January 31, 2019

Bonus Episode

Hosted by Katelyn Ideus, producer of our podcast and our director of communications, Dr. Connie brings forward the critical importance of strategic foresight for rural areas — we cannot solve the grand challenges we’re facing or take advantage of tremendous opportunities if we continue to think and act in the same framework and mindset of the past.

We need to understand the megatrends, demographic and pyschographic shifts and industry evolutions surrounding and intermingling with our rural ecosystem.

We must also be clear about the fundamental leadership transformation that is occurring based on the expectations of upcoming generations.

January 29, 2019

Bonus Episode

Researcher, entrepreneur and high-touch futurist, Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., host of the show, takes the hot seat! Dr. Connie serves as interim executive director and chief futurist of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska.

During this episode, she shares her approach to leadership, her vision for RFI, her recent experiences traveling the world to provide the voice of rural, acceptable metrics to measure rural thriving and rural economic development of the future.

Bonus Episode! Futurist Connie Reimers-Hild intersects foresight, psychographics shifts, global rural development





Researcher, entrepreneur and high-touch futurist, Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., host of the Rural Futures Podcast, takes the hot seat in this bonus episode of our show! Dr. Connie serves as interim executive director and chief futurist of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska. During this episode, she shares her approach to leadership, her vision for RFI, her recent experiences traveling the world to provide the voice of rural, acceptable metrics to measure rural thriving and rural economic development of the future. 

Hosted by Katelyn Ideus, producer of the podcast and RFI’s director of communications, Dr. Connie brings forward the critical importance of strategic foresight for rural areas — we cannot solve the grand challenges we’re facing or take advantage of tremendous opportunities if we continue to think and act in the same framework and mindset of the past. We need to understand the megatrends, demographic and pyschographic shifts and industry evolutions surrounding and intermingling with our rural ecosystem. We must also be clear about the fundamental leadership transformation that is occurring based on the expectations of upcoming generations.

“Major companies have really invested in [strategic foresight] realizing that their business model today isn’t going to propel them into a successful future. They need to change, but they need to anticipate what those changes might be to make the right decisions, so that they’re innovating in the right way. We need to do the same when strategic planning for a thriving rural future.”
Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D.
Host, Rural Futures Podcast; Interim Executive Director & Chief Futurist, Rural Futures Institute

About Dr. Connie


Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., helps leaders and organizations reach their desired futures through strengths-based innovation and strategic foresight. She assumed the role of Interim Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska in July 2018 after three years as Associate Executive Director of the Institute.

Since joining RFI, Dr. Reimers-Hild has led the development of the RFI Engagement Nexus and fostered a growing relationship with Microsoft focused on the future of economic development and technology. She is also the host of the Rural Futures podcast, which has more than 4,000 downloads nationwide in just 20 episodes.

Dr. Reimers-Hild has authored or co-authored 55 publications, 10 workbooks, six videos, six coaching tools, three books and one book chapter. In total, her digital publications have been downloaded by 3,300 institutions more than 70,000 times throughout 175 countries. She has also taught more than 25,000 learners from around the world.

Strategic Foresight

About Katelyn


Brand and content strategist, Katelyn Ideus serves as director of communications and PR for the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska where she leads the strategic communications efforts of the Institute, including production of the Rural Futures Podcast.

A writer turned strategic communicator, Katelyn is passionate about positioning high-capacity experts and mission-motivated doers to reach their goals through valuable bodies of work. She is energized by finding dynamic, targeted ways to tell stories on behalf of organizations, causes and people she believes in. 

Katelyn holds a master’s degree in integrated media communications and bachelor’s in news editorial and broadcast journalism, both from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism & Mass Communications.

Bold Strategic Communications


Mentioned During The Episode


Show Notes

Katelyn Ideus: Welcome back to the Rural Futures Podcast. I’m Katelyn Ideus, producer of the show and in today’s episode, I’m interviewing our host, Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild who serves as Interim Executive Director and Chief Futurist at the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska. So Dr. Connie, welcome to your own show.

Dr. Connie: Thanks, Katelyn. It’s kind of fun to be on the other end of the mic. I feel like I’m on the spot now.

Katelyn Ideus: I want to start out by providing our listeners with a bit of context and background about you. So can you please share with us that highlight reel of your personal and professional life that has led you to this point of leading a major institute at the University of Nebraska?

Dr. Connie: Yeah, I’d love to. I have been at the university for quite some time and people that have listened to this know I was first generation college student who really had no intention of ever getting a Master’s degree let alone a PhD. And luckily I had some great mentors who helped me understand that you could actually get paid to go to graduate school, I didn’t know that, that’s the reason my Master’s degree is in entomology and also then thinking about what that looked like next for me was really important. I really was interested in this science of people and how people really showed up and interacted with the world. So my PhD is in human sciences with a focus on leadership and I really have studied what it means for people to be entrepreneurial and innovative before people could actually spell entrepreneurial which was a long time ago. It used to be like no one was even searching it before Google, it was crazy.

Katelyn Ideus: That’s hilarious.

