Melissa Garcia

Community Innovation Fellow | Community Affairs Manager | Black Hills Energy

Broken Bow, Nebraska

 


 

Throughout the past fifteen years Melissa has played various roles in community development across western and central Nebraska. Her deep belief in using collective impact to intentionally seek a better future has given her the privilege of taking part in more than $300 million in development in her hometown of Broken Bow during the past five years. Her greatest professional accomplishments come in rural program development. She has had the pleasure of speaking at various conferences and events from National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship conferences to the stage of TEDx Lincoln. Melissa has been married to her husband Chad for 13 years. They and their two daughters live in Broken Bow where their children are the sixth generation of Melissa’s family to do so.

melissa.garcia@blackhillscorp.com

Leadership Roles

  • Creator of Leadership Custer County
  • Youth Leadership Custer County
  • Custer CAPABLE (Custer Alliance for Preparing Business Leadership and Education)
  • Former Connecting Young Nebraskans steering committee member

 

Expertise

  • Marketing
  • Speech Communications
  • Economic Development

 

Publications

TEDxLincoln 2015: Rooted, but Not Standing Still

Memberships

  • Nebraska Enterprise Fund Board
  • University of Nebraska President Advisory Committee
  • Leadership Nebraska graduate
  • Sherwood Foundation Community Catalyst
  • Former Member of Nebraska Entrepreneurship Task Force, created a joint community college curriculum for entrepreneurship

 

Grants

  • USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grants
  • USDA Rural Energy for America Programs
  • Robert B. Daughtery Foundation

 

Awards

Marty Fattig

Community Innovation Fellow | CEO | Nemaha County Hospital

Auburn, Nebraska

 


 

Marty Fattig has been involved in healthcare for more than 35 years. He began his career as a bench medical technologist and expanded his technical skills to include radiology and electrocardiology. Later he entered the field of healthcare administration and has served in various capacities including Laboratory Manager, Director of Ancillary Services and hospital CEO. He has also served as a laboratory consultant and computer systems manager for a regional reference laboratory.

mfattig@nchnet.org

Leadership Roles

  • Past President of the Nebraska Rural Health Association
  • Chairman of the Nebraska Hospital Association Issue Strategy Group on Workforce Shortages
  • Past President of the Southeast Nebraska AHEC
  • Vice President of the Region 2 Trauma Advisory Board
  • Chairman of the Rural Health Advisory Commission
  • Executive board of the Mid-America Hospital Alliance

 

Grants

  • Helmsley grant for digital mammography equipment

 

Publications

Credentials

  • Bachelor’s degree, medical technology
  • Master’s degree, healthcare administration

 

Research Interests

  • Improving rural economics
  • Rural education
  • Rural population health to improve the quality of life for all Nebraskans

 

Awards

  • J. G. Elliott Award for excellence in medicine from the University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Meritorious Service Award from the Nebraska Hospital Association
  • President’s Award from the Nebraska Rural Health Association
  • NeHII HIT Visionary Award
  • HIT Fellow

Bree Dority, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellow | Associate Dean, College of Business & Technology | Associate Professor, Economics

University of Nebraska at Kearney

 


 

Bree Dority has done extensive work on issues that directly affect the stakeholders of the University of Nebraska and the people of Nebraska. She has conducted economic impact, labor availability and community revitalization studies, and has presented and published research on school consolidation, tobacco free laws and ethanol, topics of particular relevance to rural Nebraska communities. Prior to joining UNK, Dr. Dority was an Associate at Analysis Group, an economic consulting firm in Denver, Colorado. Her research has been published in Energy Economics, Contemporary Economic Policy, and the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing. Bree’s economic impact work on rural labor and school consolidation is regularly cited and continues to be used in decision-making by rural practitioners, businesses, and school administrators in Nebraska.

doritybl@unk.edu

Credentials

  • Doctorate in economics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Research Interests

  • Applied economics
  • Policy at the local and regional levels

Grants

  • “America’s Best Communities: Kearney Revitalization Plan,” with Reed Miller, Brenda Jensen, Eric Hellriegel, Jennie Meister, and Shawn Kaskie, Buffalo County Community Partners, 2015.

