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Articles & Releases

Create The Future In Nebraska — Apply To Be A 2020 Rural Futures Institute Fellow

September 17, 2019
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is seeking highly-motivated students and passionate community leaders to increase their inclusive leadership capacity while creating the future of Nebraska’s rural communities through workforce development, economic development, recruitment and retention …

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is seeking highly-motivated students and passionate community leaders to increase their inclusive leadership capacity while creating the future of Nebraska’s rural communities through workforce development, economic development, recruitment and retention of residents, access and more.

Deemed RFI Fellows, selected students and community innovators will join forces for 10 weeks during summer 2020 to make significant progress on strategic community initiatives and priority projects while immersing themselves in 1-to-1 inclusive leadership coaching with the University of Nebraska’s Helen Fagan, Ph.D. 

Students will live, work and serve in the community they are focused on, and community innovators will invite them into the life of rural Nebraska. 

Details and applications for the experience are at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/fellows. The deadline to apply is Oct. 17, 2019, and informational webinars are scheduled for Sept. 26 (communities) and Oct. 3 (students).

“This is a tremendous opportunity for communities to accomplish tangible work through students, but it is also transformational for all of the people involved,” Fagan said. “To truly make a thriving rural future for Nebraska, we need thriving individuals who include and inspire others.”

After completing the application, students will be interviewed in November and notified of the selection in December. Communities will work through project definitions with RFI staff throughout the winter and everyone will be matched based on projects that fit their expertise and interests in early 2020. All fellows are required to complete training before the in-community experience, which will take place May 25 – July 31, 2020.

Students are paid $12.50 per hour with housing and equipment for projects provided by the communities. RFI is available to assist communities as they seek funding, which is estimated at $12,000 per pair of student fellows.

“I have never grown so much personally in such a short amount of time like I did during my RFI fellows experience this summer,” said Hailey Walmsley, agricultural education major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “I came back to school with a new confidence, and I can’t wait to watch the great work RFI Fellows from all of the campuses and more communities will continue to do in the coming years.”

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Contact
Katelyn Ideus
Director of Communications
Rural Futures Institute and National Strategic Research Institute
University of Nebraska
(402) 659-5886
kideus@nebraska.edu

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RFI Fellows Helping AEDC Move Forward With Projects

July 16, 2019
Check out our Custer County fellows Megan and Hailey in The Arnold Sentinel! “In this job, I get to work on projects that play toward my strengths and interests. We aren’t just typical interns who come in and sit at …

Check out our Custer County fellows Megan and Hailey in The Arnold Sentinel!

“In this job, I get to work on projects that play toward my strengths and interests. We aren’t just typical interns who come in and sit at a desk all day filing paperwork or doing the job no one wants to do. We have a lot more responsibilities than traditional interns because we are challenged with finding a project, and seeing that project start to finish,” said Hailey

UN-L agricultural student interns Megan Coan (left) and Hailey Walmsley (right) are in Arnold once a week through the end of July to help the Arnold Economic Development Corporation with some big projects. The girls are also serving as interns in Broken Bow and Callaway.”
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Fellows Week 8: Grand Island

July 12, 2019
By Alyssa and Angela Wow, the time has flown by! It is hard to believe that we have just finished 8 weeks with only three to go. Plus we have a surprise! We (Angela and Alyssa) finished up our time …

By Alyssa and Angela

Wow, the time has flown by! It is hard to believe that we have just finished 8 weeks with only three to go. Plus we have a surprise! We (Angela and Alyssa) finished up our time in Grand Island early and headed west to work with our Custer County team for the last 3 weeks of the summer!

Since our last Grand Island update, we got busy executing projects and doing the preparation for projects happening in the future. 

Angela spent most of Weeks 3 through 7 being our video creator and editor. We wanted to be able to share the impact of Nebraska Extension’s Community Vitality Initiative’s Latino Small Business program everywhere and with everyone. So, Angela created videos in Spanish with English subtitles. One of our favorite stories was Duniesky’s. Duniesky Enrrique is an entrepreneur in Grand Island who wanted to start his own tattoo shop. He utilized the Latino Small Business Program to get one on one technical counseling to discover the insurance, licensing, and legal requirements for tattoo shops in Nebraska. He got everything accomplished and then realized he couldn’t find a place that fit his needs. Nebraska Extension came to the rescue and helped Duniesky find a place to work. Since then he has been making beautiful tattoos in Grand Island. 