Dr. Connie: Yeah, I mean it really is kind of a funny thing, because my first company actually was called Entrepreneurial You and I had to switch the name to Wild Innovation because no one could spell entrepreneurial, so nobody could find the company, but as a futurist that’s what you have to get pretty comfortable with, I think, is realizing you’re about 10 years ahead. So after getting my PhD and I actually worked as a faculty member in the Department of Entomology here at the University of Nebraska Lincoln on East campus before going into extension where then I worked with businesses. I worked with communities and I worked with a lot of entrepreneurs and leaders on personal and professional development. I’m a certified professional coach and a certified futurist because those pieces really go together. It’s great to do the strategic course item futuring with companies or even people as individuals, but really to change what we need to change, make the changes we want and desire. The coaching helps with that piece. I’ve been married for, it’ll be 20 years this year, so I’m super jazzed about that.

Katelyn Ideus: Congratulations.

Dr. Connie: Yeah, yeah. I’m excited. Wonderful man. I was older when I got married and had kids. It was a long betting process for me in the dating world I would say. But I still think that’s the best advice to give anyone– if you want a great future, find a great partner. We both have full time careers, have the business, but we also started out with two wiener dogs and now have two kids that are nine and eleven who really have been just the joys of our life. And so folding this all together has been a lot of fun because I think what’s happened is while we talk about the inability to balance. I think having to do that in real life, really helps you help leaders better, because you get it. You’re sort of having to figure it out everyday yourself.

Katelyn Ideus: You’ve already brought up futuring and strategic foresight but we need to dig into this a little bit more because it’s a bit mind boggling, but we still get asked if strategic foresight is quote a real thing and if a futurist is something people know about. But we do get these questions so let’s clear it up. Can you share with us your definition of a futurist?

Dr. Connie: I can and I will go on record to say yes, strategic foresight is a discipline. Other universities and colleges actually teach it. I’m certified through the University of Houston and we had Dr. Andy Hines on who was actually the lead person in that academy. They teach it on campus, they teach it online, they have full blown bachelor master degree programs and many places focused on it. And that is really important because really strategic foresight is a discipline that futurists use to help leaders, people, organizations, communities really take a look at what’s happening. Not just now, but into the future. What’s possible and what’s probable. And then helping them make decisions, better decisions so they’re better prepared for the future, but also in a position to create the future that they want.

Katelyn Ideus: So talk to us a little bit more about that program that you went through at the University of Houston. What types of people were in your program with you?

Dr. Connie: It was an amazing program and I had wanted to go through it for years. I’ve been a member of the World Future Society, presented at that conference, published within that sphere for quite some time before actually going on and taking their certificate program. So there are people from all over the world and all different industries there. So you had people from Clorox, Ford, the United States Library Association, Lowe’s, a lot of these major companies have really invested in this space realizing that their business model today isn’t going to propel them into a successful future. They need to change, but they need to anticipate what those changes might be to make the right decisions so that they’re innovating in the right way. I was actually the only person in my class that was from a university and I found that to be very interesting considering sort of the huge transition that universities are in right now along with retail, healthcare, every other space, right? I was just in Lincoln, Nebraska here. I tried to go make a return at Sears, they’re closing and it’s not like we didn’t know this was happening. A: Sears has talked about this for a long time. We’ve seen just the prolific growth of online retail. Well, why do you need to go to that store anymore? And so it’s really interesting to me the companies that have chosen to invest in that and really pivot and evolve and the ones that have not.

Katelyn Ideus: Now, I have to ask the classic Dr. Connie question, what do you do to keep your futurist mind fresh?

Dr. Connie: I love to watch Sci-Fi movies. Like I’m a crazy big fan of Sci-Fi, because,and I always have been. I mean I think that’s the other thing about being a futurist. I’ve been a futurist since I was pretty young. I just didn’t know what it was at that time. I could see what was going to happen and I could put really odd things together. It’s something that’s very natural for me, but it’s hard to always explain and put into words what that looks like for others and how they can benefit from that knowledge. And I think it’s staying sharp, it’s a lot of reading. I’m a huge learner. Audio books, especially with all the driving I do. So I’m also a huge fan of Singularity University. I just actually finished up some course work to keep myself fresh last year with that group and it was all online. Again, people from all over the world, from all industries. This time there were some folks from higher education which was great, but really thinking about how do we exponentially grow what’s happening. I listen to a lot of podcasts as well and yesterday I was listening to one that talked about 5G. Like, what should we expecting with 5G that we’re not doing right now? And the 5G will be something once people are connected to it it’ll be like what electricity was, they used the example of what electricity was to a washing machine. It was life changing, right? It’s not once piece of clothing anymore, but it’s also we can own a lot more clothes. We can buy them, we can wash them faster, we have clothes now for everything.

