RFI PROJECT UPDATE: Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities

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.