought-provoking discussion,” said Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

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About the Center for Grassland Studies
The mission of the Center for Grassland Studies is to implement focused, interdisciplinary research, educational and service programs and activities that emphasize the role of grasslands as a natural resource and conservation measure and that enhance the efficiency, profitability, sustainability, and aesthetic value of grasslands, wetlands and turfs.
grassland.unl.edu/

About the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska
The Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the system on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska, the U.S. and around the world. Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, the institute encourages bold and futuristic approaches to address critical rural issues. It works collaboratively with educational, business, community, non-profit, government and foundation partners to empower rural communities and their leaders.
ruralfutures.nebraska.edu

About the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program is focused on helping transform the resources of our nation’s strength in agriculture into the next big idea. An idea that will solve a problem. Open a new door. Fill a hungry stomach. Create a new product. Grow more food with fewer resources. The Engler Experience empowers enterprise builders. Our job is to provide the skills, inspiration and fortitude to make that happen.
engler.unl.edu

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Connecting Young Nebraskans Summit in York Oct. 28 to Include More Than 225 Leaders Statewide

October 19, 2016
Futuring, coaching, sharing, managing—the list goes on for the 2016 Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) Summit, a time for young professionals throughout the state to come together to network and explore solutions for themselves, their organizations and their communities. Hosted by …

Futuring, coaching, sharing, managing—the list goes on for the 2016 Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) Summit, a time for young professionals throughout the state to come together to network and explore solutions for themselves, their organizations and their communities.

Hosted by the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska, the summit entitled “Creating Life Balance” will be held at the Holthus Convention Center in York, Neb., Oct. 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. More than 225 participants are anticipated, and 51 communities are already represented. Details and registration are available at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/events.

CYN is an ongoing statewide network of more than 750 professionals between the ages of 21 and 40 that works to connect people in rural communities to each other, professional development training and community leadership resources.

“What we have accomplished with Connecting Young Nebraskans is at the core of the work of the Rural Futures Institute in that it creates a space for community leaders to come together to share ideas and opportunities in an environment that is dedicated to facilitating action-oriented discussions,” said Chuck Schroeder, Executive Director of RFI. “This summit in particular will be an incredibly valuable use of time not only for the participants, but for their employers and rural communities as well.”

The summit agenda was led by RFI coordinator Kayla Schnuelle and created in conjunction with a steering committee of CYN representatives throughout the state. The keynote will be delivered by Lisa Gunderson, certified reality-based leadership coach from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota.

Coffee shop discussions will provide space for networking, idea generation and thoughtful reflection, and Nebraska leaders from Albion, Benkelman, Broken Bow, Grand Island, Hastings, McCook, O’Neill, Ord, York and more will provide professional development breakout and power-up sessions.

RFI Chief Futurist Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild will help attendees explore trends, emerging technologies and inclusive leadership that will innovate community engagement. Schroeder’s remarks will highlight the importance for rural communities nationwide to focus on developing young leaders.

“I have greatly enjoyed collaborating with the Connecting Young Nebraskans steering team to help coordinate the 2016 Summit,” said Rhonda Veleba, Towne Centre Coordinator for the York Chamber of Commerce. “The steering team brings a wide variety of backgrounds and ideas that will make the summit a well-rounded experience with broad topics, innovative ideas and powerful energy. I’m very excited for this statewide event to take place in York this year.”

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Rural Futures Institute’s North Platte, Chadron Regional Forums to Highlight Successes, Address Critical Nebraska Challenges

September 9, 2016
Nebraskans are invited to attend the Rural Futures Institute’s Rural Regional Forums. Steering committee members from three Nebraska host communities have weighed in and the agendas are set. The forums in West Point, Sept. 22, North Platte, Sept. 27 and …

Nebraskans are invited to attend the Rural Futures Institute’s Rural Regional Forums. Steering committee members from three Nebraska host communities have weighed in and the agendas are set.

The forums in West Point, Sept. 22, North Platte, Sept. 27 and Chadron, Sept. 28 will include overviews of the Rural Futures Institute’s Competitive Awards projects, tours of the communities that highlight successes, a “community visioning” process for area youth, discussions with business, education and health care leaders and group work that aims to address challenges in each region.

North Platte’s forum will be held at the Sandhills Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (CST). Chadron’s forum will be held at the Chadron State College Student Center from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (MT). The full agendas and registration are available at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/events/2016-rural-regional-forums. The cost is $25.

“When you bring a group of people together from communities like West Point, North Platte and Chadron for an event like this you are in awe of the work they are doing and the solutions their communities have found,” said Chuck Schroeder, Founding Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute. “And then they take it a step further with what their hopes are for the future—you just want to work with them.

 

“The forums, specifically, are an opportunity to get many different people in the same room with the focus being—how can we all work together to get rural communities in Nebraska where they want to go? RFI is here to facilitate those discussions, offer options and ideas and learn from these communities on behalf of other rural communities in Nebraska and beyond.”

 

Challenges identified by all steering committees include housing, business development, leadership transition and recruitment of residents and professionals. Chadron also identified tourism development, retaining younger residents and technology-based entrepreneurship.

North Platte details
University of Nebraska Regent Bob Phares will welcome attendees, and three Competitive Awards projects will be presented by leading scholars and practitioners. Each project is a collaborative effort among several sectors including educational institutions, businesses and communities. Projects presented in North Platte will include Rural Community Action Project, Pediatric Obesity Treatment Program for Adoption by Rural Communities and Collaborative Capacity Building in Rural Nebraska Schools via Technology.

Tours will include an overview of the renovations on Main Street led by Vice President of Economic Development for the North Platte Chamber of Commerce Megan McGown, leading innovation in rural health care at Great Plains Health and harnessing technology at the Walmart Distribution Center.

The afternoon’s panel discussion will include University of Nebraska Interim Vice President and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice Chancellor Ron Yoder, Mid-Plains Community College President Ryan Purdy, David Fudge of NebraskaLand Days, Jake Tiedeman of Baldridge Company and Tony Orr of Union Pacific Railroad.

“We want people to come and be part of this important conversation,” McGown said. “We want to hear success stories, and we want to know more about the challenges. We are all stronger together.”

Chadron details
After a welcome from Chadron State President Randy Rhine, featured Competitive Awards projects will be presented by leading scholars and practitioners: Healthy Food – Healthy Choice, Enhancing Nebraska’s Ecotourism Industry and Bridging the Skills Gap.

Tours will focus on capitalizing on community strengths with a walk through the Rangeland Complex and Sandoz Heritage Center on Chadron State’s campus, innovative collaboration at Chadron Community Hospital and entrepreneurial investment downtown.

The afternoon’s panel will discuss regional entrepreneurship and innovation and include Ron Rosati, dean of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

“We all need to think and talk regionally, and this forum will help us do that,” said Chadron steering committee member Jenny Nixon who serves as a University of Nebraska Extension community vitality educator for the region. “It will give us a chance to focus, and put some action around some of our biggest issues such as housing, tourism and retaining youth.”

For ongoing updates about the forums, follow the Rural Futures Institute on Twitter (@rural_futures, #RFIforums) and Facebook (RuralFutures).

Rural Regional Forums
9 a.m. Opening and Overview of the Day
9:15 a.m. RFI Competitive Awards Overview and Examples
9:45 a.m. Tours (three options)
11:15 a.m. Youth Visioning Projects
12 p.m. Panel Discussion
1:15 p.m. Issues Discussion
2:00 p.m. Small Groups
3:30 p.m. Adjournment

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