Katelyn Ideus: Yeah, you’ve already kind of promo-ed some of the episodes that we’ve had with guests. I mean if this conversation is sparking your curiosity as a listener, we have more that you can dig into. So episode eight featured Dr. Andy Hines who leads the University of Houston’s Strategic Foresight Graduate Certificate Program. And I’d also suggest episode one with Ryan Alexander, higher ed futurist. Episode 13 with Thomas Frey, he’s a prolific leading futurist, nationally and globally and episode 16 with Deb Westphal who’s the CEO of Toffler Associates. And we have more coming in season three. Just continuing to bring these futurists together because when you said I bring this disparate ideas together. Yeah, I mean that’s what you’ve done here at the Rural Futures Institute, tying rural to strategic foresight is a completely different conversation than has been had and I think even talking to these futurists, they’re interested in this too and they’re seeing, wow, yeah we do need to have this conversation of what the future holds for rural and then obviously what that means for everyone.

Dr. Connie: And I think just having the connection to other futurists who maybe see things differently than I do or had different experiences, have worked with different companies just broadens the perspective of what’s possible. And I think rural is one of those areas that’s been sort of left out of the equation when it comes to futuring, strategic foresight, technology. When I was recently on a panel in Paris, the women’s conference really focused on the future of cities. The reason I was there, because it was because of our partnership with Microsoft, but also rural just isn’t represented. They were like we need somebody that has this rural voice and knowledge to talk about the future of cities, because I’m like it’s not just cities, right? It is that rural urban connection that’s really what makes the world work, and sometimes we don’t recognize that. A lot of those fundamental pieces of everything we consume come from rural areas and even though in many ways that’s getting more automated, in many ways it’s also not. In many ways it’s also still hand laborers. When you think about coffee for example, chocolate, that is produced in rural areas and it’s produced by people living in those areas and I think that we forget the human element sometimes about what are those people doing in their world that affects our world. But also the cool innovation and the strength that our rural people around the world, in the US, in Nebraska really bring to the table and what I love about the podcast and our work at the Rural Futures Institute. And in particular your work, Katelyn, I think in the communication space has really lifted up that voice for rural. We have more work to do, obviously. Yeah, I mean it’s no small job, but it’s exciting to see that now we have actually futurists coming to us saying hey, can I be part of this conversation? I really like to contribute my work to this space. And I think that’s a great accomplishment, but I’m also excited to see what that can bring to our state and beyond.

Katelyn Ideus: I want to transition into the future of the Rural Futures Institute now. You assumed the Interim Executive Director role at RFI in July and you’ve really challenged our team to narrow our scope and be very focused on the type of impact we want to make and you wrote an introductory letter in July and then you also just had a recent op ed, both of which are available on our website. If anyone would like to read them in full, but can you share with us a bit about your vision for the institute going forward?

Dr. Connie: I really like to think about it through the strategic foresight loans about what’s possible, what’s probable and then how can we continue to grow. But that takes focus. I mean I think that’s where especially in terms as we have had a large budget cut and also we’ve lost quite a bit of capacity in terms of people. I think sometimes that has gotten lost a bit in some of the conversation. What is it now that we can do? What can we specialize in and make the wider impact in Nebraska and the world? Students have been a huge part of that and will continue to be a huge part of that and getting students into communities, our rural communities with those leaders is a huge contribution we’ve made in the past but we have to measure the impact of that and continue to think about how do we partner and scale that up and change it in the future. And really as we’ve developed this nexus, what we call the Rural Futures Nexus of students, communities, and faculty coming together making sure we’re bringing those pieces together in a thoughtful way to elevate what’s happening in those communities. So taking what’s happening at the university, connecting it with communities, but also what’s happening in communities and connecting that back to the university, so that the university very much knows the innovation happening there, but also what we should be doing here at the university to help those communities.

Katelyn Ideus: We are also quite proud of the Rural Future’s Institute’s Student Serviceship Program that was developed by University of Nebraska faculty in 2013 through RFI funding. It has continued every year and grown in scope placing 60 some students in 30 some rural communities to work, serve, and live. And last year we had our largest class of students serving 11 communities, two of which were broader communities of practice, so that was an exciting evolution of the program. Without giving too much away, can you share with our listeners the evolution of the program we have been working on this past six months?

Dr. Connie: We’re working on kind of pivoting what we’ve called our Rural Serviceship Program a bit. I’d love for that to come out as more of a fellows approach with students in those communities and with our community leaders for the student piece and the community piece and the university piece, we’ve really looked at inclusion through Dr. Helen Fagan’s work of becoming a part that. Can that theoretical foundation of inclusion then lead to more economic impact workforce development greater good for those communities in terms of well being. But also let’s bring the strategic foresight in with it in the communications piece with it. So Singularity University, who I just talked about, when I took my courses there for professional development last year, communications was a huge part of that. It’s not enough to just have the foresight, you need the action, but you also need to communicate the difference it’s making and where you intend to go. And that’s what we’re working on here at the Rural Futures Institute.

Katelyn Ideus: Okay so let’s get specific too, on the Nebraska Thriving Index so this a print and online tool that we’ll be rolling out in the summer that will provide economic developers, local elected officials and community leaders with economic and quality of life indicators to identify thriving and lagging regions. And the point of this is that with that information, that’s really comparing them to comparable peers. They can make some strategic future focused investments. So what was the inspiration behind this project and how did it come to be the partners involved?

