This Week in Serviceship 2018: Week Six!

Broken Bow, Neb.

Since we are at the halfway point in our internship, we have realized a couple of things. First, we have gotten a lot done on our projects and have met a lot of people who are very willing to help us out. Second, we have a lot left to do before we leave at the beginning of August.

Our last two weeks have included attending more economic development meetings, attending another radio talk show, having lunch with Chuck, Theresa and Helen and continuing to enjoy Broken Bow, Neb. We continue to host our weekly coffees, and this past Monday, we tried something new. We hosted ‘Refreshments and Feedback’ at a local bar and grill to try to draw more of the younger population out. We had our last coffee with the community on Wednesday morning which was a great way to tie up loose ends and get some final feedback.

Moving forward with our major projects has been very rewarding. After some phone calls we have finally obtained banners from Budweiser and Coca-Cola for different locations in town welcoming the Sturgis bikers. In addition to our signs, we are working on a wallet sized promotion card for the Bikers which will allow them to use this coupon to get great deals and discounts at different locations around town.

“Getting to tour the small towns in Custer County has really opened my eyes to the issues that a lot of small communities have in common. These issues include keeping businesses going and affordable housing which are two solvable problems. Not only have I seen the problems but I have seen so much innovation and creativity which is really assuring.”


We will be meeting with the CEO of the YMCA in Kearney next Monday to get a better idea of what an updated recreational facility could look like for the community of Broken Bow. This will be a great opportunity for the steering committee that we have complied to ask questions and see what the next steps to improve recreational services in the Broken Bow area is.

Broken Bow Serviceship Interns featured in story in the Custer County Chief.

We have decided to start getting to know the surrounding communities more. On Monday, Jun. 25, we went to Arnold, Neb. We were able to meet business owners, enjoy local food and discuss local housing issues with Cheryl Carson who is the economic development director in Arnold. On Thursday, Jun. 27, we ventured again to a different community in Custer County—Sargent. We were able to tour some of the businesses there including the new bar, Mr. Rudy’s, and the recently updated grocery store. Chris, the economic development director there, showed us most of the town which included some of the housing projects, the school and many of the antique shops they have. The community hosts many antique based celebrations that bring hundreds of visitors to the town.

Jessica is making strides on getting Broken Bow listed as a Leadership Certified Community and is volunteering for the local 4H. Leanne has started to write for the Custer County Chief with her first article in this week’s newspaper.

We finally got to try to the local taco truck which was totally worth the hype that we have heard from several people around town. In other food news, the editor of the Custer County Chief, Donnis Hueftle-Bullock, invited us over for a grill out Tuesday evening and it was the first time we cooked while in Custer County as we are lucky enough to have our meals provided by the Hospital.

“I have really appreciated seeing other towns in Custer County. You can see all of the aspects that need work but also the aspects that community members pride themselves on. These are all things that I get me thinking about what I will need if I were to move back to a rural community in the future.”





Columbus, Neb.

Clayton discusses his RFI Serviceship experience in Columbus on air with KLIR Radio.

As KC Belitz would say, “HEY TEAM!” That is exactly how we have tackled our projects at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce—as a team. From brainstorming sessions to listing jobs for chamber members to recruiting campaign partners to pulling weeds for a streetscape project, there has been no shortage of opportunities for teamwork. The Chamber is never boring! Or maybe it’s just Clayton’s excitement for the unexpected stint in the sun, “… and then we get to pull weeds, I’M SO EXCITED!” Those weeds didn’t stand a chance.

The Young Nebraskans Week Committee met last week for the first time. We are working to incorporate their best suggestions from the meeting into our plan for the event. The next step is to create a budget and find sources of funding. This is a great group to work with and we hope to plan a successful event for them and the young professionals of the Columbus area.

“Columbus is unlike anywhere I have ever worked. People are creative, innovative, and forward thinking–they don’t mind paving a new trail, as long as the destination is worth it.”


Over the past three weeks, we have toured and visited different places in the community, including Behlen Manufacturing, Scotus Central Catholic High School, Nebraska Public Power District and KLIR Radio Station. These visits have opened our eyes to the challenges the community faces and what is done to address those challenges.

There is also no shortage of forward-thinking. “Columbus is unlike anywhere I have ever worked,” Amber noted. “People are creative, innovative, and forward thinking–they don’t mind paving a new trail, as long as the destination is worth it.” And that destination includes diversity and inclusion. Columbus hasn’t always been diverse, yet their attitude towards it has always been inclusive. “It doesn’t matter where you came from,” Kara Asmus explained, “it matters where you are going.”

That means moving forward as a team, which brings us back to KC’s comment at the beginning. It takes more than one key player to make things happen. While KC is an incredible chamber president known throughout the entire state of Nebraska, he cannot do what he does without the incredible team behind him. We are really fortunate that we work with such a great group of leaders. The same for the City of Columbus. Community development takes a village—a team.




Norfolk, Neb.

As we begin our sixth week in our serviceship experience, we begin our time with the Norfolk Visitor’s Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. We have still found ourselves very involved with Daycos’ day-to-day projects and still have some of our own projects with them at the last stages. In this summary we will outline our remaining commitments to Daycos and give a brief overview of what we believe our next four weeks will look like the Bureau. Lastly, we will update you on the personal takeaways that we have both gathered thus far.

Before I (Cheyenne) left for Iceland and Norway we came up with a list of deliverables we could hand into Daycos at the end of the summer. The first deliverable we wanted to make sure that we would have three videos done for them explain who is Daycos, how they do what they do and why they believe in giving back. The next project we will finish for Daycos is a “Wall of Aim” bulletin board project we have come up with to create internal and community pride. We are also working on to systemize and reorganize the hiring process that Daycos is currently using and make sure it is in line with their culture and values. Lastly, we are holding an all company meeting to create a company answer to the question “What is Daycos?” because we’ve found there’s a lot of variety in the answers we get to this question.

At the end of the summer we will create two project portfolios—one for the Bureau and one for Daycos. These four projects will be highlighted in Daycos’ portfolio so that they can use the products of our internship long after we leave.

In the next four weeks, along with tying up loose ends with Daycos, we will be working on creating a marketing strategy for Norfolk’s retail sector. We have been tasked to answer the question, “How do we cross-promote the entire community’s retail?” This is a problem specific to Norfolk because they have two main retail areas­—one is downtown and one is based out of a mall.

“The serviceship experience is so rewarding because you’re expected to truly become a part of someone else’s community — to live and learn and laugh just like the other community members.”



We have many modes of answering this overarching question. One way is by doing Secret Shopper surveys and Windshield Assessments of Norfolk’s retail areas and businesses. We are also working to schedule interviews and meetings with all of Norfolk’s retail top stakeholders, including business owners, committee members, and community leaders. We then have a massive brainstorming session scheduled for this Friday to come up with a way to strategize the next steps for retail and what our deliverables for Norfolk’s Visitor Bureau will be. An additional project we’re starting to pick up is to develop a customer service training service that the city could provide for its retail businesses to improve the visitor experience.

As far as personal gains go, Sam truly feels like her passions have really related to the culture and team building that we have had the opportunity to experience from our time at Daycos. She has also noticed that there’s such an abundance of wonderful people here in Norfolk. We have had many conversations about how communities can cultivate such strong groups of people because of what cool things we have experienced this summer. I feel like I have strengthened a lot of strengths that I have had. I’m never driven by numbers or hours, but rather by objectives. Since I missed two weeks of work this has been something I have had a great time expressing. While I will probably come close to making up the hours that I missed, I will make the objectives that I set. The goals that I made were considering 10 weeks of work, not 7 or 8. So hard work and drive is something that this internship has made me take even further.

“One of my favorite things about the serviceship experience is that I can apply my education and experience to the work that I am contributing in Norfolk every day. I love that I am able to better my leadership, knowledge and skills through my work to constantly learn and grow. It is exciting to think about how I can apply my experiences in the future!”


When we asked Brandon Day, the CEO of Daycos, for his thoughts on our serviceship, he said, “Daycos has been very fortunate to have Samantha Guenther and Cheyenne Gerlach as Rural Futures Institute interns this summer. In a short time, they have become a part of the organization, blending in well with our people and culture, and becoming a valuable part of our team. Having these smart, capable young women come in to our organization, and look at everything with a fresh set of eyes, and new ideas, has been invaluable. They have offered unique perspectives, probing questions, and great suggestions. A number of employees have commented how much they have enjoyed getting the chance to talk to them about our company, and how much value they got from the interactions. Despite only being here a few weeks, they have made a lasting positive impact on our organization. My only regret is that they can’t stay longer.”




Omaha Land Bank

Kyle and Sydney visit the office of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

Week five and six at the Omaha Land Bank has been a learning experience for both Kyle and Sydney. Sydney has started to help in the foreclosure process by helping the team generate documents to assist in the ten-step process of foreclosure. The land bank is a busy place in efforts to transform Omaha’s distressed properties into positive community assets. Every day, Sydney, Kyle and their co-workers are making huge strides in the success of many Omaha neighborhoods.

Sydney has been busy with various meetings. One that stuck out the most was when she had the opportunity to visit the Scooters that was recently opened in North Omaha. She had the opportunity to meet with the owner of that store location, Julian Young, who is a North Omaha advocate and entrepreneur. The opening of Scooters in North Omaha was more than just a coffee shop, it was a way for Young to tell the people of North Omaha that they mattered, and it was a place for the community to come together. It was inspirational for Sydney to hear Julian Young talk about his love and passion for his community. It made her question, what if everyone had a love for the community like Young? How would our communities look today?

The College World Series has been making our office location very busy. We are only blocks away from the number one destination in Omaha currently—TD Ameritrade. Our office had the opportunity to go tour the downtown area with all the pop-up shops, food trucks, and a top-notch train the Governor of Arkansas has been living in the last two weeks. While the unfamiliar faces have been very welcomed by our staff, we are ready to have our morning and afternoon commutes back to normal!

“It feels good coming to work and knowing that I will be transforming not only many of Omaha’s rundown neighborhoods but also many individuals lives. Day by day, the Land Bank is giving opportunities to those individuals who had no hope in owning a house. It’s a great group to be a part of.”


Sydney and Kyle have been taking quite a few more trips with professional staff this week to various events around town. After the Board meeting we were able to visit several floors of the city building including a quick trip to the mayor’s office. We have gone on trips to the planning department and have seen various meeting with our legal teams in dealing with the foreclosure team.

Dealing with the foreclosure team has really shown me a lot more of the actual day to day work of those around the legal field. The eye-opening experience has definitely solidified my choice in the program I have gone into and made me glad I have gone the current route I am on. We have entered a new process of the acquisition of 500 properties for the Land Bank and knowing that we made so much progress towards getting these lots and homes ready for new life is a rewarding experience.




Red Cloud, Neb.

Trenton and Trevor are in Red Cloud, Neb. for their serviceship. These past couple of weeks, we have spent a lot more time in the office working on the economic development plan. We spent the earlier part of our serviceship being truly immersed in the community and participating in all the events they had going on. Having that initial experience was a great way to build our understanding of the community, and really see what it has to offer. Being able to spend more time devoted in the office as given us plenty of time to work on the economic plan, which is great because that’s what we came here to do!

“It’s exciting to hear both visitors and locals say, ‘There’s a lot going on in Red Cloud!’ I’m hoping that our work here can be the compass which guides that energy into tangible outcomes.”



Trevor hangs up a poster promoting the Good Living Tour which is coming to Red Cloud on Jul. 7, 2018.

This week and last week we worked on reviewing our second draft of the plan, and then finishing the third draft, which is currently waiting on review from our lead mentor and members of the Economic Development Advisory Board.

We really focused on expanding the plan beyond just a basic structure and added plenty of guiding materials like a future land use plan, a marketing strategy, action plans for all public groups, and a few other things we are still working through. Altogether I think we have come a long way with our plan, and I hope when it is all said and done that the city has a clear and cohesive direction to move towards.

We have had some opportunities to step outside of the office though! The Good Living Tour, which is a concert series put on across a handful of towns in Nebraska that feature local Nebraska based bands, is coming to Red Cloud on July 7th. We were tasked with going around to different businesses in the community to seek sponsorships for the event to help cover the cost to not have it all came directly from the tourism department. We did have some luck with a couple businesses and some generous individuals, but we happened to be placed right at the end of a donation frenzy. There were a few major events in Red Cloud in the month prior, and little league baseball had it’s season start, so most businesses were already tapped out from these event, making it very hard to contribute to this cause. Luckily there should be enough sponsorship money overall to cover the event when all things are accounted for!

