2020 RFI Fellows

Together we create the future

For eight weeks this summer, collegiate students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Union College and Wayne State College will join community leaders from 17 Nebraska communities to catalyze change, implement strategies and develop inclusive leadership skills.

Rural Futures Institute Student Fellows and Community Innovation Fellows will work in the areas of:

All RFI Fellows will also earn their Inclusive Leadership Development Certificates, working with diversity and inclusion researcher and consultant Helen Fagan, Ph.D., RFI director of leadership engagement. Dr. Fagan and a team of research colleagues, RFI Faculty Fellows and graduate assistants are also conducting research on inclusive leadership for community development.

The RFI Fellows experience, which embraces the RFI Nexus framework for community impact, was ignited in 2013, evolving throughout the last several years to create tangible impact throughout Nebraska – approximately $28,000 of economic impact per community in 2018 and 2019 — while providing a transformational leadership development experience for participants.

Recent News

Now more than ever — 2020 RFI Fellows launch June 8

May 26, 2020
After deep thought, many personal conversations and hundreds of hours navigating details and protocols for the health and safety of all involved, the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska, with 33 Student and Community Innovation Fellows, has …

After deep thought, many personal conversations and hundreds of hours navigating details and protocols for the health and safety of all involved, the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska, with 33 Student and Community Innovation Fellows, has decided to proceed with a 2020 RFI Fellows experience beginning June 8, 2020. Together, the fellows will move future-focused strategies forward with 17 rural Nebraska communities.

“It’s easy to take programs like these for granted when things are going well,” said Kenneth Edwards, Vice President of Table Rock Development Corporation in Table Rock, Neb. “We were really excited to have students come here and help us work on our projects, but now we feel it’s an even greater necessity.”

From ongoing health and safety concerns to struggling small businesses and hard-hit tourism industries to exponential growth in digital communications, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Nebraska’s smaller communities significantly. Through it all, the commitment of the student and community fellows to a shared summer experience that aims to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities has not waivered.

To help ensure the mitigation efforts continue, all participants will follow the health and safety guidelines of their local counties and have been provided specific recommendations by RFI, in line with the state and university recommendations, for gatherings and community activities. These include, but are not limited to: students quarantining for 14 days upon entering the community, wearing a mask and keeping six feet apart.

The immersion of students in communities and interactions among students and community members will look different — online instead of in-person, across the room instead of side-by-side, small groups instead of main street events — but the enthusiasm is the same if not even greater than the last seven years of the program. 

“Even with the current COVID-19 mitigation efforts, I believe I can make a positive impact in Auburn, Neb., in a safe way,” said Emma Hoffschneider, sophomore public relations major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “I am not afraid of adapting and overcoming difficult circumstances that are in front of me, a trait that runs deep in every rural community across the state of Nebraska.”

Students have begun online training and the community innovators will join them for three days of interactive Zoom sessions led by inclusive leadership development expert Helen Fagan, director of the RFI Fellows program. They will join their communities in various capacities beginning June 8, 2020.

“What I’ve seen throughout my one-to-one conversations with multiple fellows is determination, empathy and openness,” Dr. Fagan said. “Determination to truly improve themselves at the individual level and their communities the way they intended and even more so now. An empathy for each other’s unique situations, emotions and needs. And an openness to compromise, ideate and pivot together.”

Community projects aim to improve workforce development, economic development, access and recruitment and retention of residents with specific focus on: 

  • Early childhood education
  • Community marketing and communications
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Mental health services
  • Inclusion

During the last two years, RFI Fellows’ have averaged $28,000 of impact per community. In 2019, the total economic impact for the four participating communities was $111,844.

“You’ve really got to respect the students’ desire to want to help,” Edwards said. “We must do everything we can to make their experiences safe and rewarding.”

Q&As with 2020 fellows, all participating communities and project descriptions are available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/2020fellows.