Expertise

  • Economics

Publications

  • “Relationship between Ethanol and Gasoline: AIDS Approach,” with Frank Tenkorang, Deborah Bridges, and Eddery Lam, Energy Economics, (2015) 50, 63-69.
  • “Economic Issues in School Consolidation in Nebraska,” with Eric Thompson, Great Plains Research Journal, (2013) 23, 145-157.
  • “Local and Statewide Smoke-Free Laws in Nebraska: the Effects on Keno Establishments,” with Mary McGarvey, Eric Thompson, and Jyosthna Sainath, Contemporary Economic Policy, (2013) 31(3), 549-564
  • Crane Study articles
  • Tourists who visit central Nebraska for sandhill crane migration spend millions by Rick Ruggles, World-Herald staff writer. Jul 17, 2017.

Jim Cavaye, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellow | Professor, Program Director | Institute for Resilient Regions

University of Southern Queensland | Australia

 


 

Dr. Cavaye is an accomplished practitioner, educator and researcher in community development with 35 years of experience working with rural and regional communities. He has assisted more than 130 local communities across Australia and internationally with community appraisals, community engagement processes, community planning and economic development strategies. Globally respected and well published in the field of rural community development with a particular interest in applied research in rural tourism capacity building, Jim is our first and only International Fellow, but hopefully not for long.

As Professor of Regional Community Development at the University of Southern Queensland, he leads a collaborative research program addressing key issues for regional communities. He was formerly a well-known consultant and a Principal Rural Development Officer with the Queensland Government. He is a board member of the Community Development Society and an international speaker and author.

Jim.Cavaye@usq.edu.au

Expertise

  • Rural Community Development
  • Community Engagement
  • Community Economic Development

Credentials

  • Doctorate, University of Wisconsin

Publications

Grants

  • ACIAR Value Chains and Community Development in the Philippines
  • CCSG Interactions between Agriculture and Coal Seam Gas
  • Central West Queensland Digital Research Study

Randy Cantrell, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellow | Professor | Development Specialist | Rural Futures Institute, Nebraska Extension

University of Nebraska

 


 

Dr. Cantrell joined the University of Nebraska in 1995 following a 17-year career with Cooperative Extension at the University of Minnesota in various outreach and administrative roles. Randy is a rare resource as one of the few, if not only, rural sociologists in NE. When small towns and their stakeholders need demographic statistics, he digs into the rural poll data and other sources to deliver customized information.

rcantrell1@unl.edu

Expertise

  • Community Sociology
  • Survey Research
  • Secondary Data Sources and Reporting

Publications

Grants

  • USDA New Resident Research
  • USDA New Resident Research and Extension
  • USDA Local Food

Professional

  • Community Development Society: Friend of Community Development
  • NACDEP Excellence in Teamwork Award

Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellow | Nebraska Extension Specialist

Community Vitality Panhandle Research and Extension Center
 


Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel has been employed in community development since 1986. She has worked as an Extension Educator in North Dakota and Nebraska, a University Learning Center Coordinator and is currently a University of Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Specialist in Scottsbluff, Neb. Dr. Burkhart-Kriesel has been active in a variety of organizations and has held leadership roles in the South Platte Natural Resources District, statewide Workforce Investment Board, Nebraska Wheat Growers Association and National Association of Wheat Growers. Cheryl’s research and Extension outreach work on new resident recruitment is nationally recognized throughout the Marketing Hometown America program. She also applies her best practice profitability research expertise through joint ownership of a seed distribution business in the NE panhandle community of Gurley.

cburkhartkriesel1@unl.edu

Credentials

  • Community and Human Resources, Ph.D.