We met with the city superintendent and the organizers for the Good Living tour in the city park to decide where to place the stage, food vendors, mobile skate park, and other components of the tour.

We also had an opportunity to meet with Jeff Armstrong, a school board member, to get a better understanding of the state of the school system. We value the quality of education in any town setting, and we hope to give the school board and administrators a clear path forward to grow within the community!

“I really think everything is coming together for this community. They are growing, changing and becoming the town they were always meant to be. I cannot wait to see the progress Red Cloud makes in the future, and I hope the work we do here this summer will have a positive impact on the community for years to come!”



Helen Fagan, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is a leadership and diversity scholar and consultant. She is the CEO and founder of Global Leadership Group, an assistant professor of practice in leadership engagement at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a qualified executive coach.

Helen holds her doctorate in human sciences with emphasis in leadership. She studied international economics and British political economy at Oxford University during the formation of the European Union. Helen is a certified diversity trainer, a qualified administrator of the intercultural development inventory and a certified emotional intelligence and diversity trainer.

For the last four years she has also served as a faculty with the Qatar Institute for Intercultural Communication, providing workshops for faculty, staff and graduate students working at six U.S. universities in Education City in Qatar.

Dr. Fagan’s expertise in developing inclusive leaders, organizations and communities has enabled her to speak in multiple nations and four continents. Dr. Fagan’s passion is to develop leaders who create better tomorrows.

In 2000, she became the first coordinator of diversity and cultural competence initiatives at Bryan Health during which time the initiative gained national recognition. During that time, she played a key role in the recruitment and resettlement of nurses from the Philippines and worked diligently to address employment and healthcare needs of refugees and immigrants. Because of her dedication, she has received multiple awards including a key to the city of Lincoln.

Dr .Fagan’s Website Dr. Fagan’s CV

Episode 4: Professor Tim Griffin of Tufts intersects nutrition, agriculture & rural-urban collaboration




Tim Griffin, Ph.D., is Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. In this episode he discusses his interest and expertise at the intersection of agriculture and the environment as well as the development and implementation of sustainable production systems. Dr. Griffin has lived and worked with rural communities and regions throughout his career before landing in Boston, but what makes him fascinating is his ability to cross various boundaries and silos to explore solutions that result in a win-win for everyone involved. He doesn’t deny the difficulty of this, especially within the food system, but he explains how he does this personally and how he purposefully incorporates this abundance mindset with the graduates students he works with.

Tim Griffin, Tufts University, Associate Professor
“To think that the challenges in rural environments are totally different and mutually exclusive from the challenges in urban areas—I actually don’t believe that.“
Tim Griffin
Director, Agriculture, Food and Environment program, Tufts University

About Tim

Timothy Griffin is the director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program, as well as an associate professor at the Friedman School. His primary interests are the intersection of agriculture and the environment, and the development and implementation of sustainable production systems.

Griffin’s current research is focused on the environmental impacts of agriculture (nutrient flows, carbon retention and loss, and climate change), and impacts of policy on adoption of agricultural practices and systems. His past research responsibilities have included field and lab components addressing: crop management, alternative crop development, short- and long-term effects of cropping systems on potato yield and quality, management strategies to improve soil quality, manure nitrogen and phosphorus availability, soil carbon sequestration and cycling, emission of greenhouse gases from high-value production systems, and grain production for organic dairy systems.


Show Notes

Welcome back to the Rural Futures Podcast. We recorded this episode in Boston, Massachusetts, during our invited visit with Tufts University faculty. Our guest this episode is Dr. Tim Griffin of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. I started off by asking him to explain a bit more about the school itself and his roles at Tufts.

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy covers a lot of ground as a school, a very interdisciplinary free-standing school of nutrition, rather than being a department of nutrition within another college, so that make us unique. And then, for the last nine years, I’ve led an interdisciplinary program called Agriculture, Food and Environment which covers about as much base as you would think it would with a name like that. So, we go all the way from farming and the impacts of farming, and profitability of farming, all the way through to who has access to what kinds of food and who does not, both in the United States and globally.

That’s big, I mean, those are big questions, big areas of research, and teaching. I guess I’m curious about part of your story on how you even got here to Tufts, so could you tell us a little bit about your history— Sure. And why Tufts was so interested in having somebody like you join their team.

Yeah, so my path here is a winding path, starting in Nebraska, at the University of Nebraska, back decades ago. You know, I trained as an agronomist and a soil scientist, so I’ve been doing interdisciplinary research, essentially, since I was a master’s student in Nebraska in the 80’s, continued on, and have had three very different positions, but three positions that I’ve been really fortunate to have. So, my first faculty-level position was in cooperative extension in Maine. It was a sustainable agriculture specialist, which was the first position like that in the United States, and I was the first person to have it. So, it put me kind of right in, you know, maybe a kind of similar situation that I’m in now where it’s not about focusing on one thing, it’s about thinking what the linkage is across many different things and, you know, heavily involved with farmers and farming. At that point, I was a scientist at USDA but was doing work all the way from greenhouse gas emissions, to producing organic milk, and when I was in that position, I actually knew about this program at Tufts in the School of Nutrition which started in the mid 90’s, but for a while it was quite small and it just happened to be that they were looking for a new faculty member. There was a person retiring, and somewhat on a whim, which is kind of how I manage things, I applied for it, and the— You know, I was interested in it, because it just continues this kind of interdisciplinary aspects of agriculture in connection to the broader food system. I think the university and the school were interested, because I’d been, you know, deeply involved in agriculture for a long time before I came here. It’d been, you know, 25 years or more doing research, but also working with farmers, you know, did a lot of public talks so could communicate, that kind of thing. So, the idea was, like, bring that into the classroom, which is basically what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years.

So, we’ve heard about Tim Griffin at Tufts, but tell us a little bit about Tim Griffin outside of Tufts.

I love books. Actually, I bring books, we do a literature day in one of my classes, and it’s just like, here’s my take on, you know, books that connect to agriculture or you know the agrarian ideas in the United States, and, you know, I love music, so I bring music into class actually.

Okay, what kind of music?

All kinds that— A lot of folk music, actually, both current but older folk songs, so I’ll bring in old Woody Guthrie songs to class. Lot of great messages in some of that old music. My wife and I, you know we bike a lot, been traveling a lot over the last six or seven years, around the United States. We actually drove across the US four or five years ago for the first time.

That’s awesome! I didn’t know that.

Yeah, yeah, we drove, actually a former student’s car, we drove it out to Sacramento to give it to her, so, that was fun, and, so I mean, we get out and about a lot. You know, this is the first time we’ve lived in a big city, so we explore a lot of it just, you know it’s, we’ve gone the last couple of days, public transit, walking, biking. So that’s you know, that’s the kind of things we do.

So, tell us a little bit you know, we’ve heard about you as a person now, a little bit more, and also you, and your work at Tufts, and even before— Tell us a little bit about your leadership philosophy and style.

Yeah, I wish I had a specific philosophy. I was thinking about this this morning and it’s, I would say my leadership is somewhat intuitive, so I don’t have a particular strategy, and even really, a particular direction that you know, like I’ve charted out what I want to be doing 10 years from now, or five years from now, which is kind of why, you can see, I’ve changed positions to very different things a couple of times, and been fortunate to do that, but you know, I think early in my career, if I was asked to do, you know, to take a leadership role, whether it was, you know, an extension program or running a research project. Early in my career, I think, my first question that I would ask myself is, is it important, you know? Is it important to me, but also whatever organization I’m working with or for? I quickly modified that to be important and interesting, so you don’t get a lot of important things that you don’t really care about. And then, as I’ve told many of my, especially doctoral students recently, I’ve added to those two things that it should be fun. Of course, not everything we need is fun. Not all of the roles that we have are fun, but I’m at a point now where I can provide leadership and actually it is on important issues, and it is interesting, and it is fun. But I don’t have a really specific set of criteria that I would say I want to lead this and this way. You know, very much involved in things that I do lead, so rather than saying, I’m the leader of this, and here’s the 27 tasks that have to get done, and then just assigning those to people, that’s way more directive than I am. It’s like, let’s figure out as a group, how are we gonna begin to address this question or this challenge, and then we will modify it as a team as we go along. So, it’s, you know, I may be providing leadership for it, but it’s not kind of me steering the ship, and for the complex type of problems that I work on, both in the agricultural realm, but the broader food system, it has to be flexible. You have to be able to think about, like, what are the different pathways that we can follow here, and you don’t want to lock yourself into one, because you can’t— If you do that, you might come to a solution, so to speak, but it might not be the best solution, so, you know, recognizing when you need to change course, those are all things that, you know, those are all open as far as I’m concerned when I have, whether it’s a team of students, which I do a lot of, or you know, efforts that I’m involved in that are you know, academic colleagues, but also colleagues in government, colleagues in industry. It’s still about, you know, figuring out, are we still on the best course to be able to address whatever challenge or opportunity that we’re talking about?

I really want to circle back to what you’re saying, ’cause I think this is really important, so of course, part of the purpose of the Rural Futures Podcast is to talk with leaders and mavericks; people really trying to create a different future in their own unique way, and I think what you’re touching on, is the fact that leadership itself is changing, and all this have this sort of unique approach, but at the same time, you know, at the Rural Futures Institute, we talk about future-focused leadership, and you clearly have an element of that in what you’re doing, so being able to think about the scenarios is important, but at the same time realizing the path to get there has to be an open, flexible one, especially with these complex systems.

Yeah, and I think that’s exactly right, and I mean the experience that I bring to a lot of this is what I started with a few minutes ago which is that I was very early on, exposed to being, as a scientist, exposed to interdisciplinary research and problems, and when I came here it didn’t take long to realize that as an educational program here, you have these complex challenges within the food system, and to solve those, literally you need some people in the room that can think across the boundaries, all the way from agriculture to nutrition to health, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you want the whole room filled with people like that, but basically, that’s one of the roles that I play. But it’s very much also what we’re thinking about when we provide opportunities to our students in the classroom and out of the classrooms, is that many of them, they are going to play exactly that role, and they might be doing it in a company, they might be doing it in not profit, they could be doing it at USDA, or a state department of agriculture, but they can actually, you know, rather than saying my specialty is this, they have expertise in one or two areas, but they’re also able to see across these boundaries, and that’s, for me, that’s the fun part of what I do, and I’ve, you know, opportunities that I, even that I’m, you know, just initiating right now, they have that as a very, very identifiable feature, and it’s something that I’ve done a lot of for a long time, so it’s, you know, I’m taking advantage of the fact that I’ve been doing it for thirty something years. And it’s— The difference is that there is— I have a group of colleagues that are across the country, that are about at the same career stage as me, and we’re all, we found that we’re all doing that, but we all learned it by doing it. It was 30 years ago, 35 years ago there was very, very few mavericks out there that were thinking in that way.

Yeah, agreed.

Now it’s very different, to where we can actually incorporate that into how we work with students, how we do research. That’s what’s changed, and I just happened to be a person that was kind of ready to do that because of my background, because of the experiences I’ve had previously.

I think it goes back to you being a maverick, for the reasons we’re even here. You know, one of the reasons we’re even here, but it’s also about these relationships that you keep talking about. Yep. You know, one of our team members, Tracy Klein, is really one of the reasons we’re here, because of her relationship with you— Yep. And your wife. Yes. And this is really how things happen. Yeah. But I think, too, it makes me think about, as we’ve connected online and gotten to know each other better, why have Rural Futures Institute come and be part of the world of Tufts University?

Right, well, one of the reasons is exactly what you said, is, I think it’s important to build those relationships and have those conversations, and it’s, some of my experiences here, and the fact that I’m still connected to places like Nebraska, but I’m also connected to other rural areas.


I’m still connected to, you know, things going on in Maine, because we lived there for a long time, and I’m still connected to farms in Maine, in a very different way than I was, maybe earlier, but there’s, you know, there is this big set of challenges, and to think that the challenges that are faced, and the solutions are always totally different in rural environments, whether it’s in Nebraska or in Honduras, or whatever, anywhere in the world, are totally different and kind of mutually exclusive from the challenges in urban areas. I actually don’t believe that. There are differences, but there’s also similarities.

A lot of overlap.

