Sandy Montague-Roes

Chadron Community Hospital/Western Community Health Resources

Director

Chadron, Neb.

Graduate of Chadron State College, Western Nebraska General Hospital School of Nursing

2020 Experience

Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion

The student fellows will work to complete SHAPE planning and implementation through data collection and analysis of pre-K-12 youth, with a priority support for the Native American population. Students will focus on methods to reduce stigma of mental health through awareness campaigns, as well as work with Educational Service Unit 13 to create a school-based mental health services needs assessment and a behavioral mental health dashboard for the department’s ongoing use. Students will also assist Dawes County Joint Planning and Discover Northwest Nebraska in the development of programs and marketing campaigns designed to enhance the tourism industry in Northwest Nebraska. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has already and will continue to disrupt the 2020 tourism season for the region. Having interns available for the summer will allow focus on promoting local and regional tourism through staycations and complete several planning projects for 2021.

Team:
Students: Tyra Ann ReardonSawyer Smith
Peers: Katie CarrizalesTerri HaynesKerri Rempp

Sponsored By: Chadron Public Schools, Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) Grant staff, Educational Service Unit 13, Dawes County Joint Planning, Northwest Nebraska Tourism

Sandy’s Nebraska Story

I was born in Chadron, Nebraska and have lived in the area my entire life.

What do you hope to gain?

Exposure and opportunity to build relationships with a generation that is different than mine.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

Understanding the make up of yourself allows you to be open to understanding others, their ideas, perspectives and dreams.

Why is this contribution of students from NU significant to you and your community?

The relationship provides the opportunity to find students who have the willingness and interest to learn about rural/frontier culture and embrace that opportunity for exploration and potential change.

Why is rural important?

Rural is the foundation to build upon. Rural has deep roots of pride, tradition, and determination.

Ethan Weiche

Junior

Architecture

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Ravenna

Focus: Community and Economic Development, Community Marketing

Ravenna has a long list of projects the students will focus on, including organizing and running a Big Idea competition, research planning and fundraising for a bike and hike trail, and increasing civic engagement by encouraging residents to subscribe to a community texting notification service to receive community updates via text messaging. In addition, students will use existing and new photographs and video to create marketing materials for the community.

Team:
Peers: Connor McFaydenKori SiebertAndromede Uwase
Innovators: Amber RossGena McPherson

Sponsored By: Ravenna Chamber of Commerce, Ravenna Economic Development Corporation

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose this experience because it provides a great opportunity to bring about positive change in the world. Moreover, I am looking forward to developing as a leader and someone capable of helping others.

What do you hope to gain?

As someone who has spent the majority of their life in large cities, I am, more than anything, excited to catch a glimpse of how life is in rural America, however brief the experience. That is to say, I am eager to gain another perspective on life.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

The ability to show empathy for others and ensure every voice is heard is a valuable skill. Not only does the future of the world require that we consider others, but so do the problems we face on a day to day basis. Inclusive leadership is one way of actively seeking out the concerns of people who have historically been underrepresented, and therefore vital to our success as a nation in the years to come.

Why should students work in rural communities?

The situation of rural communities should be one of particular emphasis; not only do they possess the majority of land and natural resources, but they are, more importantly, citizens. As such, I believe we owe a certain level of respect and concern for their situation. Furthermore, living in a rural community gives the student a valuable new perspective on life, which is how we develop empathy for others.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

I think students have been afforded a great opportunity to come and study in the state of Nebraska. For four years, the highest priority of students is to learn and immerse themselves in their chosen field. This is all done in the hopes that they may somehow use their particular knowledge in the future. Therefore, for students in Nebraska, having lived and learned in the state for several years, to help the state and give back to the people only seems right and just.

What new opportunities exist today to help move rural communities forward? What are your ideas?

There are a number of important problems related to the entire country and oftentimes densely populated areas attract more resources and attention despite a similar or lesser level of need. As a result, rural communities are more likely to be disproportionately affected when negative events do transpire. I believe that now is a great opportunity simply because there is a significant amount of time and energy required to help rural communities, and everyday that nothing is done we fall further behind. As for ideas, I take myself to be primarily concerned with health and well-being. I am curious how rural communities would receive and alter programs based around physical activity, nutrition, and mental health to better fit their culture and existing attitudes.