Publications

Research Interests

  • New resident recruitment, Marketing Hometown America
  • Strengthening small business profitability, especially in the area of customer service,
  • Community Vitality
  • Providing community data to support local decisions, Rural Poll

Grants

  • Rural Futures Institute, $57,073, December, 2013 Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development in the Great Plains.
  • USDA National Research Initiative – Rural Development, $498,000, October 2008 – July 2012.Marketing Rural Communities to Attract and Retain Workers.
  • USDA National Research Initiative – Rural Development, $220,000 June, 2006 – June, 2008. Relocation to the Buffalo Commons: Using a marketing approach to understand residential decisions among migrants to the Nebraska Panhandle.

Awards

  • Nebraska Gamma Sigma Delta Excellence in Extension, 2016
  • National Rural Sociological Society Excellence in Extension and Outreach Award, 2015
  • National Community Development Society Innovation Award for Marketing Hometown America, 2014.

Robert Blair, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellow | College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS)

University of Nebraska at Omaha

 


 

Dr. Blair, Professor of Public Administration and Director of Urban Studies, has been at the University of Nebraska Omaha since 1989. Previously he worked in city management, economic development and community development in Nebraska. He directs the local management program at UNO and works regularly with city managers. Prof. Blair has assisted many communities and public organizations on projects related to community and economic development. He was recognized by ICMA in 2014 for his contributions to the field of professional local government management. Prof. Blair has contributed to Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Works Management and Policy Journal, State and Local Government Review, International Journal of Public Administration, Great Plains Research, The Journal of the Community Development, Public Administration Review, and Public Administration Quarterly. Bob is another Fellow who is now teaching and researching based on lessons learned as city manager in NE communities. His research and outreach efforts have been a great resource for public administrators throughout rural NE and the midwest.

rblair@unomaha.edu

Research Interests

  • Public policy
  • State and local government
  • Urban and rural development
  • Program implementation

Expertise

  • Public Administration
  • Community Development
  • City Management
  • Economic Development

Leadership Roles

  • Local Government Management Education committee for the Network of Schools of
  • Public Policy, Affairs and Administration
  • Vice chair of the Advisory Board on Graduate Education for the International City
  • Management Association (ICMA)

Publications

  • City Management in the United States and Norway: A Comparative Analysis of Professional Orientations. Christian Janousek, co-author. International Journal of Public Administration, 37 (8) 484-493, 2014.
  • Demographic Foundation of Rural Education in the Great Plains: The Impact of Urbanization. David Drozd and Jerry Deichert, co-authors. Great Plains Research. 23 (3) Fall 2013.
  • State Rural Development Policy: The Role of the Community Development Block Grant Program. Jerry Deichert and David Drozd, co-authors. Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management. 20 (1) Spring 2008.
  • Theory-Practice Exchange in Local Government Management: Perspectives of Practitioners and Scholars. Christian Janousek, co-author. American Review of Public Administration.
  • The Emergence of Local Government Policy Leadership: A Roaring Torch or a Flickering Flame? Anthony Starke, co-author. State and Local Government Review 49 (4), 2017.

Awards

  • Alumni Association Outstanding Teaching Award, 2015. UNO Alumni Association.
  • Honorary Member, International City/County Management Association, 2014, for distinguished public service and contributions to the improvement and strengthening of local government, ICMA’s the highest award
  • Pi Alpha Alpha, National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration, 2004.

Grants

  • Rural Futures Institute
  • Faculty Research International
  • Omaha Public Power District

Understanding Hispanics & Sense of Community

Teaching & Engagement, 2016


Summary

This mixed methods research study will be conducted within two Nebraska counties to better understand the assets and the challenges associated with being Hispanic/Latino in rural Nebraska. This project addresses community concerns that were identified during the 2015 East Central District comprehensive community health needs assessment. Six focus groups (three in each county) and a survey of at least 100 Hispanic/Latino individuals from each community will be conducted. A bilingual community report will be developed with community partners that includes actionable recommendations.

Impacts

This was the first study to describe sense of community, neighboring behaviors, participation in community life, discrimination, and life satisfaction among Hispanic immigrants in Nebraska. Six focus groups (three in each community) were conducted during March 2017 and involved 56 participants. The quantitative portion of the study included 206 participants, half from Schuyler and half from Columbus.