Exactly, and you know, when you’re talking about the food system, there’s an obvious linkage, and that is that most, but not all of our food, is produced in rural areas, but most, but not all of our food is consumed in urban areas, so there’s a basis for what could be a lot of opportunities, or it could be a bit of a tension, right, of we’re just producing things and we’re sending it to cities and that’s one interpretation; I actually don’t buy into that one either. But if I’ve learned one thing, especially when I was early in my extension career is that there has to be at least a handful of people that care about it enough that they’re gonna enter into conversations repeatedly, knowing that, at the end of the one-hour meeting, you actually may have no idea where it’s going, and I’ve done that hundreds of times, and sometimes it’s like it doesn’t go anywhere, and again, not everybody’s gonna do that, because not everybody thinks that’s interesting or fun. I actually do, and some really interesting things have come out of it on the research side, on the education side. Some of the things I’ve done, you know, being involved in state level policies, national level policies, started with just, like, a random conversation with somebody that I met or somebody that was introduced to me, and with the Rural Futures Institute, of course I have a connection to Nebraska, and I have a connection to people on your campus.


For a long, long time, and so that, I was visiting, I’ve been visiting your campus off and on since I’d left Nebraska 30 years ago.

We appreciate that. Any engagement, you know, I think it’s so important.

So, you know that there, I was making those kinds of visits, and then you know, realizing that this was going on, and some of the things, some of the conversations we were having here, and when I met all of you, in person, a year ago this month, it was really obvious to me that this is the point we wanted to get to, is you know, having you all here, and at some point, we’re gonna reverse that.

That’s right.

And we’re gonna come there. And I think it’s you know, if nothing else, it’s just really a good example of, you do need to be able to have the conversations, and think about what are the things that we might be able to do in common that there’s no possible way that we could do individually, and it takes time and effort, but it also takes this. It takes people actually. It would be impossible to envision this on email.

So, Tim, you’ve talked a lot about the conversations, and getting conversations started, so tell us a little bit more about how you get to action, and take those challenges, and turn them into opportunities and solution.

Yeah, that’s a great question, and the conversations are important, and but they are really the starting point, so that, you know, for example, you and I talking, but the goal is: what is the common ground between our interests and then what are the things that we could do, and we may be thinking about trying to solve a particular problem or being an optimist, we could be thinking about what’s a particular opportunity that we could address together, that again, maybe has benefits kind of across the spectrum. So, I think that’s a piece of it, but our discussion earlier about, kind of conversations, is really to get that common ground identified, and then it is very much about what are maybe different and innovative ways that we can address those challenges or opportunities? And those are actions, and we’ve you know, thinking about, the involvement of students here is one of the things that we’re interested in. Sometimes it’s a very specific action, where they might work with a non-profit, maybe in the Boston area that has a very specific need that is around one of those challenges. So, when we talked yesterday to students, undergraduate students that were very interested in one, providing, you know, families that are struggling with, you know, complete meals, but then, how do you get there? And they got there by essentially establishing an organization themselves, and saying these are the three things and then like, here’s the infrastructure that we need. So, here’s the machine to wrap the meals. Like a meal wrapping machine which I had not heard of before. So, you know, they probably started with conversations, but they ended up with, it’s actually a program, and it’s actually delivering food to families in the Boston area that are struggling. So those are actions.

What I loved their food to recovery concept is that they got to action, but like you’re saying, they took ownership of it. Oh yes. You know, they knew nobody else, maybe was gonna step up to the plate, so when you talk about entrepreneurial students, and how they’re looking at the solutions, they took action, but they also pulled in a lot of other partners, and stakeholders that they were gonna work with, so it wasn’t just a solution they provided, but it was also co-created with end users and other collaborators in mind.

Yeah. And I’ve talked to, I mean this, the idea of who do you get as stakeholders? I’ve had many, many conversations with students here about not having preconceived notions about who should the stakeholders be in the room? That some of the really interesting things come when you get unconventional partners, that you know, in agriculture back decades ago when I was doing a lot of sustainable agriculture work, we didn’t draw lines between, like, we have a group that runs small, organic farms, and then we’re gonna talk to them about these things, but we’re gonna talk to larger, dairy farms about another set of things. We actually brought them into the room and said, you know, what’s the 87% of things that you actually agree on, and let’s start there. And then, what are actions that we can take? So, it is, it’s a critical piece, and I very much, you know, the conversations we’ve had about how does RFI work in communities, and what role do students play? It’s like, you go into the community, and you ask them what’s the challenge, and how do you think we can move forward? And that’s a pretty good analogy for a lot of what we do here. And sometimes it’s, you know, somebody emails me, or another faculty member, and says, “Can you be “on this committee?”; state level, national level, global. And you say yes, and then the idea is, what are we gonna get to? What’s the action we’re gonna take, and what do we think is gonna happen? They can be grand efforts that take three years of your time, or it could be, you know, a group of students who works with a non-profit, or with a government agency for a year, and they can move those opportunities down the road at least a ways, so conversations are the starting point and the goal is the action and what happens.

Yeah, that impact piece from it all, is so critical as well, and I think one of the other ways we’ve really connected is, you know, around students. Sure. Like the conversations around students, the importance around students, and I just, our whole team really just values the way you teach, and I mean, I think your sincere passion and wanting to see those students succeed, and really taking some novel approaches to getting them involved. I mean even having a student from York, Nebraska, here to be part of these conversations.

We’ve had quite a few students from Nebraska, so. Yeah, and that’s part of that connection, right? Yeah.

So, for them to be able to have an experience at Tufts and go take that back to Nebraska or go wherever with it is just so critical. So, you dive a little bit into your leadership philosophy around teaching and student experiences.

Yeah, I’ve told students that since I came here, I came here because of the students. I met a group of quite a few students when I came here to actually do my interview, my job talk, if you will, and then I got to talk to those students afterwards, as you’re going to talk to students after your seminar today, and realized that they had some really, really interesting perspectives. They didn’t, necessarily, they weren’t different than mine, because their experiences were different, but very committed to trying to do certain types of things, and very smart. We have, you know, really, really, super students here, and they are the reason I came here, and they’re, you know, the primary, or one of the primary reasons that I come in every day and you know, being able to bring some of my reality in the classroom is part of it, but I get a lot back from them. They do have different experiences. They’re, you know, uniformly younger than I am, so they have a different set of experiences, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. So, it is an interaction, and you know, there’s educational curriculum, but then there are other kinds of experiences and you know, even on the research side of we have a funded research project. We’ll find a couple of master’s students, and you know, a doctoral student, and that becomes the team for the project, and we’ve had students that have worked on, you know, specific projects, through a master’s degree and into a PhD for four or five years on one project, and there the thing that we’ve tried to do, is to again, not have it be where myself or someone else is saying okay, here’s your analytical task for the next week, and just go do that, and then bring it back next week. There’s a lot of complexity here, and we may not actually know how to get from point a to point b, and then it becomes all of us, and they’ve been really, really entrepreneurial about trying to figure out like, where do you get the right kind of data, and then how do you kind of check the quality of that data, and then how to use that data, and that’s step one. And then how do you do that again, and again, and again? We did this intentionally on some regional food system research where we just said they’re gonna be, they’re not gonna be our students, they’re gonna be our colleagues, and they have their contributions, and we have ours, as faculty and scientists.

That’s such a great model.

But they’re not ranked. They’re not, one is more important than the other. It’s that they’re different, and of course, they’re learning while they’re doing it, but so are we. Right, right. And the type of research I do now, I was not, I was doing zero percent of the type of work I do now when I was at USDA. So, all the work I do now is different in kind of form and function than it was when I was a faculty member, and when I was a USDA scientist, so I’m learning as I go, which I’ve done my entire life. It’s like, sure I’ll learn a new research area. I’ll learn how to measure greenhouse gases, whatever. So, they end up being, you know, key parts of our team that you couldn’t see how the team is gonna do the work unless you have their expertise, and if they weren’t involved, then you have like this blank, and it’s just not gonna happen, or it’s gonna be much, much slower.

In addition to, you know, thinking about urban and rural and those two worlds coming together more, which is one of the areas of the RFI purpose, is, you know, higher education itself is changing so much and I think the way that you’re approaching, just the team concept with students is so critical as we move forward, but how do you see the future of higher education evolving?

I think that there are, there’s certainly more places now than there were as we were talking about, 25, 30 years ago, where as a student, which could be a graduate student, but even an undergraduate student, that can be in that kind of environment, and be part of a team that’s looking across kind of a range of issues all at one time, that was, that would have been a very unique experience when I was in graduate school. I was lucky enough to actually experience it both at Nebraska and at Michigan State where I did my doctoral work, but I would say very much it was the exception, and not the rule. There are more opportunities like that, both you know, land grant agricultural universities, but even at you know, larger, private universities, and even small, private universities and Tufts is kind of in-between those two, because we do many things. You know, we have that school and a dental school and all of those, so we’re not just liberal arts campus. We’re a research university here, so those things are changing. They’re not changing uniformly across all institutions, and I mean, one of the things that you see, is a school like Friedman and a program like Agriculture, Food and Environment. We’ve had this program for almost 25 years and the school is now about 40 years old, but you’re seeing those kinds of efforts be initiated, and sometimes you look at them and you say, that seems like maybe an odd place for a program to like have to start. Even here, I mean that we’re right in downtown Boston right now, and you know, I talk about agriculture every day in my job. So, but partly that’s because we don’t have any kind of history that says we can’t do that, right?

Right, absolutely, you’re building it as you go.

Yeah and even, you know, we were talking yesterday about the involvement of law school and some law programs. Right. And many of those that are interested in agriculture, that are interested in the farm bill, things like that, are actually at private university law schools rather than public university law schools. And I don’t, I don’t see that, and I don’t bring it up as, well, that’s the way that it should be, or that’s right or that’s wrong, it’s just literally that’s the way it is, but part of it is the objectives of different institutions are different, so we’re seeing it a lot in private universities where there are programs that focus on broad issues around, particularly around the food system, and then there are food systems programs which kind of look at how is it all connected? We do those things, but also, you know, I’m a scientist, so we actually bring science into the program. That’s one of my roles here. Higher education is changing, but it’s always changed, and it’s not, maybe it’s changing in unexpected ways, and I expect that some institutions will continue some very, very disciplinary efforts, ’cause you need some people that are trained with a really, really deep expertise, but more of them, and in the private sector are realizing that you do need some that can think across those boundaries going back to where we started and that’s very much how we see ourselves here both as a school and as a program, and our students.

I mean we talk about it explicitly, rather than just kind of conceptualizing it. It’s like, what opportunities would you provide a student so that they can get good at being able to do that? So really providing opportunities but also taking that systems approach and reaching across and creating new partnerships because that’s how this is, and it’s how it will continue to go.


So, as we kind of wrap up here, I’d love to know your advice, you know. Like what words of wisdom is Tim willing to share with our audience?

Well, one is that, you know, if there’s a challenge or a grand challenge, there are more than one way, there is more than one way to address those, and I’ll give you a specific example around just the interface between agriculture and farming in the environment. For a long time, it even in my own kind of view of that, the way that we would look at that is, if there’s an environmental problem, what kind of government action could we take? Now maybe it’s the state of Nebraska, maybe it’s USDA, maybe it’s EPA, but that’s where it’s gonna start, and for a lot of those issues around environmental issues but also social issues around things like farm workers and how they’re treated, maybe at the current moment, maybe for the last five years, it’s hard to envision like, that there’s gonna be a grand change federal level— Right, right, absolutely. And what we’re seeing instead, is pressure from all the way from consumers that’s coming through the supply chain in the private sector saying, we think that this is important, and so farm workers would be one. Things like potentially labeling foods that contain genetically engineered products. We’re not there yet, although we’re starting to see it, but it’s not mandated by the government. It’s actually because the consumers at the other end of the supply chain are saying, “We want that ‘information.’”

That’s right.

And so, I guess my advice is that we need to think broadly about like, what is innovative and not have it set up at the very beginning as you know, if we solve this problem, I’m gonna win and you’re gonna lose. I think that we’ve used that approach too much, and we should be thinking about, what are ways that you know, for example, farmers benefit, but consumers also benefit, because a lot of times we say no they’re in tension with each other. I don’t know why that has to be. And if it’s a policy or a program, fine. If it’s the private sector mechanisms, fine. I’m pretty ambivalent about which it is, but I think we should be thinking about all of them, much more broadly than we have in the past.

I think it’s so great to point out that thinking about it, so it’s not win lose, but there’s a future of abundance for everyone if we can do this a little differently and have a different mindset moving forward. Oh, I agree completely.