Kenneth Edwards

Table Rock Development Corporation
Vice President
Table Rock, Neb.

Graduate of: University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Great Plains IDEA Program, Rural Development; Current Graduate Student

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experience

Focus: Community Marketing, Economic Development, Tourism

The main focus of this project will be to implement a comprehensive social media strategy for local businesses to build their social media presence and expand their reach to new audiences. The goal is to include areas high school students that are interested in marketing or advertising that could help facilitate this process and take the reins once the fellowship is completed. Students would also perform community impact surveys and brainstorm new ways to promote the area through tourism.

Team:
Students: Kate OsbonRachel Williss
Peer: Amy Hunzeker

Sponsored By: Table Rock Development Corporation, Pawnee County Promotional Network, Village of Table Rock and Table Rock Historical Society

Kenneth’s Nebraska Story

In the late 1900s, I was born and raised in rural Nebraska to a developmental English teacher and a jack-of-all-trades lumberjack. My time in rural Nebraska has instilled in me a deep passion for wanting to take care of the people who are living here, finding new ways to stoke development, and getting the word out about how great small towns are.

But first, a little backstory: My grandpa built the saw mill in Table Rock in the 60s, which started the migration of my family to Nebraska. He had a hand in starting the Table Rock Development Corporation, which is still active to this day. In the late 80s, my parents, brother, and sister made the move to Pawnee City as my dad sold his saw mill in Cameron, Missouri and moved to Table Rock to take over after Grandpa’s retirement.

Then I was born! Growing up in Pawnee City was a great experience. We were very fortunate to have a great daycare/preschool where we had fun memories and really enjoyed being a kid. We’d go out to our teacher’s farm to play with the cattle, we’d go to the nursing homes to sing for the elderly, and we made great friendships. As I was getting ready to start kindergarten, my parents made the decision to get a bigger home so my siblings and I could have our own rooms. They found the perfect house in Humboldt, which is a little under 20 miles away from Pawnee City but still about the same distance to Table Rock. I was nervous, but definitely excited to start this new chapter.

I quickly grew to love small towns, the tightness of the communities, and the willingness of neighbors to lend a hand. I spent a lot of my time hiking the hills around Table Rock, golfing our at Kirkman’s Lakeview Golf Course, playing video games, and helping my dad at the saw mill. My sister and I would play driveway basketball or we’d be hitting golf balls into the alfalfa field across the street from our house…in town. I couldn’t have asked for more as a child, because we already had so much that our area offered to us.

After high school, I really wanted to go to music school, but it was financially out of the question. My mom was teaching at Peru State at the time and I had already completed a year there via online classes during high school, so it made sense to start there. After my first semester, I transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where I became heavily involved on campus through various clubs and initiatives and in my fraternity.

During my freshmen and sophomore years, my parents sold the saw mill to the Amish in Table Rock, then eventually divorced. My mom moved to Weston, Missouri, while my father stayed in Table Rock. After graduating with my degree in Political Science, I worked for a start-up tech company doing business development and planning. Unfortunately, 2 months after my graduation, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer and died shortly thereafter.

As fate would have it, the start-up was forced to close, so I moved to Weston to take care of my mother’s estate and try to put the pieces of my life back together. 5 months later, I moved back to Nebraska and made my way to Lincoln where I got a job with a creative agency, while helping to launch a Pipeline start-up. To be frank, my attention wasn’t completely focused on my work and the agency had to go in another direction. I had bartended through college, so a close friend of mine was able to get me a job working at the Country Club of Lincoln. This time proved to be important in my life, because it gave me time to work think about what I really wanted to do with my life. I knew Lincoln wasn’t the answer for me long-term, so if not there then where?

I remember the day I went back to Table Rock to spend time with my dad. I looked around town and saw opportunity. Vividly, I remember looking up the main street and seeing the bluffs surrounding town in the distance. I never appreciate the beauty while I was living here and I fell back in love. The bar had been closed for years, but was being re-opened by a retiree who had moved from Colorado to be closer to her family here. I jumped at the opportunity to help manage it. It reinforced my opinions on how close-knit communities can be.