Major findings of the study include:

  • Hispanics in rural areas want to feel a sense of community with other community members, and emotional connection was rated the highest of the four components of sense of community.
  • Participants understood “community” to be more than a geographic place. They believed that community meant a feeling of belonging, unity, acceptance, and a willingness to help others.
  • Study participants had actively participated in associations, made financial or in-kind donations, talked with other people about problems or issues, and volunteered for community and charitable organizations.
  • Most participants were satisfied with their lives and found their community to be peaceful, safe, and good for families.
  • Sense of community was significantly positively associated with community participation and life satisfaction both at the bivariate and multivariate levels.
  • Despite perceiving discrimination, Hispanic immigrant residents were satisfied with their lives; rated their health as excellent, good or very good; and felt welcome, comfortable, and safe in their current community.
  • Strong positive associations between life satisfaction, neighboring, and health. Neighborhoods and communities may affect reserve capacity. Environments that promote feeling welcome, safe, and having neighbors who watch out for each other could be a protective factor, strengthening Hispanic immigrants’ sense of resiliency and contributing to overall life satisfaction.

Crucial to the success of the project were relationships that the research team built with key community partners. They include AMWAY (group of local sellers), Chichualco Supermarket, Comité Latino de Schuyler (Latino Committee of Schuyler), El Centro Hispano de Columbus, Heartland Workers Center, La Gloria Restaurant, Latinoamerica Grocery, Pacific Window Tint LLC, Schuyler Public Library, St. Augustine Church, The Columbus Chamber of Commerce, The Platte Valley Literacy Association.

In addition to the significant findings of the research project, another success has been the student learning that has taken place through the two graduate students who have worked on the project. The Principal Investigator mentored the students and together they conceived the research questions, developed the survey instrument and focus group guide, brainstormed potential community partners, strategized on how to complete the project, and analyzed the data.

Activities in which the graduate students were involved during the project with the mentorship of the Principal Investigator included:

  • Conducted a literature review and developed a database of relevant literature.
  • Attended the Rural Futures Regional Summit in West Point in September of 2016.
  • Visited Schuyler and Columbus on several occasions and had meetings with community members and organizations looking to establish community partnerships and gather ideas for data that would be useful to community partners.
  • Developed and submitted an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application.
  • Developed the survey instrument
  • Conducted data collection using bilingual paper-and-pencil surveys
  • Attended some of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s “Engaging Immigrants” committee meetings
  • Created a database in SPSS and entered data from 206 surveys
  • Conducted a quantitative data analysis
  • Worked with communities to develop the focus group questions and guide
  • Revised the interview protocol to include the focus group component
  • Received training on focus group facilitation
  • Conducted three focus groups in Spanish in each community
  • Analyzed and contextualized the qualitative data that was obtained through the focus groups
  • Developed a written report including a bilingual executive summary to share with community partners
  • Attended the UNL Minority Health Disparities Initiative Conference on February of 2017
  • Wrote and submitted abstracts for conference presentations and conducted multiple posters and oral presentations at local and regional events

 

Project Team

  • Athena Ramos (PI), Center for Reducing Health Disparities, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Antonia Correa, Center for Reducing Health Disparities, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Natalia Trinidad, Center for Reducing Health Disparities, University of Nebraska Medical Center

 

Publications

  • Ramos, A.K., Carvajal, B., Leon, M., & Trinidad, N. (2017). Sense of community, participation, and life satisfaction among Hispanic immigrants in rural Nebraska. Kontakt, 19 e284-295. DOI: 10.1016/j.kontakt.2017.09.005

 