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#RFIFellows In Action: Chadron

June 18, 2020
By Sawyer Smith and Tyra Reardon We are currently working from our homes. Sawyer is in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Tyra in St. Edward, Neb., instead of being in Chadron. This is due to COVID-19 concerns. We are hoping that …

By Sawyer Smith and Tyra Reardon


Screenshot from the Chadron RFIFellows’ weekly team check-in. Each Tuesday, we meet as a team to discuss what we have been working on the past week, share our thoughts on our team workbook activity, what we have been doing for fun and address any questions that may have arisen. Top from left: Terri Hayes, Tyra Reardon, Katie Carrizales. Bottom from left: Kerri Rempp, Sawyer Smith, unknown.

We are currently working from our homes. Sawyer is in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Tyra in St. Edward, Neb., instead of being in Chadron. This is due to COVID-19 concerns. We are hoping that we will be able to move into the Chadron community in the coming weeks as the state of Nebraska begins to open up.

Even though we are not currently in Chadron, we have still hit the ground running with our projects. This summer, we are working on several projects with the travel board in Northwest Nebraska to introduce new resources, as well as update some of the more dated aspects. These projects all serve to promote tourism in Dawes and Sioux Counties.

Sawyer has taken the lead on the Discover Northwest Nebraska website redesign and is working to create a more user-friendly and informative resource for visitors to the area.

Tyra is researching potential merchandising opportunities to help increase revenue for Discover Northwest Nebraska. Merchandise is an area that the travel board has not yet explored, so we are both excited to help them expand the goods and services that they are offering.

Tyra has also been working on promoting the Northwest Nebraska Bingo program, which highlights different locations, businesses and communities across northwestern Nebraska. Discover Northwest Nebraska is wanting to further promote northwestern Nebraska as a tourist destination, and we believe that the bingo program does just that.

We are also working with Educational Service Unit 13 (ESU 13) to help create a comprehensive mental health assessment. The assessment is going to be used to help gauge gaps in the mental health services that ESU 13 is currently providing, as well as to measure the strengths of the current programs that ESU 13 has set in place. During the past two weeks, we have been conducting literature reviews over articles and journals that discuss the implementation of mental health needs assessments. We are currently searching for information to help us better understand what a good mental health needs assessment is, how to administer the assessment, and what to do with the results obtained from the assessment.

As part of our service hours for the summer, we will also be working with Chadron Public Schools (CPS) and Dawes County Joint Planning (DCJP). We will be working on a presentation for DCJP, which highlights the results of their collaboration over the past few years, with the intention of developing ongoing community collaborative effort in the future. We will also be working with CPS to develop a Youth Activities brochure to provide easy access to information for CPS and its students.

Having to work on these projects virtually has not been without its challenges. Despite these bstacles, we are still excited to be able to make an impact on this community, and to have this opportunity for personal and professional growth.

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#RFIFellows in Action: Wahoo

June 18, 2020
By Amanda Most, Oscaline Usanase and Savannah Gerlach We are settled in and adjusting well to our summer adventure in the community of Wahoo, Neb. Amongst the craziness of COVID-19, we were overjoyed to begin our fellowship experience immediately following …

By Amanda Most, Oscaline Usanase and Savannah Gerlach

Standing with the “HOPE” letters. which will be carried to various locations featuring individuals, businesses and groups in the H.O.P.E. campaign.

We are settled in and adjusting well to our summer adventure in the community of Wahoo, Neb. Amongst the craziness of COVID-19, we were overjoyed to begin our fellowship experience immediately following Memorial Day. Since the start, we have been welcomed with opening arms, warm smiles and lots of sweet breakfast treats.

We wasted no time immersing ourselves in the community by virtually meeting leaders through the City of Wahoo, the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce and Saunders Medical Center. We toured the downtown and have continued to visit various businesses to gather knowledge and information about their dreams and goals for the future. Zoom meetings have been no stranger to us as we have sat in on many committee and board meetings including the Corona Creative Committee, Greater Wahoo Economic Development Foundation and the City Branding Committee. As a team, we have determined a project for each to take the lead on that aligns with our strengths and interests. We each give brief overviews of our projects below.