The bar was essentially a community center, because people would bring their families after the ball games for some burgers and steak, we’d have reunions, celebrations, and so on–It was a great time! But I knew I didn’t want to do it forever, so I started looking into graduate programs to see if there was anything I’d be interested in.

I had an internship with the Southeast Nebraska Development District, and I knew that development was critical work that had to be done and I knew it was right up my alley. I applied to and was accepted in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Great Plains IDEA Program to study rural development and have been in the program since last summer. It’s been a wild ride, but as a new home owner in Table Rock, I’m looking forward to the future!

What do you hope to gain?

In applying for this, I was hoping to gain a new perspective from an outsiders’ point-of-view. I’m really excited to have our students join us and find new ways to promote and develop our corner of the state. I think the Fellowship Program is highly impactful, because it’s not every day that you can get a fresh take on things and have new energy injected into the area. Us locals know that Table Rock and Pawnee County have a lot of potential, so we are certainly excited to see what the Fellows will bring!

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

I think it’s highly important because it’s impossible to do everything yourself–you need a team of people to help, offer guidance & insight, and achieve goals. Sometimes, you’ll get leaders that can tell you what to do, lead from the back, and don’t take the time to learn your perspective. I think the most-effective leaders are the ones who build their team up, who enable them to achieve their goals, and are there for them when they are in need.

Why is this contribution of students from University of Nebraska significant to you and/or your community?

For over 150 years, the University of Nebraska has been a bastion for our state and has helped press the development of our state forward by leaps and bounds. We are incredibly lucky to have NU, because of the great people who work there, the tools they have for communities to use, and programs like this that help communities in need.

The Rural Futures Institute’s inception has been awesome, because it got me thinking about the future in a different way and their advocacy has been critical to new possibilities in rural Nebraska and has helped foster relations that are bridging the urban-rural divide. Having students come in is significant because of the energy and insight they will bring. I’ve heard from communities who have been involved in the program in the past, and they’ve exalted the great work the students do.

I think it’s going to be fun to have some ‘outsiders’ become engrained into our community for two main reasons: the community will appreciate them taking the time out of their summer to spend with us working to make our area a better place to be and because of the new perspectives they will bring. Just them being here will drum up excitement and I’m excited to be even a small part of the work they’ll be doing.

Why is rural important?

Oh man, where do I start?! I firmly believe that rural communities are the lifeblood of our great country. I believe that people in rural areas are more tight-knit, neighborly, willing to work hard and have grit. Beyond that, despite the disadvantages compared to city life there is plenty of opportunity to build a life. Rural really is a way of life and you get out what you put in.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

We are 20 years into the new millennium and think back to the technologies we had then. AOL was still a thing, internet was dial-up and phones were in bags. In those two short decades, we’ve made tremendous technological advancement and we have barely scratched the surface of possibility for rural communities. I think we are moving towards greater internet access via fiber and satellite connectivity, which will open up rural communities to more web-based start-ups due to the low overhead cost of facilities and living.

Additionally, there is a strong movement in Nebraska for greater access to quality childcare and education. What excites me the most about this is the possibility for online learning opportunities for the youth growing up in these areas. Classes will be able to be offered in places that I dreamt of. Whether it’s science, engineering, or language arts, I believe students will have awesome learning opportunities. We are moving towards a bright future!

Terri Haynes

Chadron Public Schools

AWARE Project Mananger

Chadron, Neb.

Graduate of Chadron State College

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experiece

Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion

The student fellows will work to complete SHAPE planning and implementation through data collection and analysis of pre-K-12 youth, with a priority support for the Native American population. Students will focus on methods to reduce stigma of mental health through awareness campaigns, as well as work with Educational Service Unit 13 to create a school-based mental health services needs assessment and a behavioral mental health dashboard for the department’s ongoing use. Students will also assist Dawes County Joint Planning and Discover Northwest Nebraska in the development of programs and marketing campaigns designed to enhance the tourism industry in Northwest Nebraska. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has already and will continue to disrupt the 2020 tourism season for the region. Having interns available for the summer will allow focus on promoting local and regional tourism through staycations and complete several planning projects for 2021.