Presentations

  • Cambio de Colores Annual Conference
    Life Satisfaction, Neighboring, and Health: Findings from Hispanic Immigrants in Northeast Nebraska
    June 7, 2018 | Kansas City, MO
  • Cambio de Colores Annual Conference
    Understanding Hispanics and Sense of Community in Rural Northeast Nebraska
    June 15, 2017 | St. Louis, MO
  • Columbus Chamber of Commerce Meeting
    Preliminary Review: Understanding Hispanics and Sense of Community in Rural Northeast Nebraska
    June 15, 2017 | St. Louis, MO
  • UNMC College of Public Health Student Research Day
    Understanding Hispanics and Sense of Community in Rural Northeast Nebraska
    April 5, 2017 | Omaha, NE

 

Media Coverage

 

 

Contact: Athena Ramos, aramos@unmc.edu

Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs and Transforming Local Business Owners

Research & Engagement, 2017

Summary

The critical role of entrepreneurship and small businesses in addressing many of the social (e.g., population retention) and economic challenges (e.g., lack of jobs) facing rural communities has now been well established. Consequently, 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. Unfortunately, most programs intended to address these goals are developed in and for larger communities and are not attuned to the unique economic environment and job outlook in smaller communities.

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.

Impact

The research team has successfully completed the first pilot program in the Sandhills area and implemented a portion of the program in Krakow, Poland in June 2018.

In the Sandhills, one-on-one interviews with local business owners and focus group interview with youth participants were conducted to address the goal of examining the unique needs and contexts of local businesses and rural youth with regard to business ownership, entrepreneurship, and vocational training. The research team is in the process of transcribing, coding, and analyzing the collected data.

In combination with the RFI project, “Developing A Model for Quality of Life” as well as the RFI project “Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future,” this project has earned a $490k USDA grant for high-tech youth entrepreneurship clinics. Details >>>

Project Team

  • Surin Kim, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Education and Human Sciences
  • Maria Rosario de Guzman, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Child, Youth & Family Studies
  • Mindy Anderson-Knott, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium
  • Susan Pearman, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Nebraska Extension
  • Jody Dexter, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Nebraska Extension

Partners

  • Don Macke, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
  • Monica Braun, Center for Rural Affairs
  • Lana Zumbrunn, Fuse Coworking Space
  • Dave Rippe, Hastings Economic Development Corporation
  • Matthew Hurt, Hastings Senior High School
  • Tom Field, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
  • Carlos Estrada, Unicornable, LLC
  • Van Tran, Amazon.com, Inc

 

Publications

 

Publications

  • International Council for Small Businesses
    Youth and Young Adults Helping Local SMEs to Expand Their Markets by Solving Live Cases of Their Market Growth Challenges
    June 29, 2018 | Taipei, 
    Taiwan
  • United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
    Nurturing Rural Youth Entrepreneurs
    January 13, 2018 | Los Angeles, CA
  • United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
    Developing a Model for Rural Youth Entrepreneurs
    January 12, 2018 | Los Angeles, CA

 

Media Coverage

 

Contact: Surin Kim, surin@unl.edu

Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities

Teaching & Engagement, 2017


Summary

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.

Impact

The team began working with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s Engaging Diversity Committee to identify community leaders in Columbus. Between January and March of 2018, research team members contacted all identified potential participants and evaluated their interest in participating, ensured they met eligibility criteria, and scheduled the interview upon their agreement. 15 key informant interviews took place, with participants representing different sectors in the community, including business, education, healthcare, and social services. Once interviews and data collection were complete, the two graduate students developed a coding scheme and identified eight themes: acculturation strategies, assets of immigrants, collaborations, community development, historical development, opportunities, personal experience of migration and sense of community. Two abstracts have been accepted for poster presentation, and the team is in the process of developing a community fact sheet and report based on the study’s findings. These will be shared at an upcoming meeting with the Engaging Diversity Committee, as well as the study’s participants.

 

Project Team:

  • Athena Ramos, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Center for Reducing Health Disparities

Presentations

  • Cambio de Colores
    Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities
    June 6-8, 2018 | Kansas City, MO

Media Coverage

Partners

  • Yesenia Peck, Nebraska Public Power District
  • Comite Latino de Schuyler
  • Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Engaging Immigrants Committee
  • Heartland Workers’ Center

 

Contact: Athena Ramos, aramos@unmc.edu