Rural Opportunities Fair to connect students, rural communities

University of Nebraska students will have a unique opportunity to connect with representatives of nearly 40 communities, companies and organizations at the first-ever Rural Opportunities Fair, to be held Oct. 21 in Lincoln as a special kickoff to the Rural Futures Conference.

The Rural Opportunities Fair will allow students to explore internship and job possibilities with community and business representatives who are looking to recruit young talent, as well as leadership, social and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist for students throughout rural Nebraska. The fair goes from noon to 2 p.m. in the Nebraska East Union on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. It is hosted by the University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute. All NU students interested in living and working in a rural community are invited to attend the fair at no cost.

“There is a huge disconnect between what youth have been told about rural Nebraska and the actual opportunities that exist,” said Greg Ptacek, economic development director of the City of Neligh, which will be represented at the fair. “Hopefully, the one-on-one conversations will spark a change in attitude toward rural as a viable life option for this next generation.”

 Companies and organizations that will be represented at the fair include the Central Nebraska Economic Development District, Department of Rural Health, Intern Nebraska, Nebraska State Bar Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fields where internship or job opportunities will be available include agribusiness, agronomy, community planning, education, engineering, entrepreneurship, accounting and finance, healthcare, information technology, marketing and communications, natural resources, veterinary and animal sciences and others.

 “We hope to try and attract a younger, revitalized workforce and bring new ideas and energy to Auburn,” said Kim Beger, Auburn Development Council Treasurer. “We are pleased to be partnering with the University of Nebraska on events like these as they provide Auburn and rural Nebraska exposure and an opportunity to show our successes. Auburn’s hope is to connect with some NU students that can help fill the professional workforce needs that are becoming available by our current developing industries and the current retiring workforce.”

 Kristina Foth, assistant director of Valley County Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Rural Opportunities Fair will provide Valley County with an opportunity we have been searching for, allowing us to heighten our recruitment efforts and make intentional connections with potential workforce. Relationships we have cultivated with NU students in the past and new connections we hope to foster have great potential to enhance business activity and contribute to significant growth for local businesses in Valley County.”

 The Rural Opportunities Fair is part of the third Rural Futures Conference, which is Oct. 21-23. Registration for the conference, which will be offered both in Lincoln and Curtis, is currently open at The conference drew a sold-out crowd of more than 500 when it was last held in 2013.

2015 Rural Futures Conference Oct. 21-22 at NCTA


“Hope Inspires Vision” is the theme of the third national Rural Futures Conference, scheduled for Oct. 21-23 in two Nebraska locations, including the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.

Registration for the conference, which drew a sold-out crowd of more than 500 when it was last held in 2013, is currently open at The conference is hosted by the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Attendees from the Curtis area will be able to participate in this year’s conference at NCTA on Oct. 21 and 22. Registration is $100 for the Curtis location ($20 for high school and college students). The conference also will be offered at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln.

“The Rural Futures Institute has been known for its ingenuity since its start, and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is pleased to be a partner in taking that innovation one step further by hosting the conference simultaneously here in Curtis,” said Ron Rosati, NCTA dean.

“Entrepreneurs, business leaders, agricultural producers and students from high schools and colleges throughout the region will be joining us at NCTA to share in this live, rural perspective close to where we work and live,” Rosati said.

Conference sessions will encourage attendees to work together to build hope and develop a vision for invigorating rural communities, he added.

The conference kicks off on the evening of Oct. 21 with a dialogue session between Howard G. Buffett and Howard W. Buffett, authors of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, a book about the limited opportunities people have to make a difference in the world.

Ronnie Green, NU vice president of agriculture and natural resources and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and Harlan Vice Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, will moderate the dialog.

The Buffetts’ session, “Finding Hope: Pioneering Your 40 Chances,” is free and open to the public and is jointly sponsored with the Heuermann Lectures at IANR. NCTA participants are invited for pre-session refreshments at 4:45 p.m. at NCTA’s Nebraska Agriculture Industry Education Center.

Other conference speakers include Clifton Taulbert, a noted author, entrepreneur and businessman who is president and CEO of the Freemount Corp., a human capital development company; and Shane Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen and a leading Gallup researcher on the science of hope. University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds will make opening remarks, “Dream Big With Me,” on the morning of Oct. 22.

“We know that hope matters tremendously to the success of rural communities,” said Chuck Schroeder, founding executive director of the Rural Futures Institute. “Active hope, combined with a strong vision for the future, can energize rural people and places and ensure that rural communities are a viable choice for young people to live and work.”

Speakers involved at the Curtis site are Anne Burkholder, Will Feed, Inc., Cozad; Ben Blecha, Ace Ortho Solutions, Benkelman; Ken Rahjes, AgView, Elwood; Sarah Pinet, Victory Hill Farm, Scottsbluff; and Barry Fox, Kinkaider Brewing Company, Broken Bow. Educators from four NCTA partner high schools will be bringing students and participating as well on Oct 22. They are from Cambridge, Cozad, Elm Creek and York.