Amanda: I am pleased to be working with the Saunders Medical Center long-term care team. I will assist them in recruitment and retention efforts, helping them solve the challenging question “How do we attract rural healthcare workers and get them to stay?”

Along with hospital leaders, we will be working to evaluate and improve the current work culture as well as highlight all that the community of Wahoo has to offer, resulting in an even more highly desired rural healthcare system to work in.

I will also be collaborating with my teammates to develop a communications plan that includes storytelling avenues to help share the stories of the hardworking individuals who put their full hearts into caring for the elderly.

Oscaline: Over the course of the summer, I will have an opportunity to work on civic engagement and communications with the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Wahoo. I have already been working with my team to find ways to update the website and add new pictures to go along with it.

I personally will take the lead in advertising and highlighting the services provided by the Chamber and the City of Wahoo, as well as the wonderful places and activities available in Wahoo. I am currently working on updating the Greater Wahoo Development Foundation brochure, and I hope to update two additional brochures in the coming weeks for the Wahoo Community Foundation, and Lake Wanahoo.

Savannah: The project I’ve dove into is the city-wide communication plan. The communication plan will relay messages from the Wahoo City and Chamber of Commerce to its citizens to help them stay informed on events and happenings within its businesses and organizations. We plan to carry out the communication plan by updating the city and chamber websites, establishing updated and sustainable social media platforms, and through a new idea called the H.O.P. E. Campaign – Helping Others Prosper Every day.

Through the campaign, we plan to spread positivity throughout Wahoo by highlighting the good things happening in the community. Whether it be businesses that came up with creative ways to adapt during quarantine, upstanding citizens that donated time and efforts to contribute to the community meals on wheels program or recognizing a community member that takes time out of his day to volunteer at the Pet Rescue Center.

Throughout our time in the community this summer, we will continue to grow the communication system and social media so that every audience in Wahoo is reached, involved and included. 

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#RFIFellows in Action: Auburn / Nemaha County

June 26, 2020
By Emma Hoffschneider and Brittney Emerson These past few weeks in Auburn, Neb., have been packed full of new and exciting adventures. While we spent the first two weeks quarantined, we didn’t let that stop us from hitting the ground …

By Emma Hoffschneider and Brittney Emerson

Left: Brittney, Right: Emma

These past few weeks in Auburn, Neb., have been packed full of new and exciting adventures. While we spent the first two weeks quarantined, we didn’t let that stop us from hitting the ground running. During that time we researched LB-840, a funding opportunity for economic development within a community.

Through researching LB-840, I gained a deeper understanding of the impact a new policy can have on a rural community. Sometimes we think new policies won’t change anything in our small rural towns, but in reality policies like LB840 can make a huge difference

Emma Hoffschneider

After our initial research, we then contacted the 72 communities across Nebraska who have LB840 in place to see how it has benefited their communities. We compiled the information we received into folders for the Auburn Development Council to use later in their campaign.

This opportunity gave us both a better understanding of rural community politics and policy while instilling a passion for betterment of this small community. LB-840 is a great chance to help small businesses and the overall appeal of the town. As RFI Fellows and honorary Auburn community members for the summer, we hope that our hard work pays off for their sake.

Brittney Emerson

Now that our quarantine has officially been lifted, we are excited to get out of the house and out and about in the community of Auburn. This past week we did just that by capturing photos for an article that will be published in Nebraska Life magazine. Around Auburn and the rest of Nemaha County one will see statutes of Honey Bees. As part of a leadership class project, Leslie Clark, President of Auburn Development Council, headed this Honey Bee movement in an attempt to bring beauty into the community and involve the artists of Nemaha County. The Honey Bees of the Heartland is listed on the Nebraska Passport Program and is a great activity to do while maintaining social distancing guidelines. 