Yes, and that’s very much the way that we again, not only think about it, but that’s how we talk about it, is you know, I bring up scenarios or prompts in class that are, you know, here’s the issue, and it’s been addressed in this win lose way and these five different stages. What’s a potential way to address this that the very first thing is that you do not set up a win lose? And it’s hard. And when you think about like, the entire food system, but it’s not impossible, it’s just taught.

But I think, you know a lot of times in our culture in the US, we’re, it’s like a competitive culture. Yeah. So, it’s like win lose, instead of what’s the overall win for everybody involved, and how do we create a new system to do that? And a new thinking, and a new leadership, future-focused leadership that it’s gonna take to make that happen?


Well thank you, Tim. That was very thoughtful information, but also very actionable.

Thank you.

So, I think I would challenge our listeners out there to really think about ways they can have a mindset shift as well, if they haven’t already. Like, how do we do this a little differently? Yep. How do we do it together? How do we do it together?

Right, because if this is gonna be a sustainable planet for everyone, we’re gonna have to do it that way.

That’s right.


This Week in Serviceship 2018: Week Five!

Alliance, Neb.

“I think this experience has allowed residents to think about the assets they have in their community because it’s not something you think about every day when you live here. I know it has made me think about what I value in my home community.”


The past two weeks in Box Butte County have flown by! We are very fortunate that Scott Frost, Matt Davison and Bill Moos came to town for an afternoon! We got to listen to them all speak and then got a picture with Scott Frost. We also got to meet former Husker Jordan Hooper, who is originally from Alliance.

We gave a presentation at The Perfect Blend with BBDC meeting at First National Bank where we introduced ourselves and told everyone a little bit about us and the Marketing Hometown America project. We also had our Marketing Hometown America public action forum where the public voted on what needs to be done in the next coming years in order to retain and attract new residents to Box Butte County. Chuck Schroeder, Theresa Klein, Helen Fagan, and the new RFI intern Karina from the Rural Futures Institute also visited Alliance this past week! We got to talk and catch up with them as well which was nice!

Haley and Mirissa pose with Scott Frost during his visit to Alliance, Neb.

Mirissa and Haley snap a selfie at the Perfect Blend with BBDC Meeting.

Box Butte County resident Ellen Lierk said, “In the month Mirissa and Haley have been in Box Butte County, they have been a catalyst inspiring us to look at our community and its strengths through their eyes. We look forward to the photos and video they are creating to help us better tell our story. Their enthusiasm, work ethic and positivity is contagious!” Ellen is a former teacher, guidance counselor, business owner, economic developer and pastoral minister.


The project has been coming along great. We have come up with hashtags for every town in Box Butte County. They are: #OurAlliance, #HemingfordisHome, and #BountifulBerea. We have also been working on hashtags for other various places around the county like Carhenge, Knight Museum and Sandhills Center and the Alliance Recreation Center. We have taken pictures and video all over both Alliance and Hemingford and have scheduled to take pictures and video in Berea. We have also started to do some editing on the videos we have taken thus far.

“The community of Alliance has invested in us, which in turn has us investing in the community through creating a passion and defined purpose in our project.”






McCook, Neb.

Before meeting with the High Plains Museum Board to gauge readiness for change, present our ideas and get feedback, we scheduled individual meetings with the board members. We found it much easier to ask them questions and share our ideas once we had established relationships. They were kind enough to welcome us into their homes or make time to meet us at Sehnert’s, the local coffee and deli hot spot. With each conversation, we got a better taste of McCook’s history.

“More than anything, these last few weeks have taught me that collaboration is key. Making the right connections, being willing to listen and really soak in the wisdom of these rural community leaders is a reward that can’t be replicated elsewhere.”



Emily and Sage pose in the Classic Car Collection and Trails and Rails Museum during their museum road trip around central Nebraska.

Between meetings with board members, we developed an online survey for community members that was boosted on a few of McCook’s social media pages. We gathered over 100 responses that were so helpful in understanding the community’s vision for the museum! Carol Schlegel, our lead mentor, was vital in this process, as she advised us to ask community members similar questions in person. We took her advice and decided to walk up and down Norris Ave, the McCook main street. After going in and out of businesses, we gained even more insight on prioritizing the plan of action for the museum and were able to become more familiar with some friendly faces!

In preparation for the High Plains Museum Board meeting, Carol also took us on a road trip to three more museums! We were able to speak with Kearney’s Tourism Director, Roger Jasnoch, as he guided us through the Classic Car Collection and Trails and Rails Museum, where we met Director Jennifer Murrish. Here, we gathered several ideas for exhibit presentation, sustainable board leadership, and museum donation logistics to bring back to the High Plains Museum. Following our tour of Kearney museums, we buzzed over to Holdrege to the Nebraska Prairie Museum. The enthusiastic director, Dan Christensen, shared with us his passion for the museum and advice on bringing in future generations.

After sharing the results of the surveys and useful tips from other museums at the board meeting, we were able to compose a collective list of which exhibits need to be phased in first. We also got the go-ahead on a couple of our ideas, which meant we were ready to start creating a draft of the museum layout! We drew a couple sketches, brainstormed how to best utilize the space, and did some price checking that we will present to the new High Plains Museum Creative Committee. We will meet with this committee every other week to get consistent feedback.

“At every stage in life, we must accept change and take it on with a heart full of courage. This summer, we have left our ordinary worlds to get out of our comfort zones, find new mentors and jump over unfamiliar hurdles. As we sat down with the RFI staff that traveled to McCook this week, I was reminded that experiences such as serviceship are when deep change really happens.”





Neligh, Neb.

Michayla assists community members prepare breakfast for Tour de Nebraska.

In the last two weeks, we have been going to meetings and working on immediate projects. We’ve also been planning Tour de Nebraska which has somewhat put our other projects on hold. Our mapping reports are set to be done by Thursday of next week so we can start on next step of identifying steps moving forward for the 5 and 10 year plans. We have also been out in the community interviewing members for our video series. Tour de Nerbraska came through Neligh for their first day of travel On Wednesday, Jun. 20. We had to plan where people were going to camp, coordinate the scavenger hunt around Neligh and help coordinate events. We made calls and visits to all the people helping us make the day successful.

In the end, Tour de Nebraska was a success. After all the planning, we made it! It was a long couple of days full of questions and quick changes. We started at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday by preparing eggs and sausage. We made 20 pounds of sausage and 800 scrambled eggs. We had help from community members including the mayor and his wife. It took a couple hours to make all the eggs and sausage; we also set up the kitchen as prep. We then put out road signs to warn drivers to watch for cyclists (courtesy of Blackburn Manufacturing, a Neligh business.) Wednesday morning, we set up a welcome tent at our office and directional signs all over town.

Because of the unexpected rain, there were some details that were not clear for the early cyclists. We soon got it figured it out. The new camping spot for people who were not brave enough to endure the wet park was at the high school, this is also where we moved a lot of the other events. We stayed at the school to direct people on where to put items and give food and entertainment directions. We went around to businesses and museums to take pictures and meet people, and along the way we shuttled people around town.

With the influx of over 500 people in town, the small businesses were a bit overwhelmed. When we walked in to Sly’s, the local bar and grill, there was literally not an empty seat in the place. It was chaotic but fun. We soon noticed that a couple of the people behind the bar obviously did not work there, based on the sheer confusion on their faces but were doing their best to help. One of them looked like a biker, and by asking her questions one by one, we learned she was: 1.) a biker on the tour 2.) had never bartended 3.) was just doing her best to help out. Finally curiosity won over the hesitation to ask her more. We learned that she was a trained nurse from Norfolk, Neb. who researches new drugs for one of the auto-immune disorders that Rhiannon has, and is a mom that currently lives in Gretna. It proved  that leaders can be anyone and that everyone has a story worth telling as long as you are brave enough to ask what it is. We found out time and time again this day that people will gladly tell you about themselves; all you have to do is ask the right questions.

“Everyone has a story. It just takes one little courage to ask, but the reward is always worth it.”




Thursday morning we served breakfast and said goodbye to our favorite riders. Then we took leftovers to all the businesses around town that supported us.

One of the smaller projects we have been working on are marketing materials. Our short videos are posted on Neligh Economic Development and Neligh Nebraska Facebook pages every Wednesday and Friday starting this week. We created new social media content for the Chamber Raffle

Also, Neligh is the Flag Capital of Nebraska, so on Jun. 14, we spent the a couple hours putting out miniature American flags. We have had multiple meetings as well. We had a City Counsel Meeting on Jun. 12, where we discussed golf cart laws and town projects including down town realizations. The next day we had the Clearwater Village meeting. Other meetings included Economic Development Meeting, Northeast (ED) Network Meeting, Senator Breeze Forum, a grand-reopening celebration and a monthly business open house put on by the Chamber.

“I am starting to truly feel like a rural Nebraskan. Being from a city there are a lot of things that have come as a culture shock. It’s the little things that make me feel a lot more connected to the community.”





Seward, Neb.

Maddie poses at Seward’s very first Cultural Festival on Jun. 8. 

Overall, we would say that it has been quite an exhilarating five weeks. The first two weeks were full of nervousness about what event we were going to help create, as we were given the freedom to create anything we wanted with the condition that it stayed sustainable and manageable for folks after we depart Seward County in August. We knew it had to be something informal and approachable, since that is probably the best way to attract as many newcomers and residents as we can. After many thought trial and errors, we decided that it had to be an event that emphasized the epitome of summer—ice cream. We hope that our event goes as planned and that we get feedback that can help us improve the other two installments of this newcomer event extravaganza.

There has been a lot that we have done in the past five weeks. We met with dozens of leaders in the community and have been able to solidify our ideas for our Seward County newcomer event. We also had Seward’s very first Cultural Festival on Jun. 8. Also on this day is when the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) came through and stayed in Seward. It was a perfect day to host them, but also host the festival.

Overall, we believe BRAN and the Cultural Festival was a success. The food trucks were amazing, the beer garden and the 80s cover band, AMFM, were also a HUGE success. A lot of people favored the beer garden and concert and wanted us to do it every month! Our responsibility during the festival was to stand by the blocked off roads and let people out that were still parked on the street.

Then during the festival, we had the opportunity to announce the cultural dancers such as, the Ponca Tribe and the Lincoln Irish Tap Dancers. We also had to opportunity to express our views on 104.9 Max Country and talk briefly about RFI, its mission, and the Cultural Festival. This was a great way for people to learn about what were involved in, and learn about RFI. Later in the evening we assisted in verifying IDs and registered cash at the entrance of the beer garden! People danced the night away until almost 11:30 pm. Overall, it was a fantastic event and hopefully Seward can do it again next year!

Raghav is interviewed about his RFI Serviceship for 104.9 Max Country.

Then during the festival, we had the opportunity to announce the cultural dancers such as, the Ponca Tribe and the Lincoln Irish Tap Dancers. We also had to opportunity to express our views on 104.9 Max Country and talk briefly about RFI, its mission, and the Cultural Festival. This was a great way for people to learn about what were involved in, and learn about RFI. Later in the evening we assisted in verifying IDs and registered cash at the entrance of the beer garden! People danced the night away until almost 11:30 pm. Overall, it was a fantastic event and hopefully Seward can do it again next year!

The event that we have been working on so far is a Newcomer Ice Cream Social that will be held on Jul. 15, 2018, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Seward Bandshell. This event is being held on National Ice Cream Day and we will be providing FREE ice cream to any resident of Seward County. During our event at 7:30 p.m., the Seward Municipal Band will be playing. They play every Sunday evening during the summer. We have a lot of volunteers and two big sponsors. Lee’s Refrigeration will be providing the ice cream and two ice cream machines. They will set them up for us and tear them down. Also, Seward Kiwanis Club is being very generous and providing the cups, spoons, sprinkles, chocolate syrup and bottled waters. Some Kiwanis Club members will also volunteer to serve ice cream! We also have about six of our Meet & Greet members who will be there to introduce themselves and welcome newcomers to Seward.

“We hope that our Newcomer Ice Cream Social event goes as planned and that we get feedback that can help us improve the other two installments of this newcomer event extravaganza.”



This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week Four!

Black Hills Energy

Black Hills’ Technicians Ashley and Ryan, 10/11 meteorologist Brad Anderson, Serviceship intern Emily Coffey, Black Hills’ Community Affairs Manager Brandy Johnson and 10/11 Reporter Lance Shwartz at 10/11 News’ annual “Can Care-a-Van” food drive.