Team:
Students: Tyra Ann ReardonSawyer Smith
Peers: Katie Carrizales, Sandy Montague-Roes, Kerri Rempp

Sponsored By: Chadron Public Schools, Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) Grant staff, Educational Service Unit 13, Dawes County Joint Planning, Northwest Nebraska Tourism

Terri’s Nebraska Story

We moved several times in my youth due to my father’s career. I started kindergarten in Kimball. For the middle school and high school years we were in Chadron and then McCook where I graduated. Then it was back to Chadron for college at CSC. I transferred to Fort Hays State University to finish my psychology degree and Certified Flight Instructor training. Then back to CSC for a masters degree and begin some flight instruction. As you can see, I was always lured by Chadron and kept coming back!

What do you hope to gain?

After learning about inclusive leadership last year, it definitely raised my awareness. I’ve found myself perpetually reflecting on information I learned in the leadership training week. Now I look forward to becoming more skillful.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

I feel the better leaders in our community would be those with inclusive skills. These skills allow the leader to nuture and utilize the many resources our employees possess. The leader without inclusive skills may not recognize the resources within their employees.

Why is this contribution of students from University of Nebraska significant to you and/or your community?

Our community has limited resources. Having students with problem-solving skills and resourcefulness can help us to propel some of our projects forward. Our community has many good ideas and projects in the works but many lack manpower and funding. These students can help us move these projects forward.

Why is rural important?

I believe small communities often host the best public education. The schools are often the center piece of the community. Healthy relationships must be more intentional with today’s computer world. I believe rural communities provide the environment for healthy relationships and a sense of community for our citizens.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

Our most valuable commodity in our community is our youth. They are full of innovation, creativity and energy. They are experiencing a world of technology which older generations have never experienced. We are parenting youth through new experiences for which we have no prior exposure. Together we can nurture our youth, parents and fellow citizens toward a healthy and happy life through positive relationships.

Melissa Harrell

City of Wahoo
City Administrator/Treasurer
Wahoo, Neb.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Architecture
University of Nebraska at Omaha, College of Public Affairs and Community Service, School of Public Administration

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experience

Focus: Civic Engagement, Communications

The students will work to identify and develop a comprehensive communications plan that focuses on city, healthcare and civic outreach and engagement. Students will identify and engage diverse emerging leaders in civic and healthcare related efforts. In addition, students will assist with final prep and execution of the 150th Sesquicentennial Celebration that will be held June 26-28 in Wahoo. Assistance with community engagement efforts will be pursued by creating surveys, conducting focus groups, etc.

Team:
Students: Savannah GerlachAmanda MostOscaline Usanase
Peer: Theresa Klein

Sponsored By: Wahoo Chamber and Economic Development, Saunders Medical Center, City of Wahoo

Melissa’s Nebraska Story

I grew up on a farm/ranch outside of Stratton in southwest Nebraska. I attended UNL where I earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Architectural Studies. Following college I married and moved to Wahoo – because it had a great school and was in an awesome location. I learned near the end of college that architecture was not really my calling, and I took a job with the City of Wahoo. Fast-forward 25 years and I am still with the City of Wahoo and currently in the City Administrator position. The community of Wahoo helped me raise my family and has been a great place to call home.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain some insight into my community that will help me be a better leader and better public servant. I also hope to gain better understanding of me through self-reflection and personal growth as well as application of skills I learn in this program.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

It has been my experience that the community leaders are the ones who set the tone for the community as a whole. Understanding inclusive leadership is so important for these individuals because community leaders are not only role models for others but they are change agents. By practicing and being an inclusive leader they can lead by example and challenge other local leaders at churches, community groups, youth activities, etc. to do the same. Working together they can change the dialogue in their community to one that accepts and embraces ALL diversity.

Why is this contribution of students from University of Nebraska significant to you and/or your community?