While our first few weeks in Auburn have been packed full of new and exciting adventures and projects, we are far from done. We already have another list of projects ready for us to tackle. In addition we have started a weekly blog called “Our RFI Experience” on the Auburn Economic Development Council’s website as a way to communicate with the community of Auburn. We are excited to continue making an impact in the community of Auburn as much as it is making an impact on us. 

I am so impressed with Brittney and Emma, their passion for Rural Nebraska and how they have jumped right into researching LB 840 for Auburn Development Council.   Being quarantined for two weeks didn’t slow them down any.   We are fortunate to have two young ladies who are embracing being away from home for the summer to help out a community they did not know.   I am privileged to be on their team and get to know them.  I know the hard work they are putting in and contributions they are making to Auburn and I look forward to all the amazing things they will do for their own communities and the State of Nebraska.

Kim Beger, Community Leader, RFI Community Innovation Fellow

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#RFIFellows in Action: Ravenna

June 26, 2020
By Ethan Weiche, Connor McFayden, Kori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase After three exciting weeks in Ravenna we all agree that we are thrilled with what we have accomplished thus far, we are excited to see what we will accomplish …

By Ethan Weiche, Connor McFayden, Kori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase

From left: Gena McPherson, Community Innovation Fellow, Ethan Weich, Andy Uwase, Kori Siebert, Connor McFayden, Amber Ross, Community Innovation Fellow

After three exciting weeks in Ravenna we all agree that we are thrilled with what we have accomplished thus far, we are excited to see what we will accomplish in the coming weeks and we could all use a nap!

Along those lines, we have had no trouble finding an adequate work-life balance; us interns regularly drop in for some pre-work yoga classes together and will oftentimes end the day with a team movie + dinner. Fun team-building activities aside, we have found the work immensely gratifying and fulfilling. We approach each day as a new opportunity to make a difference and broaden our perspective, experiences that we would be happy to elaborate on below.

Kori & Andromede: We have wasted no time getting our foot in the door with the local businesses here in Ravenna. Through conducting interviews with them we are learning more about their operations while simultaneously creating marketing content to bring them more attention and customers outside of Ravenna. We have also been meeting with businesses to help create their online storefront on a one-stop-shop called Shop Where I Live (SWIL). Aside from the work with local businesses, we have also been creating Facebook live videos and events, flyers, brochures and content photos for a new website. We’re just scratching the surface and are excited to see what the future has in store for us.

Coming into this experience I didn’t realize how much Ravenna would affect my future endeavors. I have found my passion for helping small businesses be heard, being able to hear their personal stories while also marketing them has been extremely enriching. I’ve only been in this community for three weeks now and I know without a doubt that through this opportunity I have found the passion I want to pursue for my future.

Kori Siebert

Growing up in a big city, I am enjoying the small welcoming community I have found in Ravenna. I am learning so much about ways of helping and contributing to their economic development by talking to different local businesses, an experience that I am excited to use in my future career. I have also been enjoying the diverse community at work which is opening my mind to the new cultures, ideas and activities.

Andromede “Andy” Uwase

Connor & Ethan: The majority of our work so far has been working with Ravenna’s government and nonprofits on a variety of projects. We facilitated discussions between the mayor, public works and interested community members regarding the future of main street’s medians, and are currently helping them draft a long-term landscaping plan for those areas. We also took on the Ravenna Area Vision Foundation’s fundraising mission for a long-awaited Hike/Bike trail, working on brochures, events, and virtual fundraising materials. Lastly, in what’s become a bit of a passion project for the boys’ team, we have designed and advertised for a city-wide scavenger hunt for the community to enjoy. Overall, both of us have found the work deeply enriching.

I have been exposed to various professional projects in the past three weeks and have found the entire process surrounding grant writing to be surprisingly rewarding; from tracking down the right materials, discussing the relevant points to emphasize, typing a punchy submission, and even proofreading the final draft. It has made me seriously consider a career in grant writing and/or proofreading.