Over the last few weeks, Black Hills has welcomed a number of new interns to the company. Although many are located at the corporate headquarters in Rapid City, South Dakota, there are interns throughout the region, specializing in everything from Human Resources to engineering. In July, headquarters will be hosting all of us for their annual “Intern Week,” during which we will have the opportunity to network, present our individual projects and learn more about Black Hills.

One of the internal programs at Black Hills is their Ambassador Program. These employees are the face of the company at volunteer events and present to various groups throughout the community about natural gas safety. Recently, I was able to join them for 10/11 News’ “Can Care-a-Van,” an annual food drive which takes place in communities throughout Nebraska.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy here in Nebraska! My main focus over the past few weeks has been building out a communications schedule for Black Hills, including news releases and social media. I’ve been especially interested in sharing safety and energy-saving tips to Black Hills’ customers via Twitter. As a natural gas consumer myself, I’ve already begun to implement some of these habits. For instance, if you run a full cycle in the dishwasher, you’ll save more hot water and energy than if you did the dishes by hand; who could complain about that?

“Service and Operations Technicians are the cornerstone of Black Hills Energy. Shadowing one of Black Hills’ Service Technicians was an absolute blast, and it gave me greater appreciation for them, both as an employee and as a customer!”



While my typical work day takes place in the office, I finally got the chance to do a “ride along” with a Service Tech earlier this week. I spent the morning assisting him with meter turnoffs and appliance inspections. I was even able to help him replace a furnace motor and fan! I had so many questions and so much to learn; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wish that I could do it again.



Broken Bow, Neb.

Leanne and Jessica get interviewed by NTV. Check out their interview >>>

Things in Broken Bow are still going great! We have met more and more people, and it is getting easier for people to recognize us. Our main project with recreation is still coming along. We hosted our first coffee with the community event on Monday, Jun. 4, and two more that following week. Meeting members of the community and different organizations, such as the Rotary Club, has been very eye opening. It is great to hear their opinion and how much they love their town. We have decided to do a recreationally focused survey to get more input that people would rather give anonymously. We met with stakeholders from Adams Land and Cattle, as well as Sargent Pipe, to get their opinions on what recreational additions would help the community.

NET came to the community of Broken Bow for a segment on the new library here but stuck around for something they call “Town Talk.” During this talk, community members came together to talk about the things they are most proud of and some of the “jewels” in town and county that people may not know about. This was a great time for everyone to voice their opinions about the station.

NTV visited the town and did an interview of us for the news. We were able to talk about the RFI Serviceship program, as well as our projects, our upcoming coffees with the community, and future goals when we graduate college.

“I have really learned how to have conversations with different demographics about the same topic. This is a life-long tool that I will use in future careers. It’s really the little things that we are all learning in our communities that are going to pay off the most.”



Leanne and Jessica pose with the community listeners of the NET Town Talk in Broken Bow, Neb. Photo credits: William Anderson, NET

Our project with tourism and Sturgis has taken off as well. We have been in touch with many of the main sponsors of the rally such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. Our next step is going to businesses around town to see if they would be willing to participate in a coupon book that we can send to vendors in South Dakota to pass out. We have also been doing surveys with small groups of motorcycle friends and reached out to several Christian Motorcycle Association groups in Grand Island, Kearney, North Platte and Lincoln.

We have also been keeping busy with various community events. We attended Summer Celebration one evening where awards were given out to some local businesses and people on their achievements and work in the community. Last weekend our community hosted “Hear Nebraska” which featured live bands, and the community made it a weekend celebration with various events they put on. Events ranged from a community quilting project at the visitors’ center, to a skateboard demonstration, to a local street dance.



Columbus, Neb.

“The Serviceship experience has offered me a chance to dig into the industry and learn what it takes to be a community developer, in a city of 22,0000 people. To do it–and do it right–you really have to have a passion for it.”


Columbus continues to inspire, entertain, and impress us. Each day brings a new face, a new opinion, and a new idea.

We were able to attend the Diversity and Inclusion Summit hosted by the Chamber. We got to hear about recruitment, inclusion, how technology is making a difference in inclusion and innovative problem solving. KC Belitz, president of the Chamber, said that the goal of this summit was to encourage Columbus to “create one community instead of two.” Then he joked, “We can’t afford two!” Diversity and Inclusion will be a focus during Young Nebraskans Week here in Columbus.

Clayton and Amber celebrate national doughnut day in the Columbus Chamber Office!

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” So, we have made sure to have some fun. The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors a monthly Interns’ Night Out for all interns in the area during the summer. This month’s activity included a catered dinner and line dance lessons by a local dance instructor. About 25 interns joined us for this great night out on the town!

Finally, we spent the last week touring schools in Columbus. Not only did we build some important relationships, but we saw that the community has been able to build a market-driven curriculum for the schools. Each school has responded to a separate need demonstrated by the businesses in Columbus, resulting in impressive classrooms and labs, including STEM, STEAM, robotics, agriculture, and even hydroponic programs. As Kristen Hoesing, Admissions Director of Central Community College, said, “CCC will not do something unless it is needed by the industry.” From growing food for their own kitchens to growing trained employees for the local industries, these schools are making Columbus a self-sustainable community.

“Some days are ultra-productive while others are, well, less than stellar. But ultimately, the one question you should ask yourself at the end of the day is whether or not you have set yourself up for success the next day.”




Cozad, Neb.

Christy and Shelby meet with University of Nebraska–Lincoln Husker Volleyball head coach John Cook.

Hustle – that’s what the last two weeks have been like for us. Between our first and second rounds of Music Monday and the Nebraska Economic Developers Association (NEDA) Conference in Gothenburg, Neb., we have been constantly on the move.

Music Mondays have had absolutely rave reviews. It is so encouraging to see a community come together for music and food – not just once, but weekly. The concerts have attracted people of all ages; everyone from young children to the residences of the assisted living facility, Meadowlark Pointe. We are very grateful for the many community members and city workers who volunteer to help us set up and tear down the temporary fencing and picnic tables. The attendance of Music Mondays has been outstanding and is continuing to increase. The first week we had 275 guests and this week we had almost 400! Music Mondays have been so successful we’ve had to book additional food trucks to accommodate everyone. The musicians we have hosted so far are Formally Three, Samantha Schutte and Lana Greene.

We are building some strong relationships with our lead mentor and other community members which makes the hard work we are doing purposeful and fulfilling.

The Biz Kids launch their businesses at Music Monday.

Our lead mentor, Jen McKeone, was the host of the annual NEDA conference held this year in Gothenburg. Over 150 economic developers from across the state and investors from across the country attended. During this jam-packed week, we had the opportunity to go on the Central Public Power District water tour. We saw several facilities responsible for providing irrigation water for farmers, as well as the Keystone Hydroelectric Plant at Lake McConaughy. We toured the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg where they research how to best crop crops under different stressors. NEDA conference was a great networking opportunity and a time to exchange unique ideas with other developers.

Friday we will be hosting our three finalists for ‘Pitch It Cozad: Win This Space’ for their final presentations. We have a selection committee of 11 sponsors and partners that will be judging the proposals. Each finalist has submitted a completed business plan and will explain how they would launch a successful enterprise in downtown Cozad. The overall goal of ‘Pitch It’ is to attract unique and sustainable businesses to Cozad as well as support and encourage local entrepreneurship. This is done by providing space, capital, and start-up professional assistance. The total prize package is valued at over $20,000.




Omaha Land Bank

The Omaha Land Bank Staff eating at a locally owned café, Harold’s Koffee House, in the Historic Florence part of Omaha, Neb.

Sydney and Kyle are ending week four in Omaha, NE with lots of new knowledge and meetings under their belt. Sydney and Kyle’s colleagues took them for a tour around Omaha last Friday afternoon and Omaha was even bigger than they had imagined. Between the busy traffic and large amount of ground to see it took them four hours to see only one part of the big city, North Omaha. Sydney and Kyle saw boulevards with gorgeous houses lining both sides of the street, revitalized neighborhoods with booming businesses, and new parks being built in multiple places. This redevelopment and progression in these North Omaha neighborhoods are in large part due to non-profit organizations like the Omaha Land Bank.

Sydney had the opportunity to attend the United Way of the Midlands, Heartland 2050 Summer Summit on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus where she had the privilege to meet and hear many of the non-profits involved in the revitalization of Omaha neighborhoods speak. Sydney learned that there are multiple organizations that are involved in making Omaha neighborhoods a desirable and family-oriented place to be.

“Everyday is a new adventure at the Omaha Land Bank. There is not a day where I am doing the same thing. Between meetings, conferences and consulting appointments, I am learning more than I had dreamt of.”



Kyle and Sydney take a tour around the Metro Community College campus’ new Construction Education Center.

The two interns also had an incredibly busy morning on Wednesday this week with the monthly mandated meeting of the Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board of Directors. The Board met to discuss the acquisition of new properties and the strategy that would go with the new development as well as approved the sale of the homes we earlier watched go on auction. It was enjoyable to see the end process come together. Being at the board meeting we were able to meet both voting and nonvoting members who all hold important roles within the community from nonprofit organizations, bankers, developers, and the president of the city council.

Following the OMLB board meeting we were able to tour the Metro Community College campus’ new Construction Education Center. This brand-new building is a way that students working towards their certifications in trades like plumbing, and HVAC have the opportunity to work on a capstone project in which a full-scale home is built and then sold to the community. In partnership with the landbank, the first house out of the new building will go on a Land Bank vacant lot and be a 1600 sq. ft home with a two-car garage.

This will help in the redevelopment of North Omaha and the area around Metro Community College’s Fort Campus. The partnership will enable new homes to be put out at a competitive rate and eventually get up to three homes per year out into the community. What we saw this week was a much closer look at the governing structures of the land bank and various ways in which it is a key player in revitalizing areas of North Omaha and the city at large.

Individually, Kyle was able to spend a great deal more time diving into the foreclosure process and develop additional responsibilities in the overall process. By the end of the summer the first batch of 500 new properties will be coming into the Land Bank and be up for sale to the community to help spur redevelopment. Looking even further into the future, Kyle will be using this opportunity to stay involved in the Land Bank as he will be doing a project next summer for his MPA capstone project to help highlight the actual impact the land bank has had in the city in a short period of time.

“My favorite part of working at the Land Bank is knowing that every day my work is actually making a difference in creating a better community to live in. By working towards acquiring these properties for transformation shows just how much goes on behind the scenes to make the city a better place to live.”




Norfolk, Neb.

Cheyenne Gerlach and Samantha Guenther are in Norfolk for their RFI serviceship internship. For the first five weeks, we are working to tell the story of Daycos. Daycos is unique in that they are a for-profit AND for-good business. It is our job to capture what Daycos does, how they do it, and why they do it in hopes of informing and inspiring others to possibly do the same. The overarching goal of our project with Daycos is to come up with a way to re-brand Daycos’ for-good movement, Daycos4Good, as simply intertwined with Daycos as a whole. We will be creating video, web content, and written publications to help portray this message.

For the second five weeks, we are working to promote the retail and service sector of the Norfolk community for the visitors bureau. We will be acting as “secret shoppers” to get an inside scoop on how business owners and employees are welcoming and promoting Norfolk through their business. We will also be doing a “windshield assessment” of businesses in Norfolk to gain a better understanding of how it can be improved. Then, we will be working to help make those improvements to strengthen the retail and service sector.

“By being surrounded by rural leaders with a vision and drive to make an impact, I am challenged to think innovatively, act on opportunities and build my leadership skills every day.”



During the past two weeks, we have finished the interviews with Daycos stakeholders and have a solid grasp on the impact that Daycos is making on customers, employees, community, and in the company. Our next steps will be creating three videos that capture who Daycos is, how they do it, and why. Additionally, we have set goals to systemize the hiring process to be in line with the Daycos company and culture and have plans to create a visual map of goals and accomplishments. To wrap up our time with Daycos, we will be facilitating a company meeting to present our work and develop a solid understanding within the company of what Daycos is.

We have also become involved in the Norfolk community. Norfolk hosted a “Welcome Week” where we participated in many events like a picnic at Tahazouka and fun at Skyview Lake event. Community members have reached out to us many times to invite us to young leaders meetings and have made a welcoming and supportive impact on us.

Overall, we have dived into our work at Daycos with new opportunities and skills to take advantage of everyday. We are building skills like communication, innovative thinking, and videography through our daily work. We are excited to share our work with the entirety of Daycos and look forward to seeing the difference we can make with the visitor’s bureau.