I love working with students because they have not yet accepted or fallen into the status quo yet. Their brains are filled with curiosity and openness and they have so much enthusiasm. Having their perspective on my community is something I’m really excited about. They tend to be honest about what they see and experience but they are coming from an environment that encourages them to search for solutions to any problems that may exist and to think outside the box.

Why is rural important?

Rural is an identity that anyone who comes from “rural” sees as a great attribute. Rural means you have grit and are grounded in reality. Rural also means that you understand neighbors may be few so the spirit of acceptance and inclusion is necessary, not optional. You need each other. Rural is different from just saying you “belong” to a community as you could if you were in a more densely populated area. In those areas you get to pick where you belong. In rural, the action of belonging is more than sharing a religion or nationality or location, it’s looking beyond for deeper commonalities that bring people together. And it’s trust that those people will be there for you.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

I think now is a great time to be a rural community. People are searching for safe places to live and work, and with the advances in technology that is becoming more and more achievable. People want to belong and I think the rural communities that are successful are the ones that practice the skills this program teaches to community leaders. Inclusion is important… and so is technology. If we want to move forward we must have that technological connection to the rest of the world.

Theresa Klein

Wahoo Chamber and Economic Development

Executive Director

Wahoo, Neb.

Graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Animal Science and Agricultural Economics

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experience

Focus: Civic Engagement, Communications

The students will work to identify and develop a comprehensive communications plan that focuses on city, healthcare and civic outreach and engagement. Students will identify and engage diverse emerging leaders in civic and healthcare related efforts. In addition, students will assist with final prep and execution of the 150th Sesquicentennial Celebration that will be held June 26-28 in Wahoo. Assistance with community engagement efforts will be pursued by creating surveys, conducting focus groups, etc.

Team:
Students: Savannah Gerlach, Amanda MostOscaline Usanase
Peer: Melissa Harrell

Sponsored By: Wahoo Chamber and Economic Development, Saunders Medical Center, City of Wahoo

Theresa’s Nebraska Story

Born and raised on the farm homesteaded in 1873 by my immigrant great-grandparents. I love living in and working for rural Nebraska. And I find myself wanting others to understand such a deep love of this land, and those who care for it.

What do you hope to gain?

I believe that the involvement and authentic engagement of every citizen adds exponential value to the efforts of a community. I am so looking forward learning more about myself and how I can work towards this goal in my own community. And help others do the same.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

As our communities, state and world change, the value of each and every person increases if we are more aware of our impact on each other and our world. That’s a loaded, and perhaps convoluted statement. I am as eager for the training as I am the opportunity to apply it and grow it in our community!

Why is this contribution of students from University of Nebraska significant to you and/or your community?

It is a direct investment in our community. An investment based on research and knowledge that has proven to have a dramatic positive impact on how communities see themselves and each other differently. I’m so pumped.

Why is rural important?

Rural is the source of the food, fiber, water and natural resources that not only enable our very existence, but also inspire and enrich each of us as unique individuals, and indeed as a human race. So much that drives our aspiration and enhances our very existence can be found in those places of beauty and natural wonder that exist outside of that which we consider urban.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

This is a time of great change and therein lies the opportunity. Demographics, generational, technological change all impact our lives and the way business is conducted. Embracing this change, engaging those driving it, challenging the status quo, lifting up different voices and perspectives are all things that will impact lives and help communities better embrace this era of change.

Gena McPherson

Gena McPherson

Ravenna Chamber of Commerce

Executive Director

Ravenna, Neb.

Graduate of the Central Community College-Hastings, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and College of St. Mary

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experience

Focus: Community and Economic Development, Community Marketing

Ravenna has a long list of projects the students will focus on, including organizing and running a Big Idea competition, research planning and fundraising for a bike and hike trail, and increasing civic engagement by encouraging residents to subscribe to a community texting notification service to receive community updates via text messaging. In addition, students will use existing and new photographs and video to create marketing materials for the community.