Ethan Weiche

Coming from the Omaha area, I have enjoyed seeing a new side of my home state. I feel like I understand the issues facing rural Nebraska in a much more personal way. Working in a small town has its challenges, but seeing the impact of your work on such a tight-knit community is tremendously satisfying. I can see myself putting down roots in a community like this in the future.

Connor McFayden

In sum, us interns have been extremely well received — so much so that we don’t think we’ll go back to school in the fall! We are tremendously grateful to our fantastic community leaders, lodging providers and everyone who makes Ravenna, Ravenna.

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#RFIFellows in Action: Pierce County

June 29, 2020
By Judith Grey and Marie Meis We are now three weeks into our experience in Pierce County, and we’ve gotten a start on all nine projects for the area. Our projects include:n Working towards more digitally connected communities Creating social media …
Left: Judith Grey, Right: Marie Meis

By Judith Grey and Marie Meis

We are now three weeks into our experience in Pierce County, and we’ve gotten a start on all nine projects for the area. Our projects include:n

  • Working towards more digitally connected communities
  • Creating social media plans
  • Participating in Pierce’s ECAP process
  • Putting on community events
  • Working on virtual community events

While our projects have been the forefront of our work, we’ve also been immersing ourselves in the community. Our RFI Community Innovation Fellows Susan Norris, director of Pierce County Economic Development, has been introducing us to business owners and area leaders. We attend each city council meeting, chamber of commerce meeting, economic development meeting and all other relevant meetings to our projects and county. It is at these meetings that we see area leaders, we hear issues that are important to the communities and we understand what priorities each individual town holds. Getting this perspective helps in each project we do as we try to portray the county the best we can.

“Being in a rural area has opened my eyes to what it takes to make a rural community thrive. There are so many hidden leaders through the community, and it takes each one to make sure the area is always moving forward. I cannot wait to live in a small town myself and be one of those agents of change.”

Marie Meis

One of our projects has been creating a YouTube channel with videos for the county. We set out to capture what we had learned so far. Our office space became each community as we continually gathered video clips. A community leader offered his drone, and we quickly learned drone skills in a day. Through these videos, we are getting a more well-rounded view of each town. 

While at different meetings, we noticed two different organizations missing a logo. The Pierce County Economic Development office and Pierce ECAP. We volunteered our skills and came up with logo options for each. We sent out surveys and gathered feedback to create one final logo for each. During this, we realized that projects aren’t always presented to us directly. If we see a need, we don’t need to be asked to fill it. It’s part of our job to see the gaps and brainstorm how we can fill them.

“This may sound cliche, but truly this experience has shown me how much change I need to be effective as a team member. Also, it provides the opportunity to make an impact on the others ‘ lives and see visual results. Overall, this work hasn’t shifted my perspective, but rather opened it by providing insight and opportunities for the future.”

Judith Grey

With community celebrations canceled or adapted, we saw a need for an event in each town. We have planned socially distant community events for Osmond, Pierce and Plainview for our community service. In Plainview, we will be holding a sidewalk chalk contest for five different age groups to win chamber dollars. In Pierce, we’ll be releasing a scavenger hunt list of items you can find in Pierce and around the house. The first person to email us their pictures and the two most creative will win gift cards to Pierce businesses. And finally, to celebrate Osmond’s new pool’s opening, we will have a pool celebration giveaway. We’ll have a booth set up outside of the pool with a spinning wheel to have participants spin it to see what pool-related prize they win. Each event has been created and tailored to the community and has partnerships with other organization and businesses to celebrate the summer the best we can. 

Through this whole experience, the most important part has been the people. Being a part of their county and seeing what’s important to them has driven our whole experience. Residents choose to live here because they know how much the county has to offer, and we get the chance to learn more about it each day. 

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#RFIFellows in Action: Pawnee County

July 3, 2020
By Rachel Williss It is crazy to think this is already our fourth week in Pawnee County!  We are so glad that we are able to complete our internship in-person, since that was in question due to COVID-19. It would …
Left: Kate Osbon; Right: Rachel Williss

By Rachel Williss

It is crazy to think this is already our fourth week in Pawnee County! 