Dr. Connie: I’m really excited about the Thriving Index. We started seeing these barometers for Omaha, and Lincoln here in Nebraska and also sister cities to Lincoln and Omaha. And Dr. Eric Thompson at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research, they are the ones that have led these types of measures of Lincoln and Omaha. And so as we started to look at them, now they have five years of data and they use these a lot of times in economic development to attract new companies or even just to say, here’s where we’re at, here’s where we’re doing well, here’s where we need to put some resources. They really use it I think in many ways to help form their future and a lot of the decisions around that and we didn’t have anything for rural that resembled that and so we talked with Eric and he has a team. Also Dr. Bre Doherty at the University of Nebraska at Kearney who’s really helped us form this up and think through this and then we worked with a number of partners through the community vitality initiative and the Nebraska extension and there’s a whole team involved and you can find that information on our website as well. But to look at the landscape in rural. So the economic aspects of it, but also overall well being. Because what we do know is that population can’t be the metric, right? So we get charged with this a lot and people ask us well how are you going to change the trajectory of rural Nebraska? You know what, that’s a very complicated question and I get the intent of the question. The population is incredibly important in the attraction and retention of people, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s way more complicated than just using population as a metric. What we do know, is that the quality of life, especially in places like rural Nebraska is good, but we don’t know how good, how great. We don’t know what’s thriving and what’s not thriving necessarily in those areas and a lot of it is very regional not just a specific community. And so the index will really help display this in regions. And it’ll be a tool that people can actually use and it’ll be great to get some initial data put together, an initial tool put together that people can take a look at to assess their region and compare it to other regions. But the long term goal would be that this index will occur over time and so we can start seeing those trends over time, we can start seeing what needs additional help or where places are thriving. And then also if we can expand that to other states, how does Nebraska compare? And what can we do about it? I mean I think that’s the other thing as a university too is for us to have this information to say hey, this is where we’re making a contribution, but this is where we could do more.

Katelyn Ideus: So, you hold your doctorate in leadership as you’ve shared and in episode 10 of this show, you shared your definition of leadership and you said, “It is the ability to lead one’s own life while bringing out the best in others and making a positive contribution to the future.” You went on to say, “I believe in champion the concept of self-leadership, don’t let others lead you where you don’t want to go. We must recognize and develop our inner leaders to truly thrive.” And that episode aired on August 3rd, one month in to your leadership role here at RFI. So what have you learned since then?

Dr. Connie: For me that still holds true. My whole coaching philosophy and model is built on developing your inner leader. I’m really not a big fan of one person having a giant vision and everybody else get on board and go towards it. I think that worked in the Industrial Era. It does not work in the current era that we are in and I think it holds true even more so for me today than it did even a few months ago. And I’ve been in leadership roles before at the Kimmel Education and Research Center for example and other places that I’ve been. This is a little different in that it’s a higher level within the university but it also we have a very small team. And for me, that means that I need people on our team to really embrace that inner leader. I can’t afford to micromanage anyone and I’m not even good at it, but I also think this is what’s important in those communities, it’s important to the faculty and staff that we work with here. We need to bring the best out in everybody and that’s really as leaders I feel like that’s part of the role, right? It’s not just assigning tasks and delegating, that’s management, but leadership requires a little more than that and I think in many ways, after going through a difficult situation, like we have here at the Rural Futures Institute, or many of our communities have gone through. It’s coming out of that sort of like the phoenix,


Dr. Connie: and flying again, that’s kind of how I see it is you’re going to go through those difficult times and it’s the what have you learned and how did it make you stronger? And I think that’s kind of where I’m at at this point with a lot of things and even our interview with Dr. Howard Liu from the med center, we touched a lot on this result. There’s a lot of mental and spiritual and physical capacity that has to go in that and I think that’s all part of that inner leader, right? And shift gears when you need to. I mean we had to make some hard decisions. We had to pass things like bit Connecting Young Nebraskans, CYN program that’s amazing and I think there’s such a great group of young leaders around our state but you know what, our partners at the Nebraska Community Foundation can do wonderful things with that. And rather than just cut it and see it die, we really wanted to trim it from our branches but see it grow and I think that’s the part of leadership that sometimes gets a little difficult and people can get a little judgmental around it, but for us to grow and for us to help serve people in a better way we have to be good at who we are and good with who we are, we have to lead who we are and show up in an authentic way. Some of these things we have to let go of and let loss and beyond who we are here at the Rural Futures Institute.

Katelyn Ideus: Okay, so to say that fall 2018 was a whirlwind, is a little bit of an understatement. Where all did you go?

