Rural Futures Institute Launches Faculty, Community Fellows Program

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

Rural Futures Institute Establishes New Partnership: Kaskie to lead the RFI Fellows Program

April 13, 2016 — The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is proud to welcome Shawn Kaskie and Aliese Hoffman to the RFI Team.  Kaskie will lead efforts in developing and expanding the RFI Fellows Program. He will be assisted by Aliese Hoffman, administrative specialist.

In the new partnership Kaskie will hold joint positions with the RFI and the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Center for Rural Research and Development (CRRD) in the College of Business and Technology. Shawn is a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer, and a former Gallup Entrepreneurship Acceleration System Guide, a business retention and expansion consultant, and NxLevel entrepreneurship instructor.

Hoffman will also have a shared RFI/CRRD position and will assist Kaskie as program assistant for the development of the Fellows program.  Hoffman is a Red Cloud native and UNK graduate.

“Kaskie will join the RFI team with the goal of launching and growing a RFI Fellows Program“ said Chuck Schroeder, executive director of the Rural Futures Institute.

Kaskie has a Master’s degree in regional planning and undergraduate majors in public administration, sociology, and psychology from Hastings College.  He has experience in providing community economic development and market research.

“We are very excited to welcome Shawn and Aliese to the RFI team and look forward to developing even closer working relationships between the four University of Nebraska campuses as well as community and organizational partners as the RFI Fellows program evolves” said Connie Reimers-Hild, associate director of the Rural Futures Institute.  The Memorandum of Understanding between the RFI and the University of Nebraska at Kearney is the first for the Institute.

“Shawn will be in a position to advance the agendas of both the RFI Fellows Program and the Center for Rural Research and Development on the UNK campus. This is a collaboration of tremendous potential that is emerging at exactly the right time and in a most effective way” said Charles Bicak, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at UNK.

The Rural Futures Institute is one of four interdisciplinary institutes at the University of Nebraska that leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the system. The institute, through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, encourages bold and futuristic approaches to collaboratively address state, national and global challenges.

For more information about the Rural Futures Institute, visit For the latest information follow Rural Futures on Twitter at or Facebook at