We are so glad that we are able to complete our internship in-person, since that was in question due to COVID-19. It would have been hard to truly get a feel for the community through Zoom and impossible to take pictures of the locations without being able to visit them. Some of our plans, such as event planning, had to be put on hold because of the restrictions, but there is still a lot to do.

Our focus has been on tourism and marketing development in the area. It has been fun to explore the museums, campgrounds, restaurants and other places that are unique to Pawnee County. It feels weird sometimes to get paid to take pictures of cool places when it doesn’t seem like work! We have three main projects we have been working on.

The first project is to create a Pawnee County Driving Tour. The goal is to create a route of places in Pawnee County that tourists would enjoy and develop videos that explain each place. We have been recording interviews with people who know about each place, whether it be the history, relevance, or even geology.

For the second project, we were tasked with developing social media content. The goal is to create a social media presence that will show potential tourists what Pawnee County has to offer. We have been taking photos and collecting information to post about, and just started accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — @seepawNEecounty!

The third project includes designing and administering needs assessment surveys to the Table Rock community. The goal is to create surveys that will be distributed to have people express their needs and goals for the community to community leaders. They will assess the need for a daycare, as well as other potential future developments. We have drafted and revised the surveys, and we are now finalizing them. 

We have been working primarily with Kenny Edwards and Sharla Sitzman, who are both on many boards of leadership in the area. The biggest lesson they have taught us is that in a rural community, it is often the same group of people that hold leadership positions and move the community forward. A lot of people talk and come up with ideas, but it takes commitment and skill to actually follow through with those ideas.

This experience has helped us grow personally by allowing us to see the value in gaining multiple perspectives — no matter what you are doing. While interviewing people for the video tour, it was interesting to hear the different perspectives about the area, whether it be science or history. There are also differences in what people notice based on which community in the area they are from or how long they have lived in the area.

We have both grown professionally, as well. COVID-19 created hectic situations for communication and scheduling, but they were obstacles that will help us better manage stress and uncertainty in our future careers. Now at the half-way point of our time in Pawnee County, our focus is going to shift to strengthening the projects and preparing them to be handed off to be continued by community members after we go back to UNL.

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#RFIFellows in Action: Arapahoe

July 3, 2020
By Aline Abayo and Megan Tofflemire Making the move to Arapahoe instilled an unmatched sense of excitement, hope, and ambition into our minds. We were coming into this community hoping to get connected, make a change, and contribute to their community …
Left: Megan; Right: Aline

By Aline Abayo and Megan Tofflemire

Making the move to Arapahoe instilled an unmatched sense of excitement, hope, and ambition into our minds. We were coming into this community hoping to get connected, make a change, and contribute to their community even if we weren’t sure how exactly to do that. 

We started by creating a survey to gain a better understanding of our small-town businesses and organizations in Arapahoe. We decided to throw on our masks and head out into the community to distribute as many surveys as possible. Though face to face interactions were not quite the same through the barrier of a mask, we were able to get our voices out there, meet the people, and initiate relationships that would help us turn the results of this survey into real change. 

“It is important for everyone to contribute toward the same goal now more than ever for our communities to recover from losses caused by the COVID 19. Living in a small-town community taught me that everyone needs to be an agent of change for our communities to grow.”

Aline Abayo

Since we have started, we have worked to create two brochures – one highlighting volunteer opportunities available within the community and the other guiding visitors and community members toward Arapahoe’s greatest assets and attractions. We have planned a local entrepreneurship competition for the youth in the community, hopefully inspiring an entrepreneurial mindset that can come to life within the lives of the next generation in Arapahoe. We were able to reach out to and meet with individuals from the Nebraska Department of Roads in an effort to gain a better understanding of how we can best capitalize on our unique location (being located along the intersection of Highways 34 and 283). Additionally, we have presented to the Arapahoe City Council to discuss the implementation of a mural on the wall of our downtown Senior Center, lining the three-block business district with potted plants, and incorporating some plant life “where the hi-ways meet”.