Team:
Students: Connor McFayden, Kori SiebertAndromede Uwase, Ethan Weiche
Peer: Amber Ross

Sponsored By: Ravenna Chamber of Commerce, Ravenna Economic Development Corporation

Gena’s Nebraska Story

I grew up on a farm just outside of Ravenna, NE. I went off to college at Hastings CCC, then to Lincoln to UNL, as well as College of St. Mary as I worked at Allstate. I met my husband, Cedric, at this time. We moved to Kearney while he finished his education at UNK following a long tour to Iraq. We then moved back to Ravenna as I became a full time caretaker for both of my parents that had cancer. My parents have now passed, we have two amazing children we have adopted through foster care, and I am now the Chamber Director and my husband works from home for a company called Farmers Edge (Farming App).

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

We hope to gain some much needed assistance with several projects that have been sitting on the back burner. We are also hoping that working with a younger, more energized generation will help bring new perspective and ideas to the table for our town.

We are more specifically hoping to gain potential assistance with the following projects: The following is a crazy long list! I am attempting to just lay out all that we could use assistance on as these are all projects that we are trying to tackle on any given day. In no way do we expect to accomplish it all, rather, allow for students to go through this and see where their strengths are and see what they gravitate towards.

If the City or any organization has projects that they would like to have the interns work on we can definitely add those projects to this list.

  • Organize/Run a big idea competition as has been done by prior RFI Fellows in another community.
  • Allow people to compete for a storefront, CPA services, Legal services, etc. with their business ideas.
  • Hike and Bike Trail planning / fundraising.
  • Grant research and writing for a shower/bathroom facility at Ravenna Lake.
  • Research and writing for Tourism grant for Annevar.
  • Assist business owners with getting started on Shop Where I Live (SWIL), and help them add products to the site and maintain their pages.
  • Once more businesses are participating on SWIL, help create marketing campaign involving boosted Facebook posts to increase traffic to the website.
  • Create marketing campaign to get community members to subscribe to a community texting notification service to receive community updates via text .
  • Create discount or coupon card of local businesses that can be included in welcome packets/give out in drawings during the holidays. Other organizations can purchase from the Chamber to sell as a fundraiser so it is a money maker for them as well as the Chamber.
  • Create and market a local passport.
  • Create professional photos and video of the Ravenna Area to use for marketing.
  • Use professional photo and video taken along with all photos and video on hand and create promotional videos that coincide with a new Ravenna brochure and potential new website.
  • Help with new informative/destination brochure for Ravenna.
  • Assist with creating an email template through Constant Contact that can be utilized for sending out weekly e-newsletters and community updates.
  • Write up business highlight articles that shine a light on hard working businesses in the community and include if they are on Ravenna SWIL to drive traffic there.
  • Run fundraiser to send business owners to a destination business bootcamp in Colorado.
  • Create compelling slideshows/videos for vacant properties and push on Facebook to get noticed or find creative marketing strategies for that might allow for them to be picked up by local media.
  • Help start an outdoor art group that investigates and advocates for getting interactive and educational sculptures and art in the downtown area that also draw attention to businesses and act as free marketing if they entice people to take selfies with them and post to social media.
  • It would be great to have this group work on getting informative historical plaques downtown as well the explain the history of the old buildings, we already have several people that would be amazing for this, it is just a matter of organizing gatherings for them.
  • Also see if the group will help with beautification at the rail lodging facility.
  • Coordinate and communicate with local businesses that are interested in “Wings Across the Heartland” and getting wings murals on the side of their buildings downtown.
  • Coordinate and communicate with Apfel Funeral Home and Wroblewski Feed Supply about suggested murals for their businesses that could be done by Impact Art.
  • Create/coordinate educational art/posters to go into vacant store windows or even business windows that don’t need the display windows for their business. The goal is to have these posters or art work educate on the potential for new businesses in the town or creatively educate people about shopping locally and reasons why that is vital to the town. Wayne, NE did a toilet paper display to demonstrate this.
  • Help with the start-up of a beautification group that consists of the Ravenna FFA Chapter as well as other locals with a green thumb to assist with maintaining and renovating different landscaped areas of town, as well as downtown flower pots. We have several people that would be great for this, just a matter of gathering them!
  • The time leading up to our Hometown Celebration of Annevar (June 18-21) is always hectic, and we need help with planning/ recruiting, organizing volunteers, and marketing. We also need help during the weekend itself, especially with doing live Facebook videos, taking photos and video, etc.
  • We also have what we call the “Hometown Street Market” the first Friday of June, July and August. We are always needing help with the planning and organizing of these, as well as assistance with all the eating/physical competitions that we hold during the market. And of course, we always need assistance with marketing.
  • Help with submissions, support, and video application to enter in “Small Business Revolution” and HGTV’s Home Town.
  • Create marketing campaign to have people participate in community text update program. Also work on criteria for types of messages that will be allowed to be sent out and how often. We would also like some work on the marketing campaign to earn for free for life as well.
  • Create a video of benefits of being a Chamber member to play at the awards banquet, but also to use as a commercial to urge people to join the chamber.
  • Pre-finished marketing campaigns for all events through the year (street market, BAH, General meetings, Annevar).
  • Work on Farm to School Initiative and Food Coop in conjunction with the Hometown Street Market, Salad Bar Grant, Local Beef Grant through the Farm Bureau, etc.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