Red Cloud, Neb.

Trevor discusses grant writing and non-profit work with Red Cloud, Neb., bookstore owner Peter Osborne.

The third week in Red Cloud was just as exciting as the first two. We attended and helped with the 63rd annual Willa Cather Conference. The theme for the conference was the 100th Anniversary of My Ántonia, arguably Willa Cather’s most successful book. It was the most attended conference in history, as around 200 English teachers, college professors, and well-read citizens came to town. We had an exciting day Saturday as Trevor drove all the way to Lincoln at 6 in the morning to retrieve the banquet’s entertainment, John Reed-Torres, a ragtime piano player out of Los Angeles. Then, Trenton drove him back to Lincoln late that night.

In the beginning of the next week we began preparing for the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN). A whopping 350 bike-riders, 50 support staff, and 50 family members were going to be tent-camping in the city park on June 6th after a 50-mile ride from Alma. The day before they arrived, we took a trip to Alma to hand out fliers about Red Cloud’s activities awaiting the riders. We helped coordinate with local businesses and groups who would be setting up food stands or hosting many of the night’s guests. The first riders crossed the city limits just before 9:00 Wednesday morning and were all in by 3:00 in the afternoon, increasing Red Cloud’s population by 50%!

We got to drive a tour bus around the city and surrounding areas showing off some of Red Cloud’s historic sights. Two of the other Serviceship pairs are hosting the riders in McCook and Seward. We will see soon who wins best host community!

“It is incredible how much activity there is in a town of 1,000. The amount of time and effort given by the community is just as astounding and the biggest reason the city has been making such positive strides”


Starting this week, we got rolling on economic development. Now that we’ve learned just about everything there is to know about Red Cloud and experienced some of the biggest events in the community, we began plotting a path forward. We are tackling three problems the city is currently facing: housing, business development, and quality of life. There are a significant number of vacant and run-down homes in the community along with drastically low home values. Dealing with this problem will take coordination from many of the city’s organizations including the City Council, Board of Public Trust, and Historic Preservation Commission. As for businesses, we are looking to fill main street with small businesses and remain competitive for any other opportunities that might come. The city’s incentive package will need to be greatly bolstered to develop this. Finally, we’re making recommendations for increasing the number of parks and trails, improving infrastructure, and helping the school system prosper.

Trenton and Trevor snap a selfie on the “selfie spot” in the Willa Cather Center.

This week we met with Brian Hoff the Red Cloud Community Schools superintendent and discuss coming changes with the school system and issues they have had to face in the past including low enrollment, near consolidation, and renovating a 100-year-old high school.

The prevalence of history in Red Cloud and the development of a strong tourism industry add a unique element to the housing issues here. Razing every abandoned house isn’t an option because so many have historical relevance. The brick streets which make up a few blocks downtown are cherished by many local residents but despised by many others. And, maintaining century old storefronts is not an easy task, especially for small businesses without a significant budget. We are trying to balance the historical presence with advances in modern housing and infrastructure.

Our final event of the week was going around to local businesses asking for donations and sponsorships for the Good Living Tour. In early July, four bands from around the state will be performing for the city—the third year in a row the event has come to Red Cloud!

Catch Up With Chuck Wraps Up Episode 30 with RFI Communications Team

Jun. 15, 2018

In the final episode of Catch Up With Chuck, Chuck is joined by show producer and RFI Director of Communications Katelyn Ideus as well as show production specialist and RFI communications intern Kathryn Bagniewski to discuss the goals and results of the show.

Katelyn graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Journalism & Mass Communications with a bachelor’s in news editorial and broadcast journalism and a master’s in integrated media communications. As the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Rural Futures Institute, Katelyn develops the strategic communications plan for the institute, delivering stories about the successes earned, innovations created and solutions found by rural communities around the world. She also shares the University of Nebraska’s research, resources and expertise for these communities.

Kathryn will enter her fourth year as an agricultural and environmental sciences communication major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in August. Kathryn, a rural Minnesota native, has a passion for elevating voices around social justice issues through multimedia content. She passionately tells the story of the Rural Futures Institute and rural communities throughout Nebraska and beyond because she believes that viewing rural challenges, issues and opportunities as a social justice concern is important.


Rural roots aren’t needed in order to care about rural places, because rural and urban collaboration starts with a collaboration of thought.


Communications Intern, Rural Futures Institute

The Rural Futures Institute’s purpose is to bring together the RFI nexus of students, faculty researchers and community leaders on critical topics for rural communities. According to Katelyn, producing a Facebook Live show made the most sense for giving Chuck a platform to utilize his speaking talents and energy to discuss important rural topics weekly with great convenience.

Through Catch Up With Chuck, the Rural Futures Institute earned nearly 80,000 minutes of viewing time and more than 100,000 unique viewers. The RFI team built great relationships with the show’s guests and created a wide body of work from which additional insights can be pulled.


The real goal of Catch Up With Chuck was to be able to pull together the RFI nexus, faculty researchers, students and community leaders, in a way that was really comfortable and conversational.


Director of Communications, Rural Futures Institute

The success of Catch Up With Chuck can be attributed to the RFI team, engaging guests and viewers of the show. All 30 episodes will remain available on the RFI Facebook page and at for the foreseeable future.

The Rural Futures Institute recently launched “Rural Futures with Dr. Connie,” a podcast exploring the intersections of technology and what it means to be human as our high-tech, globalized world continues to collide with the values, principles and ethics of humanity. Join Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, associate executive director and chief futurist at RFI, and her guests who are smashing barriers for the sake of a thriving rural-urban future as they dive into the currently polarizing narratives of the rural-urban divide, technology development and the future of work on this weekly podcast. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher and more; like, subscribe and rate if you get hooked!


Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.


Episode 3: Professor Tom Field intersects entrepreneurship, higher ed, purpose




Tom Field, Ph.D., Director of the Engler Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, discusses his mission to empower students and communities to courageously pursue their purpose through the form and art of entrepreneurship. Throughout his academic career this cowboy from western Colorado has spoken out about the needed transformation of higher education—a deep internal exploration that results in the unleashing of the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the student. During their conversation, Dr. Connie and Dr. Field discuss the exploding side-gig economy, creating the next generation of action-oriented innovators and key takeaways for budding, starting and experienced entrepreneurs.


“The leader in the future will be responsible for attracting talent, and then for empowering that talent, getting out of the way of the talent, keeping the culture alive, keeping the team focused on the right ball that you’re chasing, but doing it all in a way that invites people to the table.“
Tom Field
Director, Nebraska Engler Entrepreneurship

About Tom


Tom Field, Ph.D., is a passionate advocate for education, agriculture, free enterprise, engaged citizenship and the potential of young people. He is also a noted agricultural author with works including his column “Out of the Box” and featured commentator of “The Entrepreneurial Minute” on the Angus Report on RFD-TV.

A frequent speaker at agricultural events in the U.S. and abroad, he has consulted with a number of agricultural enterprises and organizations, and has served on numerous boards related to education, agriculture and athletics. He is the co-owner of Field Land and Cattle Company, LLC, in Colorado. He and his wife Laura watch over a brood that includes a son in the Teach for America Program, twins who are seniors in college and toddler twins to round out the team.


Mentioned In The Show

Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath

The Dip, a little book that teaches you when to quit by Seth Godin


Show Notes

Hi, I’m Dr. Connie, host of the Rural Futures Podcast. Joining me today is Dr. Tom Field. He’s the executive director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, but he’s also an amazing colleague and close friend, and somebody I rely a lot on for advice. I think as we go through the interview today, you’re gonna know why. Tom, I want to give people a little background about you, but then I also want you to introduce yourself. Some of the things I admire about Tom and his bio is that he really puts students first. But not just in a traditional way in terms of lecturing. In fact, you’re anti-lecturing. (laughs) You are experience. Go out there and build something, and do it together. I think building these cohorts and these teams of very entrepreneurial students is something that you’ve really done with your team here at the University of Nebraska­–Lincoln, but also now, you can see the effects of that in businesses and communities beyond campus, which is very exciting. Tom also does a lot of consulting with companies in terms of helping them grow their businesses, but I loved too, how you focus on mindset with that. So much of it is about mindset and passion, and what you really bring to the table in terms of your talents. Fill in some gaps for us. Tell us a little bit more about Tom Field.

Well, I’m a son of a ranching family in western Colorado. As a little kid, I actually in the summers, we would go up into the high country. It was called Cal Camp, and I lived with my parents in a one-room cabin with no running water, no electricity, a wood-burning stove. From that sort of humble beginning, and which was actually a great experience as a kid, had the opportunity through so many people investing in a small community in western Colorado to see the world, and to experience a little bigger picture, and a different perspective. Eventually went off to university. Got a degree in animal sciences, but if I would go back and finish my practicums, my second degree would be in human development and family studies, with an emphasis in early childhood. Which is in my second life, maybe that’s what I’ll go do.

Now, why is that? Why would you pursue those fields?

Well, it’s sort of an interesting story. I took the first class at human development because I heard that there would be 80 women, and me. (laughing) And so that’s really a shallow reason, but when you’re 19, you make a lot of shallow decisions. I walk into this class and I encountered this fireball of a faculty member named Jill Kreitzer, and I did not walk into that class expecting to be transformed, but she changed my life. And then the entire faculty in that department, Kevin Ulchenbruns, and Janet Fritz, and Rex Colt. There was just a whole group of people that really invested in me and in helping me figure out that the human condition is not this static place. That there’s this developmental sequencing that goes on. It’s all this connecting the dots, right? I mean, Steve Jobs was right. Eventually, the dots connect. Being a cowboy and hanging out in this sort of child development, human development space, being really active in 4-H, having a deep interest in history, being wildly curious, having faculty who let me explore what I was interested in, and it all eventually connected to set me up. I didn’t know it was happening at the time, but it set me up to help grow the Engler program, and to create a program that’s focused on transforming the lives of students by putting them in command of their own ships from the minute they come to campus, and hopefully setting them up for the rest of their lives to actually be the master of their own destiny.

I think it takes a unique leader to be able to do that, and it sounds like you’ve had a lot of experiences that have helped shape you as a leader. And I know you’re also a dedicated family man, and really balancing that career, but also really, I would say, advancing society in many ways in the next generation. What does that need to look like going into the future? Tell us a little bit about you as a leader and your leadership philosophy.

Well, I think first and foremost, for me as a leader is that I rarely see myself as a leader. I see my team as a leadership group. Those who know me know that my love of hierarchy would be close to zero, if not negative. (laughing) I just think flat structure makes more sense. I mean, hierarchical approaches in ranching didn’t work because you had to be adaptive. I really learned a lot in the very chaotic ecosystem where things were changing all the time, and you had to work with a team. You had to work effectively and well. I’m a big fan of the team, and I think from a leadership perspective, the leader in the future will by and large, be responsible for attracting talent, and then for empowering that talent, getting out of the way of the talent. Keeping the culture alive, keeping the team focused on the right ball that you’re chasing, but to do it in a way that invites people to the table. I just can’t imagine an effective organization that operates without people around the table, and making decisions together, and then moving those things forward and assigning accountability. I think that’s the key to what we’ve been able to do. We’ve built the Engler program in six years from really scratch, up, because we’ve had a great team and people who were willing to engage, and then to be accountable, and to take big pieces of it and run with it. I’m also a big believer, if you’re a little further in your career it’s really critical to listen to younger talent. It’s hard to do because the older you get, the more you try to protect things, right? You start thinking, well I’ve gotta protect this. I’ve been working with companies and telling them, look, you gotta get the youngest voices in your team in the room and at the table. Certainly, experience matters, but you really have to be listening. We actually took it to heart in our own program. We just went through a really intense strategic planning process, and the person who led our team through the strategic planning process was the youngest member of our staff, 23 years old. And I’m very proud of that.

Well, and I think that’s a great thing to bring forward is that you really are about lifting people up. You’re about empowering them, getting them to where they’re able to lead not just the team, but themselves and get those experiences they’re needing and craving. I’ve seen a lot of that in the Engler program, and you’ve really helped the Rural Futures Institute think about that co-creation model a lot, as well. We’re not living in a vacuum. We’re not just in our offices. We’re all out trying to create the future together. Part of what we want to do with this podcast is explore the future of leadership, but also, how our leaders and people who are leading these types of incredible, cutting-edge programs, see the future changing. What do you see in terms, and it’s kind of a two-part question, I think for you, changes in entrepreneurship? Obviously, that’s where your program is focused, but also changes in higher education. How do you see the future sort of shaping in those areas?