We have worked closely alongside Samantha Guenther and our two community innovators Angie Moore and Kate Warner who have together, created an exceptional team of mentors for us. 

“Megan and Aline have opened our eyes to see that we are already a well-rounded community with more things to offer than we realized. They  have also brought a youthful energy to the businesses, giving them/us a needed push to make some changes.”

Angie Moore

In addition, we have been graced with the knowledge of our City Office staff who are invested in seeing our community prosper. Together they helped us come up with projects that we were both confident and passionate about. Their presence has really encouraged and empowered us to make an impact in Arapahoe. 

“I have lived in Arapahoe, Nebraska, for four weeks now and already I am genuinely invested in this community. I got caught saying, “in our community” on several occasions while presenting some new ideas to our City Council. I didn’t think twice about it, which is why I think that this experience is so incredible. Because of the Rural Futures Institute fellowship and immersive mindset that we are encouraged to have, I truly am invested in seeing the community of Arapahoe develop as if it were my own home town.”

Megan Tofflemire

These projects have been slow to bloom, but the time that we have spent putting them together and the growth that we foresee resulting is beyond worth it. We have more new projects in the works and can’t wait to see where our innovation and inspiration take us here in Arapahoe! Stay tuned!

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#RFIFellows in Action: Chadron

July 13, 2020
By Tyra Reardon and Sawyer Smith Since we last wrote, we have moved to Chadron! We are currently nearing the end of our two-week self isolation period and cannot wait to begin interacting and working with community members and leaders. …
Left: Sawyer; Right: Tyra

By Tyra Reardon and Sawyer Smith

Since we last wrote, we have moved to Chadron! We are currently nearing the end of our two-week self isolation period and cannot wait to begin interacting and working with community members and leaders. Here’s a recap of what we have been up to!

Tyra: I have finished my work on the comprehensive mental health needs assessment for ESU-13 that is going to be used to help gauge gaps and strengths in the mental health services that are currently provided. I am now starting to work on creating a data dashboard for ESU 13 that will help put all of the information that ESU 13 already knows about their current student population in regards to mental health in an easy to digest format.

I have also finished working on finding potential merchandising opportunities for Discover Northwest Nebraska. The purpose behind this is to help increase revenue for the tourism agency as well as to help them further develop their brand. Finally, I have been working on refining the Roads Less Traveled Tours that Discover Northwest Nebraska has created.

“Seeing just how ready members of rural communities are for change has been so motivating. Now more than ever communities need to come together to help reform standards to help better the world today, tomorrow, and in the future.”

Tyra Reardon

Sawyer: Now that we have finished building the comprehensive mental health needs assessment for ESU 13, I am going to be working on translating the assessment into Spanish, to help make the assessment more accessible to families and mental health providers from different backgrounds.

Additionally, I am still working on the website redesign for Discover Northwest Nebraska. After researching different options for website hosting and platforms and coming up with a plan to move forward, I will now be able to begin building a new and improved website for Discover Northwest Nebraska, with the purpose of promoting tourism, as well as making information easier to find for residents and tourists.

“This experience has had no shortage of challenges. However, rather than backing down from those challenges, we have risen to meet them and have experienced growth because of it. I have learned so much, not only about the community, but also about myself and what I bring to the team. I can say with certainty that I am learning skills now that I will continue to use for years to come.”

Sawyer Smith

On Tuesday, July 7th, we had the chance to present our work to the Dawes Country Travel Board where we learned about how COVID-19 has impacted tourism in the area. This meeting with the travel board was not only an opportunity to get feedback on our projects, but also to learn about the inner workings of tourism in northwestern Nebraska.