I think most small towns are struggling right now with communication, transparency, and leadership. If we were able to be more inclusive among our current organizations as well as more inclusive with community members, we would be accomplishing much more and be more efficient at it.

Why is this contribution of students from NU significant to you and your community?

First of all, it is a relief to know we will have some help for a change! We are also excited to brainstorm and incorporate fresh ideas and perspectives. As of right now, we have several organizations coming together to fund this project as they believe in it and are vested in it for the sake of the community and the opportunities it brings to the table.

Why is rural important?

Many people think rural means agriculture, and that is a large and very important part of rural, however it is much more than that. Rural is often the base for innovation through making the space many need to be creative in and to live a secure/fulfilling life. Even though we tend to be more spaced out in rural communities and areas, it is amazing how closely everyone works together. For these reasons, rural is extremely important and will truly always be the driving force of what makes everything work.

Amy Hunzeker

State Bank of Table Rock

Vice President of Lending

Table Rock, Neb.

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experience

Focus: Community Marketing, Economic Development, Tourism

The main focus of this project will be to implement a comprehensive social media strategy for local businesses to build their social media presence and expand their reach to new audiences. The goal is to include areas high school students that are interested in marketing or advertising that could help facilitate this process and take the reins once the fellowship is completed. Students would also perform community impact surveys and brainstorm new ways to promote the area through tourism.

Team:
Students: Kate OsbonRachel Williss
Peer: Kenneth Edwards

Sponsored By: Table Rock Development Corporation, Pawnee County Promotional Network, Village of Table Rock and Table Rock Historical Society

Amy’s Nebraska Story

I was born and raised in Table Rock and just love this community!

What do you hope to gain?

More community involvement!

Why is this contribution of students from University of Nebraska significant to you and/or your community?

Small communities make it hard to keep young families due to work availability or daycare.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

I feel that Table Rock has had a lot of young families move back to their hometown! And there is such a need for daycare at this time.

Chad Anderson

City of Pierce
City Administrator
Pierce, Neb.

Graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Masters in Public Administration

2020 Experience

Focus: Community Marketing, Resident Retention and Recruitment

The main focus of this project will be to market Pierce County. Students will help market the county by creating social media videos, blog posts, improve county websites, and create mini commercials and other marketing methods. A community impressions survey will be developed for each community. A secondary project will provide assistance to Plainview in establishing a networking/co-share space in a former community building.

Team
Students: Judith GreyMarie Meis
Peer: Susan Norris

Sponsored By: Pierce County Economic Development

Chad’s Nebraska Story

I grew up on a farm south of Oakland, NE. I attended high school at Oakland-Craig. I went to Wayne State College to get my Bachelor’s Degree. This is where I met my wife, Lisa. After receiving my MPA at UNO, I moved to Pierce in 1999. I have been the City Administrator in Pierce ever since. We have two sons, Kaleb and Colby.

What do you hope to gain?

A better understanding of what it takes to be a mentor for college age students and learn some better leadership skills.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

I think any kind of leadership development is important.