Well, entrepreneurship I think, is this sort of two-edged kind of game. When we first started in this program, we thought our goal was really to build companies. We probably took too much ownership in that, because in fact, as mentors, and advisors, and facilitators and coaches, we can’t really build the company. The companies have to be built by individuals and teams who are really committed to the company. Over time, we figured out that really the key was, is our mission as a program was to empower people to courageously pursue their purpose through the form in art of entrepreneurship. And we thought that was a great way for people to actually let who they are bubble out, and to actually have a forum through which to express that deep sense of purpose.


I think that’s entrepreneurship in the future, and I also think the other thing that’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen very, very quickly. The new economy will be called the side gig economy. As robotics, and artificial intelligence, and too much process oftentimes, and the regulatory environment, all those things sort of press on people, what they’re gonna do is they’re just gonna get creative, and they’re gonna do side gigs. We’re gonna see people who are doing amazing things in teams for short periods of time creating value, being rewarded for that monetarily, or professionally, or personally, and then find another side gig. I think that’s the new economy. I’m not sure anybody’s really ready for that yet, because it’s going to be this kind of frontier-like deal. If the side gig economy is where we’re going, the institution least prepared for that is the university.

Well, and you’ve been pretty vocal about this. How do we, as a university, how do we as higher education evolve? Because the economy is evolving very quickly, and people aren’t quite ready, but we should have a place in this new economy and helping people in our rural communities, but also urban communities. Anyone who wants to be involved get there. Tell us your thoughts on that.

Well historically, America’s great unfair advantage in the global marketplace has been our university system. I mean, just take a look at how internationalized the American university is today. We’re attracting people from all over the world because they value what happens in the university. The challenge is, is that big organizations, old organizations with very clear histories, including fight songs, and certain colors they wear, and all those things, they get caught up in protecting what they’ve done. I think that’s where we’re at. We’re at this tipping point. Every institution in the world is going through this sort of transformational process. Whether it’s a family farm, or whether it’s a major corporation that’s traded in the international markets. There’s just transformation happening at every level. It’s just sweeping. The university’s challenge is, is how does it encumber itself from the processes and the structure it’s built actually become this nimble, agile, service-oriented, outward-focused organization? That’s gonna be difficult. The challenge will be, is how do we create that? We have to create it by unleashing the creative power of the faculty, but more importantly, the creative power of the student. A faculty-centric institution in the future just isn’t gonna work. And an administration-centric university, just start preparing to find a new use for those buildings ’cause that’s gonna fail. And so, I think the university has to go through this shift, and the shift is how do we help people prepare for a future that looks nothing like where we’ve been?

Tom, we’ve talked about the new economy and how things are happening so quickly. We don’t have 10 years to make these changes at the university, or even for individuals. What would you say to individuals who are sort of nervous about the future? We hear a lot of people having like, oh, these robots are gonna replace my job. What’s gonna happen to me? But what advice would you give to people around this changing economy?

Well I think two things. One, I heard an entrepreneur one time say, look, when there’s fear, there’s opportunity, and when there’s a lot of fear, there’s huge opportunity. I think we’re all a little fearful about the changes. Things are happening so fast. Whether it’s job replacement, whether it’s economic and political discord, it’s all those things, right? I think the reality is, is that if people really want to be the master and commander of the ship that they want to ride on, they have to take the helm. Taking the helm means actually lots of small starts. Try things. The name of the game is action. You cannot plan your way into the new economy. You act your way into the new economy. I would encourage people figure out problems that need solving. They don’t have to be big, sexy ones. They can be simple problems that just need a clear solution. Find markets that are underserved. Find resources that are not utilized correctly, and begin to just work in that space. The reality is, is the world is going to be different. Change is always present. For goodness sakes, I did my PhD work on a CYBER 205. A computer that today is in a museum, and that wasn’t that long ago. It’s action, and action is the key, and not being afraid of failure, and not being afraid to just start. It all begins with the start.

Well, and I think one we can’t totally anticipate. So, getting used to having that change, to creating your own jobs, your own gigs, whatever that might look like, I think is such an incredible challenge in so many ways, but such a great opportunity too, for people to use their talents and skills. But for the university, also to reinvent itself. I think thinking about ways it can serve people in the lifelong learning process is so important. Here at the University of Nebraska for example, we have 4-H, which we call the first class for a lot of people. But at the same time, we have the ability to help people in high school, in college, in graduate school, and through their lives. As that economy and the technologies continue to change, those communities are also ready, but that means we have to be listening. You’ve talked a lot about that, in terms of how do we add value to their lives? How do we continue to rethink ourselves in so many ways, and how we’re helping people learn, and grow, and really make a good living in a life wherever they want to be? That might be rural, it might be urban. That doesn’t matter as much as just really getting people the life they want, and really helping them thrive.

Yeah, I think a university that figures out how to create certainly a network of learning, but more importantly, a network of deep curiosity, and it connects that curiosity across ages and across all kinds of socioeconomic, what we might consider barriers.


To just slay those barriers by creating this network that allows curious people to go to work on things that they care about. To work on problems they care about, and markets they care about, customers they care about. Solutions will take care of themselves. It’s find the right problem to work on, and find the right customer to serve. I think we solve a lot of societal problems if we can unleash entrepreneurial spirit. We just have to find a way to let people work on the things they care about early enough to help them determine their own future. I’ve got this belief, and I think it’s dangerous to put there’s two kinds of people, but in the world of entrepreneurship, and those who come to entrepreneurship and stick and those who don’t, I think there are kind of two mindsets. One mindset is, is we’re waiting on the cavalry. That’s a problem because if we’re waiting on somebody come riding in to rescue us from whatever, right? From some hardship, we’re gonna be waiting a long time, and we oftentimes won’t like the fine print in the contract when somebody comes in and, hey, I’m gonna rescue you, but here’s what you owe me now. We become subservient to the system that has purported to rescue us. And then I think there are people who are, I’m not waiting. I’m getting in the boat, and I’m going. The Lewis and Clarks, right? They provision, they plan, but they get in the boat and they go up the Missouri with no knowledge of what’s coming at them. But they know the only way to find the future is just to get in that boat. I think that’s something we’ve gotta really work out in university, is what do we want to produce? Do we want to produce more folks waiting on the cavalry, or do we want to produce people who are willing to get in the boat? I think that’s a fundamental question for the institution.

Absolutely. For those people that are wanting to get in the boat, and they’re wanting to create their own future, what resources would you have to share with them?

Well, the first thing we do is with our freshman students is we give them permission to work on something interesting. From day one, we don’t give exams. Because I don’t even know what an exam in entrepreneurship would look like, right?

That’s a good question.

Come back with the biggest, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t even know what it would look like. We started that apparently at, I don’t even know how to do this. Let’s do something more interesting. Let’s do projects, and let’s get high immersion for students with minimal financial risk, ’cause we don’t want people to make $100,000 mistakes early because that’s devastating.


It’s hard to dig out from. But you can make a $50 mistake and learn an awful lot. We run a little program where we have students that are put together in teams, and they do a $50 startup. We give them $50, they start a company, they have 60 days to generate revenue, and we tell them, look, it’s gotta be legal and it needs to make your mother proud. If it meets those constraints, then you’re good, right? We’re not gonna constrain you any more than that. Let’s see what you do. What’s interesting is they will as a group, make all of the mistakes that most early-stage companies will make that are dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars. But we’re only out with seven teams. It’s 350 bucks, and boy, have we learned a lot. Well, that’s powerful. We do crazy things like we have a little bucket when students will come into class and there’ll be a bucket of pencils and a bucket of red paper clips and we’ll say okay, pick one and sit down. They pick one or the other, and they’re kind of looking at it. They’re like, what is this guy up to now? We say to them, okay, here’s the deal. You have two weeks to trade that item for as much value as you can create. Trade it for something, trade again. We want you to make as many trades as you can. What’s interesting is in two weeks’ time, just in the sort of negotiation, and trading, and bartering world, we had students who traded red paper clips that eventually ended up with these really high-end gas grill barbecue deals, and Vera Bradley handbags, and it was amazing, right? What’s the value of that? The value is, is they’re having to make a cold call. They hate it, and they all talk about, oh, those first three, like will you trade me? It was so hard, and it was painful, but I did it, right? And then the negotiation, and understanding value, and knowing when they got to a value that they were willing to stick with. This one kid, he said, I got this super cool baseball cap. I really didn’t want to trade for anything else. (laughs) This is the value I wanted. I really wanted that cap. Well, that’s pretty cool. That’s a very different experience than memorizing a bunch of stuff.

Absolutely, and getting what you want. Asking for it, and being okay to go for it. Right. Such an important part of entrepreneurship. But I do see you brought a book. Do you have any resources you want to share with our listeners?

Yeah, so I mean, if you go to our website,, click on the resources page, lots of the books that we think are valuable, but one that I just really love is “Essentialism.” The subtitle is The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Here’s the challenge we have. We’re in a yes culture, right? And it doesn’t matter if you’re an educator, if you’re a church, if you’re a business that sells a manufactured good, if you’re a business that does consulting. Human beings, we are in a yes culture, right? Let’s pile more on our plate, never take anything off. The do more with less, but don’t stop doing anything. Well, that’s not sustainable. Eventually, that just tears you up. Greg McKeown has this notion that we can actually narrow down and focus on those things that actually have impact. The big rocks. Focus on the things that matter the most. And certainly, in entrepreneurship, there are key things to spend your time and energy on at various stages of the process, and things that you shouldn’t be focused on at all at certain stages of the process, right? Oftentimes, entrepreneurs, they want to build something really quickly, right? But they haven’t asked their customer.

But I’m glad that’s what you’re teaching your students. Where do you really focus first? How do you start building?

And that’s what essentialism does for you, right? It gets you to focus in the right places. We love everything that Seth Godin writes. “The Dip” in particular. Knowing when to quit. This is very antithetical to Midwestern values. Yeah, right. Right. But there are things that we literally should quit. We need to stop doing them because they don’t add any value, or we’re never gonna be very good at them, right? I quit playing competitive basketball a long time ago because I was never going to be a very good basketball player, right? I like basketball, but it wasn’t gonna be my future, right? So, spending tons of time on that would’ve been silly. Dan and Chip Heath. They’ve got a number of great books. “Made to Stick.” But they have a new one called “Moments,” and it’s all about this sort of reality that what we provide for our customers, whether we’re educators, whether we’re business people, whether we’re in the nonprofit sector, quite frankly, if we’re parents, is the power of what we create for our customer is moments. Memorable experiences that shape the way the person sees the world. I would be willing to bet that most people when they’ve been given things that gave them moments, they remember them, but they probably cannot remember the stuff that they got in their Christmas stocking three years ago.

Well, and I think as leaders too, how we create moments even in our culture, how do we build that type of culture so our employees want to be engaged and stay, and they also want to do great work, and we’re empowering them to do that? Appreciate your time and all your insights today, Tom. We could talk forever. (laughs) I know that we do. We do. But could you give us your website again, and let us know where people can find you?

You bet, feel free to contact me directly at And you can find our great stories of wonderful young entrepreneurs at And we would love to engage with people listening to this. We are coachable, and we need your help, and we love to meet you at the intersection of good ideas.

Great, thank you so much, Tom.



RELEASE: New Podcast Connects Rural and Urban through Strategic Foresight, Leadership and Technology

Rural Futures with Dr. Connie

As our high-tech, globalized world continues to collide with the values, principles and ethics of humanity, the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is breaking into the currently polarizing narratives of the rural-urban divide, technology development and the future of work through its new weekly podcast, “Rural Futures with Dr. Connie.” The podcast is available on iTunesSoundCloud and Stitcher.


Go to podcast!


Hosted by futurist, researcher and entrepreneur Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI associate executive director and chief futurist, the Rural Futures podcast explores the intersections of technology and what it means to be human.

Its content is for achievers to expand their perspectives for social justice, economic growth and leadership through strategic foresight, or “futuring,” and the lenses of:

  • Exponential change
  • Disruptive leadership
  • Evolution of humanity

Guests include futurists, business innovators and researchers who are smashing barriers for the sake of a thriving rural-urban future.

“We need to bring technology, leaders and rural and urban together to really get at solutions that not only consider a sustainable future, but a thriving future of abundance for all,” Dr. Reimers-Hild said. “This podcast allows us to do this by focusing on our small team’s strengths as connectors, conveners and communicators.