Dr. Connie: I’m trying to remember, it was a blur because Japan and Paris were the big international trips. But I made several trips out to Kearney and went to Ohio as well. Yeah, I mean and I was feeling that, I was getting a little tired there by the end. I mean it was great because I think we know that the demand for the work we’re doing here and for the partnerships we’ve created is growing and that’s great to see. And now it’s like again how do we continue to grow and thrive ourselves through this so that we can continue to serve in a prolific way, but yeah. I was in Ohio working with some agricultural leaders and connecting with them around the rural future and their own business future. The agricultural landscape is changing at a very rapid clip. How do they as leaders continue to evolve and change and how can we connect with them here at the institute? That’s really important. And then I was in Kearney. I worked with the Nebraska Rural Health Association, key noted their annual conference but also connected with some great leaders that attended that conference. I’m very excited to continue to work in that space. And then 10 days in Japan as part of a partnership we have with the Japan Society and this has been a great relationship that’s been ongoing, a project that’s been ongoing. We hosted a number of Japanese leaders here last year in 2017, then the exchange was to take US leaders to Japan. I was one of those leaders that was selected from the US to go and learn about what’s happening there. What you learn is that a lot of what’s happening there is happening here. I mean this whole rural conversation is while we focus or want to focus our impact in Nebraska, there’s a whole national and international need for us to all come together around this and find some really bold innovative solutions to what’s happening and capture the creativity already happening. And after that, eight days later that I was flying into Paris to present at an international women’s forum really focused on how do we help empower women to create a better future. And again, that was part of our relationship with Microsoft so a lot of the relationships that we’ve had and have been forming are really starting to grow and we want to see more happen from that. And we want rural to be at the table. Aging is a huge issue in both the area of the women in empowerment, but also in places like Japan. And aging is a global issue that we see especially in our rural areas and so I think just the learnings from some of that have been huge and I’ve been able to bring a lot of that back to Nebraska which is great.

Katelyn Ideus: So let’s dig into Japan a little bit more. It is an acute example of hyper urbanization so until the early 2000’s, globally more people lived in villages and small towns than cities, but population in large cities continues to rise while the opposite is true in rural areas. This is especially true in Japan. People are leaving their rural homes to go to Tokyo, for example, and today 92% of the Japanese live in large cities. And it’s causing an influx of abandoned land throughout the rural areas of the country and also just some concern. I mean, I’ve read articles on the millennial generation is really concerned about their responsibility. I mean some of these rural communities are 1,000 years old in Japan and it’s going to be under their watch that they die. I mean this is really kind of an issue. So you wrote a paper for the Japan Society and that will be published soon through them, but tell us about your key observations that you wrote about in that paper.

Dr. Connie: Yeah so one of the areas that I wanted to really examine while I was there is this issue of gender inequity, because it’s a pretty big one. And it’s a big one in rural areas in Nebraska. We’ve heard that through our rural forums that we need to empower people and be more inclusive in our leadership but that includes gender as a huge part of that. One of my takeaways was that women need representation, their own voice and economic independence in Japan. And that is especially true in the rural areas. Many times even at meetings, men are still speaking for women. We see that here, I see that. Even as the Executive Director for a major institute that still happens and I find myself having to interrupt people or just keep talking through talk to interrupt me at a table. It drives me crazy, but it still happens and so this is just, it’s a problem, a cultural problem, globally. But also the Japanese relationship with food is very unique and I think it has the potential to drive a larger share of their economy that I think there’s a lot we could learn from them around the connection with food and agriculture and the way that it’s so beautifully represented. They have like fan clubs for their rice and their fish. People in urban areas that are selling their products for them and doing social media for them and really have actually become fans of how the food is produced. They also have things like rice compacts where they actually will contract with people living in places like Tokyo to buy rice from rural areas and then in case something bad happens in Tokyo, for example a tsunami, they can actually move and go stay in those rural areas and have a safe place to live. I just think those are so creative to how to engage people in rural areas even if they don’t physically live there. And also Japan’s population appears to be less dependent on traditional healthcare and more focused on health. I think this was especially prevalent as I, I actually was involved in a tea party with elderly ladies in a rural village and the thing that it showed me was these women have chosen to get together. They’ve chosen to get together because it helps them get out of their houses and to create that social bond they need for their health and their well being. It’s once a week, but they have fun. I mean they’re having great food, it’s home made food, very healthy food, green and black tea, and they’re laughing, but it’s also just a great example of people taking ownership and that inner leadership of how do I want to experience this life.

Katelyn Ideus: Now I also want to go back to the women’s forum global conference. So, correct me if I’m wrong but were you the only rural perspective person there? Was there anybody else?

Dr. Connie: Nobody else that I know of, no. I was pretty much it and I think the great thing is that after that conference then I was contacted by other conferences, global conferences to bring in this rural perspective. People just, they’re curious, but they don’t know.

Katelyn Ideus: Right, right. But with that kind of influential platform with leaders from across corporations, governments, non-profits, what calls to action did you share with this opportunity?