Why is this contribution of students from University of Nebraska significant to you and/or your community?

The students will offer each community a different perspective on things. The students will not only gain a learning experience for themselves but we community leaders will also learn something from them especially when it comes to reaching out to the public via social media.

Why is rural important?

Rural is important because that’s what makes our state unique. It is our identity.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

Smaller communities can’t remain stagnant and afraid of change or their community will lose population and eventually die. Now is a good time to move rural communities forward by finding creative ways to bring back high school graduates back to their hometowns. I think you need to take advantage of your strengths as a community and find ways to address your weaknesses.

Susan Norris

Pierce County Economic Development

Director

Osmond, Plainview, Pierce, Hadar, McLean, Foster

Graduate of College of St. Mary, Omaha, Neb.

2020 Experience

Focus: Community Marketing, Resident Retention and Recruitment

The main focus of this project will be to market Pierce County. Students will help market the county by creating social media videos, blog posts, improve county websites, and create mini commercials and other marketing methods. A community impressions survey will be developed for each community. A secondary project will provide assistance to Plainview in establishing a networking/co-share space in a former community building.

Team:
Students: Judith GreyMarie Meis
Peer: Chad Anderson

Sponsored By: Pierce County Economic Development

Susan’s Nebraska Story

I grew up in Millard, NE a suburb of Omaha with my parents and four brothers. In 2002 I met and married my husband, Mike in Omaha and we have three children. In 2014, my husband asked me to take a leap of faith and move to his home town of Plainview, NE to run the family farm. He always said that we would move to the farm ‘someday.’ I always thought ‘someday’ was when we were 60. My husband and kids had an easy transition to the farm and small town life. I did not . Moving to a farm eight miles from the nearest town (1200 people) is a shock to the system when you are used to living in a city the size of Omaha. Fast forward 5 years and I have learned to drive a tractor, haul grain, herd cattle AND be a champion for the county in economic development.

What do you hope to gain?

By hosting interns for the summer we hope to discover new perspectives and skill sets and re-energize PCED. On a personal level we hope to improve on our existing leadership and mentoring skills and take what we have learned back to our communities and leadership groups to make them stronger.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

Creating inclusive communities and workplaces are vital to our success in rural Nebraska. We need to place an emphasis on this type of leadership development in order to be competitive and to create a culture/community that is attractive to people interested in living and working in our county. In small communities we need to develop leaders who have the courage to buck tradition. The ‘this is the way its always been done’ mentality and the clique culture that can sometimes take hold in a town prevents growth and progress and leads to apathy. We need to develop leaders who are curious, progressive, open minded, collaborative and committed.

Why is this contribution of students from NU significant to you and your community?

We are excited to have been selected to host RFI interns this summer. To our communities and organization the interns represent fresh new ideas, energy, growth and the ability to bring some vibrancy to our current projects, programs and boards. NU has always been a huge supporter of rural Nebraska. We have taken advantage of several programs offered by the Community Vitality Department to increase social engagement, entrepreneurship and leadership in our communities. NU’s continuing support of rural is important to our growth and success as a county, and the RFI interns are another way NU continues to contribute to the growth and development of rural Nebraska.

Why is rural important?

On a large scale, rural communities are the backbone of our country. We produce the food that feeds America and the world, we supply much of its energy and workforce. On a small scale the values, education, social fabric, accountability and interconnectedness that exists in rural communities doesn’t exist outside of it. Because our youth are growing up in small towns with multiple strong support networks in place (their parents, extended families, schools, booster groups, church network, community groups, the local newspaper and the town itself) they are outpacing their peers in large cities when it comes to youth economic mobility, as outlined in the recent Bridgespan/ National 4-H council report. Rural has its challenges as well. Lack of broadband service, ageing infrastructure, housing, workforce and daycare shortages all make economic development in rural areas difficult.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

Improvements in communications and technology provide a huge opportunity to transform rural communities. It has the ability to take businesses global and allow remote working. Technology and online platforms have also created a rise in the ‘freelance economy’ which allows people, especially professionals, to work from anywhere. The number of jobs that can be done remotely is growing and that is something small towns can take advantage of.