“Our first two conferences in 2012 and 2013 confirmed our thinking that the long-term economic success of rural communities is a critical area for research and engagement – one in which the University of Nebraska is well-positioned to play a leadership role,” Schroeder adds. “We’re excited to again bring together stakeholders from Nebraska and beyond to share our best ideas.”

 Other conference sessions will focus on entrepreneurship, broadband development, civic engagement, transdisciplinary education, eco-education, innovation and youth leadership. Faculty and students also will have the opportunity to present posters on research questions that showcase new knowledge and ideas relevant to the conference theme.

“The access for rural residents through the latest in communication technologies is vital for this conference,” Rosati adds. “We hope many will take advantage of this great opportunity here in Curtis.”

Activities at Lincoln include the first-ever Rural Opportunities Fair on Oct. 21, an event similar to a career fair in which students will have a chance to explore opportunities to live and work in rural communities across Nebraska and the region. Conference activities on Oct. 23 in Lincoln include remarks from Gov. Pete Ricketts, breakout sessions, a panel discussion and closing remarks from Schroeder.

Complete conference details with a full agenda, registration information, speaker biographies, poster session guidelines and more, are available at

Up-to-date information can also be found by following the Rural Futures Institute on Twitter and Facebook and by using #RFC2015 on social media.

About the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska

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

Editor’s note: Members of the media are welcome to attend any part of the Rural Futures Conference at no charge. Contact Kayla or Mary for details about the Lincoln or Curtis locations, respectively.


Rural Futures Institute program developing young leaders

Emerging young leaders in the state will have the opportunity to participate in a series of professional development events this fall thanks to a program of the University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute that aims to prepare Nebraska’s next generation of rural leaders.

Connecting Young Nebraskans, offered by the Rural Futures Institute, is partnering with five Nebraska communities to offer the professional development opportunities that will help nurture the skills, talents and abilities of young people and meet the unique leadership needs of the region. Each event will be led by a team identified by the respective community; teams will include representatives of area community colleges, private colleges, local chambers of commerce, economic development offices, the Nebraska Community Foundation and Nebraskans for Civic Reform, among others.

“Young leaders have been requesting more opportunities to network and strengthen their skills, and Connecting Young Nebraskans is excited to work with communities and regions to offer professional development opportunities that will help develop future leaders,” said Kayla Schnuelle, coordinator of the program and integrated marketing specialist and young leader coordinator for the Rural Futures Institute.

Connecting Young Nebraskans professional development events are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

  • Sept. 29 in Beatrice: “Be the Change, Be the Leader: Redefining How We Set and Achieve Goals,” 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Southeast Community College
    View Flyer
  • Oct. 1 in Grand Island: “Finding Passion at Work,” 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Home Federal Bank Building
    View Flyer
  • Nov. 12 in Columbus: “Modern Mentorship,” 1 to 4 p.m. plus happy hour at the Henry on 11th Building.
    View Flyer
  • Nov. 17 in Ord: “Igniting Powerful Action Summit,” 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Ord Learning Center.
  • Nov. 18 in Seward: “Achieving Successful Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace,” 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Seward Memorial Library.
    View Flyer

Detailed programming information, including cost, speaker details and registration information, is available here. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s MBA program is a joint sponsor of the Grand Island and Seward events.

To host one of the events, community leaders submitted proposals to the Rural Futures Institute identifying the unique needs of young leaders in their community. Proposals outlined the challenges young leaders face in the region, as well as ideas on how they could develop skills to address the challenges. Areas for development identified by community leaders including finding a passion at work, mentorship and investment, taking action on big ideas, and finding balance in a young professional’s life.

Connecting Young Nebraskans also hosted an online webinar on Aug. 4 with Nebraskans for Civic Reform and the Nebraska Community Foundation to discuss the 2015 Nebraska Civic Health Index and a new Civic Health Ambassador Program. The webinar was available to young leaders across the state and beyond. A recording is available at

For more information about Connecting Young Nebraskans, visit or follow the program’s Facebook or Twitter accounts.

About Connecting Young Nebraskans
Connecting Young Nebraskans is a program of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska. The Rural Futures Institute believes that young leaders are a vital part of communities and that they should be included in the community leadership structure. When young leaders’ growth and development is embraced, their ambitions can be harnessed to energize communities across the nation.

Infographic Showing Occupation of CYN Members

About the Rural Futures Institute
Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, the Rural Futures Institute mobilizes the diverse resources of the University of Nebraska and its partners to support rural communities and regions in building upon their unique strengths and assets to achieve their desired futures. Learn more at