Dr. Connie: Well one, we need to plan for both underpopulation, and overpopulation in physical communities. There is an absolute interconnectedness between urban and rural that we can no longer ignore. And our global ecosystem must support more than just people. As we move forward with the Rural Futures Institute, one of the things we’ve really focused on is the rural-urban collaboration, not divide. We talked about this with Dr. Tim Griffin from Tufts University. We really need to ask better questions and do better research around this, because too often we’re focused on the divide and not on interconnectedness. And we need to understand that more I think so people value both rural and urban in a different way. And number two is that we need to provide access to health, well-being and vitality for all. What does it really look like for every person on the planet to have great places to live, clean water, sanitation, transportation, sustainable energy, activity and proper nutrition? And how do we provide access to health, well being, and vitality for all people in the future? This was a big focus of the Singularity University course work that I took. I mean we can start thinking about these things now, because not only do we have the technology, but we have the science and I think we have the will of many people to try and figure out answers to these big questions. Number three, advancements in technology and science are changing expectations and demands of humans. We have demographic shifts and that’s recognized, but we have psychographic shifts as well and sometimes that is unrecognized. For example, I just expect that I can order something on my phone and it’s there about the next day or two days and I live in a rural area. As you’re more remote and rural I know that might be a little bit different and I get it, but this will continue to change, right? I mean, so as we have for example more 3D printing in the future we don’t even have to order, we can just print it in our home. But we need to be connected in order to do that. And so when you think about the internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, mobile technologies, intelligent transportation– these are interwoven factors that are happening that we can really I think embrace in rural if we want to, but also we can lead the way in rural if we want to. So when I think about autonomous vehicles in our aging population, and the need for people to get to still a healthcare facility, why not create the intersection of that and let us be the place where places like Tesla, Microsoft, et cetera come and do some research. Yes, please Google, let’s see what we can do. But that gets really to the fourth point of broadband and high speed connectivity which will be critical components of future communities both physically and digitally. This requires a systems approach to infrastructure. How many physical structures do we really need at this point? Again, we see a lot of these physical stores closing, because you know what? You just simply don’t need to go there and honestly for people like me and many others, shopping is not really that exciting and if you don’t find what you want at the price you want, with all the selection that you can get on your phone or on your computer, why are you there? I mean if it’s not an experience of some sort, people aren’t going to do it. So should more of this money be invested in virtual opportunities?

Katelyn Ideus: Kind of one of the last things I want to hit on is just the insights we’ve had from doing this podcast so far. So we’ve had 20 episodes and we’re definitely seeing some themes emerge. We published a white paper about season one entitled The Future of Leadership Technology and Rural Urban Collaboration which is available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/podcast. But season two added some more specifics to these main themes. What stood out most to you?

Dr. Connie: Well I think the fact that there’s a lot of great stories out there and there are stories to tell and we need to tell them well. But we also need to understand the elements of those stories and how they can be replicated beyond that example. When you think about Handlebend in O’Neil, Nebraska, two young guys who decided to create copper mugs from copper in one of their dad’s shops, because he works in refrigeration and now turning that into a business and their website is so amazing. But not only that, I mean they are engaging the community, they’re hiring people. The community’s been a huge part of their success and they’re telling about that and the importance of that. They’re also not shy about saying that they’ve needed the internet. They want to empower more women to work with their company and help them grow and I think that’s really such a great story, but what are the lessons and how can others learn and be successful with that same sort of model? Empowering women as I’ve talked about, is so critical if we want communities to thrive, women have to thrive as well, because they give back to their families and communities. But also, we’ve really noticed that a lot of people don’t choose to define themselves as a leader. It’s like they’re scared to say yeah, I’m a leader. But I think in some ways that’s because there’s still this old sort of idea that the leaders and CEO in a corner office can be a bit of a jerk, right? Someone that just tells everybody what to do. And so I think as we sort of continue to evolve to self leadership and people wanting to take control and empower their own future, I think that will change.

Katelyn Ideus: And we’ve always kind of acknowledged that. That people don’t self define as a leader, but the types of people we’re bringing on this show and they’re looking at our preform and they’re like, well I don’t know that I should have an opinion on leadership style and you’re just so surprised to hear them say that. It’s like, look at what you’re doing. Look at how you’ve brought people together around your ideas or look at the type of thought leader. So I just, that one has stood out to me too. Okay so obviously we’re really excited for season three which will debut in February. We have a bunch of interviews scheduled for this month and they’ll be with futurist researchers and rural mavericks still, but can you talk about a few of the topics that we’re really eager to address?

Dr. Connie: Yeah, technology will continue to be a huge theme. I think that’s just from basic access with broadband to wearables to even what’s going to emerge in the 5G economy and what’s going to be enabled through that. Continue to focus on some population demographic shifts. Not just that it’s happening, but what the implications are for the future are also very important. And then entrepreneurship at a global level so in Japan entrepreneurship is becoming more important. It hasn’t been part of their culture necessarily. We’re going to engage leaders in Australia around this conversation, because this is economic development in rural. It is entrepreneurship, it’s not going to be a traditional employer, it’s not even going to be traditional full time work, it’s going to be the gig economy, it’s going to be entrepreneurship and it’s going to be innovation.

Katelyn Ideus: Love it. Okay so to wrap up, I think if all the other guests think I missed an opportunity. If I didn’t ask you some of the questions that you ask them, that make them go, oh.


Katelyn Ideus: And so there’s two of those. First, which I think should be maybe our warm up for season three is like what does the future’s hat look like? Because that’s very interesting.I always kind of picture it as like the sci-fi type of like stuff coming out of it.