While Angela was channeling her inner Steven Spielberg, Alyssa was working on creating training programs for Nebraska Extension including Facebook for Business and Sustainability at Home. Her Facebook training covered how to create a Facebook page for a business step by step, how to increase engagement on your Facebook page, what to post, how to track your posts and evaluate success, and how to utilize paid advertising on Facebook. Her Sustainability training covered everything anyone could need to know about how to be more sustainable and save money at home. From reducing energy costs to recycling through a few easy steps we can greatly reduce the impact we have on the environment and our wallets. Alyssa then took this one step further and started laying the groundwork for a sustainability competition between businesses in Grand Island and hopes to see this happen in the future to create a healthier community and lower the energy cost burden on businesses!

We’ve also made a lot of progress on our 4th Street project. We finished the directory of our businesses and now the program is positioned to utilize that information to make a map of that area that will show off the all of the great diversity that Grand Island has to offer (there are about 100 locally owned businesses on 4th Street). We also were able to host a community meeting for the business owners on 4th Street as well. We are hoping to create connections across race and gender so that the business owners can work together to bring investment and customers to 4th Street and show Nebraska how great of a place 4th Street in Grand Island is!

Then, week 8, we moved to Broken Bow! Stay tuned for all that is to come. Sneak peek it includes dog parks, barn celebrations, intern socials, and more! We’ve loved getting to know this community and have already been working hard on projects this week! 


Wonderful Selfie that includes Alyssa, Angela and Miguel Estevez (Mental Health Therapist/UNO Graduate Student) as they finished their second mental health workshop for the Latino community in Grand Island.

Pictured here is Angela (maroon sweater on right) assisting a photography class to learn how to take good pictures and possibly make a business out of it.

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Please welcome Mark Balschweid, Ph.D. — Interim Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute

July 1, 2019
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is now led by Mark Balschweid, Ph.D., Professor and Head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) College of Agricultural Sciences and …
“It is imperative that the University continues to create value and tangible outcomes with rural communities in our state. I am proud to join the Rural Futures Institute, which is doing just that and so much more.”
Mark Balschweid, Ph.D.
RFI Interim Executive Director

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is now led by Mark Balschweid, Ph.D., Professor and Head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Balschweid, who has worked extensively in evaluating international programs in agricultural and extension education, joins RFI after 11 years within his departmental leadership role. Prior to coming to UNL in 2008, Balschweid was on faculty at Purdue University in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education.

“The ability of the Rural Futures Institute to identify solutions and create outcomes by bringing together many different partners — students, faculty and communities of place and practice — is impressive,” Balschweid said. “The team has found an innovative way to not only convene likely and unlikely collaborators, but support them for individual leadership development and community workforce and economic impact.”

Balschweid holds his doctorate in Agricultural Education from Oregon State University. He received a Fulbright Fellowship and spent a year teaching and conducting research at Jamaica’s College of Agriculture, Science, and Education. He authored Jamaica’s first Bachelor of Sciences Degree in Agricultural Education and continues to consult in Jamaica and the Middle East.

His research interests include the impact of international experiences on student learning and development, evaluation of international agricultural and extension education programs and highlighting the intersection of science and agriculture in secondary and postsecondary curricula.

Balschweid enters the leadership role of RFI during its launch of the Nebraska Thriving Index and the pilot of an evolved Fellows model

Nebraska Thriving Index RFI Fellows

An initial version of the online application of the Nebraska Thriving Index is already available for use and a print version will be released this summer. Both provide economic developers, local elected officials and community leaders with economic and quality of life indicators to identify thriving and lagging regions so strategic, future-focused investments can be made.

RFI Fellows has grown to incorporate student fellows along with community innovation and faculty fellows. The pilot also includes individual leadership development training and coaching in the area of inclusion through the expertise and guidance of Helen Fagan, Ph.D., RFI director of leadership engagement.

Student Fellows from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Saint Louis University and Washington University are currently deployed in Custer County, Garden County, Chadron and Grand Island. They are working closely with Community Innovation and Faculty Fellows on community-defined projects that include community marketing, workforce development, early childhood programming, mental health care access and entrepreneurship.

“This is a critical time in the future of rural communities, the university and RFI,” Fagan said. “Through our model, we are supporting not only the individuals involved, but also increasing the leadership capacity in the communities and creating future-focused outcomes.

“What we’re learning in this summer’s pilot will propel us forward with partners for a phenomenal 2020 experience, and I’m happy to have Dr. Balschweid on board to help us.”

Students, communities, partners and sponsors are invited to provide feedback on the Nebraska Thriving Index and connect with RFI about a 2020 Fellows experience. Community and student fellows applications will be made available in the coming months.

“The passion and reach the Institute’s team has always had to make a true difference in the lives of rural Nebraskans, and rural people around the world, is palpable,” Balschweid said. “It is imperative that the University continues to create value and tangible outcomes with rural communities in our state, and I am proud to join the Rural Futures Institute, which is doing just that and so much more.”

Work With RFI
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