“We want to bring as many people to this conversation as possible, and a podcast is an efficient and strategic way to do that. I encourage all of our listeners to connect with us across our social platforms to suggest questions, ideas and guests.”

Initial Season 1 episodes include:

“I was excited about appearing on Rural Futures because it offered a vital yet rare perspective in our urbanizing era,” said Alexander. “Exploring the countryside’s future is critical for understanding what comes next for humanity as a whole.”


This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week Three!

Alliance, Neb.

“I think the communities are very excited about what Haley and I are doing and are willing to help us in any way they can. For me personally, I’m excited to further my leadership skills and abilities as I start thinking about my future.”


It’s hard to believe that three weeks have gone by already! We have been very busy in Alliance working with the Box Butte Development Corporation to develop our video for the Marketing Hometown America Project for Box Butte County.

For the last three weeks, we have been meeting new people from Hemingford and Alliance, moved out of our host family’s house and into our duplex, worked on developing hashtags and our video project and volunteered at Carhenge.

Haley and Mirissa pose outside of Mobius Communications, Hemingford Cooperative Telephone Company.

Haley helps fix up car displays while volunteering at Carhenge in Alliance, Neb.

When we asked Deb Moore, an employe at Alliance Chamber and Carhenge, about our impact on the community, she said, “The girls are enthusiastic, ready to jump into anything and try anything new.”

We have taken footage at various public places like the pool, coffee shops, car show, movie theatre and library in Alliance. We have also spent some time in Hemingford working out of Mobius Communications-Hemingford Cooperative Telephone Company and have been in touch with businesses there as well. We plan to film more footage there in the upcoming weeks. We are also starting to contact businesses in Berea as well.

While volunteering at Carhenge, we helped fix some vandalism done to one of the cars, power washed tires, and then started spray painting the tires bright colors. We are planning to display them at Carhenge when they are completely painted as we are making them into flower pots in order to help make Carhenge more aesthetically pleasing to visitors.

“This opportunity has provided me with more than an internship. It has provided me with learning experiences, connections and skills that will benefit me in my future endeavors, as well as the ability to impact a rural community.”





McCook, Neb.

Over the last two weeks in McCook, we have continued to create an inventory of the items in the High Plains Museum. With nearly 4,000 photographs taken to date, we are nearing the end of our record keeping process! We are also starting to inventory the books in the Carnegie Library. Additionally, we have been interviewing members of the museum board to get their perspective on the future of the High Plains Museum. The interviews have assisted in the stimulation of new ideas and the incorporation of the most significant parts of McCook’s history. Brainstorming sessions have been a vital part of our everyday by keeping our minds moving and fresh ideas rolling in.

“When I think about my time in the Rural Futures Institute Serviceship Program, one word comes to mind: entrepreneurship. In our respective communities where we are responsible for holding ourselves accountable, we can light a new fire by putting out of the box ideas into action.”


Emily and Sage pose in downtown McCook, Neb.

There have been many people who have given us valuable input and are essential to the museum. One of those people is John Hubert, a long-time community member and entrepreneur, who knows the history of McCook better than we know the back of our own hands! He is a talented storyteller and wealth of knowledge we hope to capture on video sometime this summer.

One of our secondary projects is to create a library of community photography for future marketing purposes. This means we get to travel across the county capturing small town Nebraska main streets, unique buildings and favorite restaurants in the area like the Rocket Inn where people come from afar for their famous pizza. We discovered the gem that is the Rocket Inn this week while exploring Indianola and then made our way to Bartley for more photographs.

We also had the opportunity to attend the McCook Community Foundation and Red Willow County Visitors Committee meetings where we were introduced to many more welcoming and influential members of the community. Both of these meetings gave us a better idea of the unique art culture, giving spirit and community pride that makes up McCook.

“The more I have immersed myself in the local culture of the McCook community, the more I have realized how important the people and small businesses are to this rural community, and in turn, how essential rural communities are to the livelihood of our state. Adapting to change and technology and consistently bringing in fresh ideas is vital to the survival of rural communities.”




McCook THETA Camps

“Collin, Tyan, and I learn about health and wellness all school year, and it is very exciting for myself personally to be able to apply it in the real world to students that are eager to learn!”



Brad helps some of the kids construct their aquaponic systems.

We implemented Module 1 of THETA camp the past week, and it has been very successful for our team. In Module 1, after getting to know everyone, we started fast by germinating plants with our students. The students were very interactive with this step in the growing of our produce.

After getting some plants started, we moved on to the next step which was constructing our hydroponic and aquaponic systems. The students seemed very interested in how these growing systems worked as well as very excited to be able to get their hands dirty and do a little construction project.

Students were able to use drills and cocking glue guns in order to build the structures we needed. It was very rewarding to teach a new skill to kids that had no experience with, specifically using a drill. It was also very interesting to watch kids work together to lift heavy bags of gravel and place it within our systems!

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be able to make a positive impact on the kids as well as the community of McCook.”



Tyan discusses the benefits of physical activity, good nutrition and energy balance.

This week, the kids returned just as eager as we were to continue to learn. Module 2 of THETA camp dove straight into the topics of physical activity, nutrition and energy balance. The students were very involved and really enjoyed the physical activity aspects of our teachings. This task seemed a little intimidating at first, especially the aspects of teaching what a calorie is, what the macronutrients are and the concept of energy balance.

On Wednesday we took the students on a trip to the local grocery store called Schmick’s. We tasked the students with collecting pictures of food labels, as well as examples of carbohydrate and protein rich foods. This was very intriguing as we saw students enter a store and search for the appropriate information on food labels that can be utilized directly in their own lives. They were able to obtain this information from what we had taught them earlier in the week and were also full of questions. It’s very rewarding to see students pick up on what we’re teaching and then watch them put it into action days later.

On Thursday we continued our discussions on health and wellness by focusing primarily on health care professions. The discussion was very strong between the students and us as we described the different responsibilities of many health professionals. Modules 1 and 2 of THETA have been very successful, and our experience so far has us excited and prepared for success as we continue to progress into the next chapter of our camp.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing how much of an interest the kids have taken in our program, both during camp and as well as at home.”






Neligh, Neb.

For the past two weeks, we have been working on finishing up our mapping reports, as well as finding host homes for Tour-de-Nebraska. We recently finished the Neligh report, and we’re about a third of the way done with the report for Northeast Nebraska. Additionally, we created a small marketing campaign containing a flyer and social media posts for Facebook to entice people to volunteer their homes for Tour-de-Nebraska.

There is a serious housing shortage in Neligh because there are many short-term workers flooding the housing system because of all of the wind towers going up around town. Since most of the people that would open their houses for Tour-de-Nebraska have already rented them out, we came up with the idea to incentivize homeowners. The first five people to open up their house will receive gift certificates which were donated by local businesses. Additionally, we printed out flyers and delivered them door to door to get the word out. We also started setting up recording times with community members for marketing videos for Neligh.

“The passion and patriotism in Neligh is unbelievable. I have never met a group of people who are more passionate or caring about their community. They truly care about their town.”



Michayla and Rhiannon have fun delivering flyers door to door for their Tour-de-Nebraska.

Over the last two weeks, we sat in on meetings. Last Friday, we had the monthly “Coffee Talk” at the Senior Center. There we spoke with the older generation of Neligh residents over coffee and cinnamon rolls about what they are seeing in the community as issues and what our office can do to help. On Friday, our Downtown Revitalization project applications were due, so we met with many business owners throughout the week about how to improve their businesses either aesthetically or structurally through projects funded in part by the grant. Friday was full of making sure applications were complete and filled out correctly. This Tuesday we went to the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce Meeting. Clearwater is ten miles west of Neligh and our office works for their town as well. Their meeting was mainly about the rodeo coming up in a couple of weeks and the new grocery store coming to town.

After we got back to Neligh, we had a meeting with the Northeast Nebraska Economic Develop District to go over our Downtown Revitalization projects. We met to make sure all the contractors were registered, all the numbers matched up and all the applications were complete. Then that evening, we attended the meeting for the Fall Festival, and Rhiannon updated their brochure. On Wednesday we volunteered to help paint the new grocery store in Clearwater so for a couple hours our boss let us off to benefit the community.

When we started asking people what they loved about the area we heard things like the restaurants, community and the people you get to support. We also heard something pretty moving as people started talking about community assets. They started by talking about the co-op, implement dealers, nursing home, school, ESU 8, park, lake garden and floral shops, banks and other businesses. Then as things were starting to quiet down, one lady turned to face us in her seat and said, “I think the people are our greatest asset.” We think that is very true about the people here in Neligh.

“Like in most rural places I’ve visited, the people in Neligh are resilient. They persevere and gather around people in hardships. They celebrate each other’s successes. They care about the wellbeing of their town, and they aren’t afraid to tell us why they love it.”




Seward, Neb.

Our time at the Seward County Chamber has been reasonably productive so far. We met with many community stakeholders over the past week and a half, which has been extremely insightful to make meaningful progress towards achieving our primary project goals of creating a sustainable engagement initiative for Seward County. Meeting these stakeholders and community members one-on-one gave us the knowledge of the various opinions that community members have. This then lead to the filtering of opinions which enabled us to come up with tangible output plans.

“So far I have loved meeting with so many wonderful people in the community. These people are so dedicated to their community and their hard work shows! They have really helped us to feel welcomed in Seward and continue to offer their assistance with our project!”


One big goal we have been able to achieve is finding our main target market and what we really want to accomplish this summer. Revolving around newcomer engagement, we have been able to solidify that our target market is reaching out to young professionals without children or retirees. From the data that we have collected from interviews, we have concluded that many of these people are having a harder time finding people their age and finding activities to be involved in, compared to couples with children. We have decided to create an event that will be two to three times a year. This event will be specifically marketed toward newcomers; however, it will be open for all residents of Seward County.

Raghav and Maddie have been meeting with stakeholders in a sustainable engagement initiative for Seward County.

Raghav takes in his rural serviceship experience from a farm in Seward, Neb.






Along with this event, we have been in the process of recruiting individuals who are very involved in the community. We want people who love to introduce themselves and help others get involved. These people will be part of our “Welcome Wagon.” This will not be an official group or organization, but simply a group of people that would like to show up to our events and offer a warm welcome. We are hoping that these individuals will create meaningful connections with newcomers and help them get accustomed with life in Seward County. We are going to try this event first in Seward to see if it takes off, and then hopefully it will spread to other communities in Seward County once our serviceship is complete.

We hope to be able to collaborate with community members, stakeholders and local businesses to be able to pull of the event that we are in the process of creating. We are very excited to, and yet a tad bit nervous about putting up this event. The nervousness stems from the possibility of a minimal turnout for the event, but that does not equate to having to give up on our marketing efforts. We believe that persistent and strategic marketing and coordination will help us achieve our goals.

“The personal and professional growth that stems from simply interacting with people from different walks of life is invaluable.”



Catch Up With Chuck Episode 29 Impacting Rural through Scholarship with RFI Fellow Jessica Shoemaker


Jun. 8, 2018

Joining us for this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Faculty Fellow Jessica Shoemaker, J.D., a distinguished scholar and associate professor of law for the University of Nebraska College of Law, who combines scholarship and passion to impact rural people and places.

Prior to joining the University of Nebraska, she served as a judicial clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, spent two years at a national non-profit law firm devoted to advocacy around systematic legal issues affecting rural communities and then spent five years at an international law firm in Denver, working in nearly every phase of dispute resolution in many different courts.

Shoemaker joined the University of Nebraska College of Law faculty in 2012 and was recently appointed associate professorship in 2017. She says that the work of the Rural Futures Institute helped her make the decision to come to Nebraska, as rural issues are ones she is particularly passionate about.

“Thinking about the future of rural places is intellectually and academically such a stimulating and complicated question given the rapid change that we’re experiencing.”

– Jessica Shoemaker, J.D.


Besides being a distinguished scholar and professor, Shoemaker is also a dedicated mother raising her family in a very rural Nebraska environment. Echoing RFI’s belief statements, she believes that rural communities are great places for families to thrive.


Catch Up With Chuck is Facebook Live series with Rural Futures Institute Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. Airing most Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (CST) on RFI’s Facebook Page, Chuck uses this time to discuss critical rural topics and the latest about RFI while answering viewers’ questions. Stay in touch with Catch Up With Chuck and the Rural Futures Institute through Facebook and Twitter. We will be back soon with another episode looking at rural people and places, success stories, innovators, thinkers and doers who are making rural communities a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living.