Dr. Connie: To me it’s like that cone shaped wizard hat with some sparkly stars and stuff. And I know the students have even some more interesting ideas. That is still a contest.

Katelyn Ideus: Yes, it’s a contest! Who can come up with the best futurist hat? But anyways, okay I digress, so with your futurist hat on, what are some of the key mega trends that you want to make sure people understand are impacting our rural urban future and that we should really be preparing for?

Dr. Connie: I think the technology and science piece, of course, and the continued advancement in that, but I think sort of the evolution or community as well. We have a lot of our basic needs met. We’ll continue to work on that in many places around the world, but then what comes next? What comes next if people aren’t working full time? What comes next if people are wanting to feel more fulfilled and be healthier and more vital and we need them to do that? And how do we piece this together and how do we do this globally? Because I think some of the other interesting conversations we’ll have are outside of humanity. How is all this affecting wildlife and ocean populations, flora and fauna? I think there’s a national resources piece that’ll continue to grow especially as a potential growing population consumes more.

Katelyn Ideus: So the last question that makes people sigh or just flat out say, “I shouldn’t answer that” is parting words of wisdom.

Dr. Connie: Well I think, parting words of wisdom for me would be for people to continue to create their own future and really look at their life through the lens of a futurist. So as we see dynamic shifts in terms of employment opportunities that go away, we’re going to see new ones emerge. So what does that look like for you? How can you tap into your strengths and creative strengths based future for yourself? And that then impacts your community, but also the world. But I want to throw that back to you also, Katelyn. What are your words of wisdom that you’d like to leave our audience with?

Katelyn Ideus: They all map to essentialism. So everyone, if you have not read that book, you need to do so immediately. A lot of what you have mentored me with which is exactly what you said. What future do you want? You need to know what your desire is and go for that and so I think that has resonated with me a ton and I’ve really put some thought into it and it’s hard sometimes. But my parting words of wisdom today would be, done is better than perfect and this podcast is such a great example of that. If I had waited for our concept to be absolutely perfect, we wouldn’t have launched yet, and we wouldn’t be sitting here and have pulled together such an incredible group of people. So thank you to each and every one of our guests who have made this dream not just a reality, but just plain fun. I mean these people just are a pleasure to talk with and I just also want to take a moment to thank everyone who is listening because we can more than justify continuing this show, we have listeners from 45 of 50 states, represented in our listenership, which obviously the competitive person me is going to call out hey Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware and New Hampshire– Y’all need to get on board, so there might be some targeting to those just so we can round up to 50, but those are my parting words of wisdom, Connie.

Dr. Connie: I agree. Essentialism is awesome, but yeah. Let’s get those last five states and we know you’re out there, rural. We know, I’ve met people from rural Alaska, Arkansas, especially those two states that are doing some amazing things.

Katelyn Ideus: Well, and our listeners are definitely not just rural. I’m seeing a lot of Chicago, Austin, San Diego so I mean it’s really cool to see such a good mix, but obviously Nebraska  is coming in strong and we really appreciate that.

Dr. Connie: Yeah, thank you Nebraska. We love it.

Katelyn Ideus: Alright, hey Connie. Thanks for coming on your own show.

Dr. Connie: Well hey, Katelyn. Thanks for interviewing me and putting me on a hot seat.

RFI Storyteller Internship


The Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska is seeking a creative, passionate, high-energy University of Nebraska–Lincoln student storyteller to produce high-quality video and photography assets.


Through this paid ($11/hour), year-long internship, you will expand your leadership and professional skills as well as your comfort zone and network. We need a commitment of 15-30 hours per week from April 2019 through May 2020. Hours are flexible based on your class schedule.

NOTE: To be eligible, applicant must be enrolled as a full-time University of Nebraska–Lincoln student for the 2019-2020 school year.


“Interning with RFI will give you the chance to build your portfolio with purposeful pieces, gain real world communications experience and—best of all—work with amazing individuals to elevate voices around the challenges and opportunities in rural communities.”
Kathryn Bagniewski
Current Stellar RFI Intern | Podcast Production Specialist

Required Skills

  • Must have drone license
  • Storyboarding
  • Photography know-how
  • Videography know-how
  • Team player who is willing to take constructive feedback, but also advocate for their ideas
  • Personable, outgoing, welcoming demeanor with interviewees (and everyone for that matter!)
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Ability to hit multiple deadlines per week
  • Excellent platform-specific writing skills
  • Up-to-date understanding of current trends and tools
  • Willingness to dig into research and details


Preferred Skills

  • Both short-form news style and longer-form documentary style video production experience
  • Graphic design skills using Adobe InDesign and Photoshop
  • Knowledgeable in technical aspects of social media platforms



  • Be a dynamic storyteller
  • Create intriguing video and photo content based on the strategic needs of the Institute
  • Embrace and maintain the RFI brand
  • Edit photo and video regularly and skillfully
  • Bring new ideas forward!


How to Apply

Email Katelyn Ideus, RFI Director of Communications & PR, at kideus@nebraska.edu by February 15, 2019, with the following:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • At least three (3) examples of your best work and/or ideas

NOTE: To be eligible, applicant must be enrolled as a full-time University of Nebraska–Lincoln student for the 2019-2020 school year.



Questions? Contact Katelyn!

Katelyn Ideus
RFI Director of Communications & PR

January 7, 2019


Through the Rural Futures Institute, the University of Nebraska affirms its commitment to empowering thriving rural communities within our state, across the country and around the world.

But what does this mean?

From Dr. Connie: The Rural Futures Institute — NU’s commitment to a thriving rural Nebraska

Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D.
Interim Executive Director & Chief Futurist
Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska

Through the Rural Futures Institute, the University of Nebraska affirms its commitment to empowering thriving rural communities within our state, across the country and around the world.

But what does this mean?

Since I assumed leadership of the Institute in July, our team has refined the bold vision set by hundreds of stakeholders and the Board of Regents in 2012 and established criteria for our work that will help the University partner for a strong future for Nebraska. Perspectives from community leaders, University students and faculty and partners such as the Nebraska Community Foundation and Peter Kiewit Foundation have been critical in this journey.

As a certified futurist, I must start with a discussion about the future — not just about a sustainable future for our rural areas, but our desired collective futures.

We must actively create and participate in diverse and inclusive leadership that embraces differences in experience and skill set for mission, purpose and genuine personal growth.

We must prepare for and embrace continued exponential changes across technology, human ability and the point of innovation where the two infuse. With a realistic understanding of the challenges the fourth industrial revolution brings, we must strategize about the possible, not just the probable.

We must understand that we live in a dynamic ecosystem of rural and urban challenges and opportunities that are overlapping and coinciding. Win-win scenarios are possible. Our recent work with the Japan Society, Microsoft and Tufts University has demonstrated that our future is not mutually exclusive based on geography.

When we talk about the future, we need to have a strengths-based approach that includes an abundance mindset. We know there are challenges; however, if we focus solely on those challenges, we miss the tremendous opportunities and solutions available to us.

The Rural Futures Institute believes the opportunities of thriving rural communities lie at the intersections of leadership, technology and rural-urban collaboration.

To each of these, RFI convenes four assets to cultivate communities and the University forward together:

  • high-capacity collegiate students,
  • leading researchers,
  • global perspectives and
  • the discipline of strategic foresight.

We aim to bring each of these assets to fruition through focused work that creates tangible outcomes in workforce development, economic impact and access and results in products and services our state’s communities can use.

The primary example of this is the recently announced Nebraska Thriving Index, an interactive online tool that will provide economic developers, local elected officials and community leaders with economic and quality of life indicators to identify thriving and lagging regions so strategic, future-focused investments can be made.

Thank you to our researcher, staff and student partners with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research and agricultural leadership department, the University of Nebraska at Kearney College of Business and Technology and the University of Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Initiative. We look forward to receiving feedback from community representatives in the coming months.

We are also innovating the framework of RFI Student Serviceship, which has placed 64 University of Nebraska students in 32 rural Nebraska communities to work and serve while gaining rural perspectives and developing leadership skills.

Sustaining this initiative should be a priority for the University and the state as we all work toward supporting the next generation of rural Nebraska leaders and attracting and retaining talent.

The work of students with communities also pays. Analysis from the 2016 experience in Friend, Neb., determined that the spec home project the students led has served as a catalyst for a $4 million project that could bring 15 jobs to the community.

Serviceship is possible because of individuals and communities who mentor and champion the students’ futures. We sincerely appreciate the investment of your time, talent and energy.

As we seek a thriving future together, let us be creative in our thinking, collaborative in our work, resolute in our strategy and bold in our storytelling.

January 1, 2019

Holiday Message

Happy New Year from the Rural Futures Institute!

You have the power to create the future for yourself, your family and your community. . What future will you create?

As proponents of rural communities, our team sees extraordinary opportunities at the intersections of leadership, technology and rural-urban collaboration. And we know we aren’t alone.

January 8, 2019


Today’s healthcare leaders have an opportunity to channel the future and redesign what health looks like in rural communities.

Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, RFI’s Interim Executive Director and Chief Futurist, is keynoting and facilitating the Western Healthcare Alliance Annual Summit on February 28, 2019. She will help WHA members reach their desired futures through strategic foresight.

Strategic foresight, also referred to as “futuring,” helps leaders better understand current and potential situations while creating a roadmap for innovation that guides and inspires action.

Join the Rural Futures Institute and the Western Healthcare Alliance as we co-create the future for rural healthcare together!

Students: Apply for RFI graphic design, social media, storyteller internships!

The Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska is seeking stellar University of Nebraska–Lincoln students to help us create a bold voice for rural.

Join us in an engaged working environment that will expand your leadership and professional skills as well as your comfort zone and network. All details and application instructions available via the links below!

Apply by midnight Sunday, February 17, 2019!

NOTE: To be eligible, applicant must be enrolled as a full-time University of Nebraska–Lincoln student for the 2019-2020 school year.




Questions? Contact Katelyn!

Katelyn Ideus
RFI Director of Communications & PR