In our spare time, we have been taking advantage of all of the wonderful sites Northwest Nebraska has to offer including Toadstool Geological Park, Fort Robinson, and Chadron State Park. There is so much we are able to do and explore in and around Chadron while still remaining socially distanced. We are very excited to continue exploring the Chadron area more once we are out of quarantine.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to be working from our home in Chadron while interacting with community leaders. We look forward to continuing our work on all of our exciting projects as well as being able to make an impact on the Dawes County community.

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#RFIFellows in Action: Wahoo

July 13, 2020
By Amanda Most, Oscaline Usanase and Savannah Gerlach We are halfway through our fellows experience, and our summer projects are moving right along– Wahoo! Faces around town are becoming more familiar, names easier to recall, and we now consider ourselves regulars at the best …

By Amanda MostOscaline Usanase and Savannah Gerlach

We are halfway through our fellows experience, and our summer projects are moving right along– Wahoo! Faces around town are becoming more familiar, names easier to recall, and we now consider ourselves regulars at the best Mexican restaurant (in our biased opinion), Acapulco. The summer days are flying by, but we have wasted no time making headway in various project areas.

Community Engagement

We have completed twelve official visits with community residents and leaders with more scheduled on our calendar. The purpose of our community visits is to gain direct insight into the vision Wahoo’s residents have for the future. We strive to ask tough questions and toss out new perspectives to create compelling conversations that make both parties think differently. 

One week ago, we had the pleasure of giving an update of our experience at the Greater Wahoo Development Foundation’s monthly meeting. This was our first opportunity to share a formal presentation regarding our work in the community and it was very successful!

“When we got to present to the Greater Wahoo Development Foundation and share our different perspectives, not only did we feel surrounded by people who cared what we had to say, but we also felt that the leaders of the community actually started to see Wahoo in a different light.”

Savannah Gerlach

H.O.P.E. Campaign

The purpose of our H.O.P.E. 2020 (helping others prosper every day) campaign is to highlight individuals, businesses, and groups who are working for the betterment of the Wahoo community. We have completed several interviews which have given us an opportunity to meet with unique individuals such as Meals on Wheels volunteers, a dog-walker for Saunders County Lost Pets, and workers in the long-term care unit at Saunders Medical Center. 

Another goal of the H.O.P.E. 2020 campaign is to explore various communication methods and determine how residents currently receive and would prefer to receive information. Highlighting positivity through the H.O.P.E. 2020 campaign has helped the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce Facebook reach over 12,000 people and that number will only increase as we add more posts.

“My favorite project has been the H.O.P.E. campaign because we have gotten to connect with so many unique individuals. Hearing their stories and perspectives about Wahoo has given us valuable insight into the community, and connecting with residents is easily one of the best parts of this fellowship experience.”

Amanda most

Community Guide

Over the past few weeks, we started the community guide and gathered all of the information needed to complete it. The purpose of the community guide is to create a resource that displays different programs, services, and policies in the area. The process of collecting information included sending many emails, making various calls, paying visits, and conducting interviews where we had a chance to meet Brandon Lavaley, the Wahoo School Superintendent. The content gathered will be used not only in the community guide, but also in the updated brochures and website content that we are creating.

As the end of the summer approaches quicker each day, we are soaking up every single moment we have in our summer fellowship experience. We are grateful for the individuals and groups who are helping make our time in Wahoo the best we could have ever imagined it to be.

“As a woman of color and a minority, I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect coming to a small community. I wondered how I would be welcomed and treated, and Wahoo gave me a sense of belonging. I am super grateful for that.”

Oscaline Usanase

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#RFIFellows in Action: Auburn / Nemaha County

July 19, 2020
By Emma Hoffschneider and Brittney Emerson Quarantine is over and being active in the community is much more our style! We have finally moved our home office into the Rural Impact Hub, an office space in downtown Auburn. Now while we are busy …
Emma (left) and Brittney (right) are excited about their new working space in the Rural Impact Hub.

By Emma Hoffschneider and Brittney Emerson

Quarantine is over and being active in the community is much more our style! We have finally moved our home office into the Rural Impact Hub, an office space in downtown Auburn. Now while we are busy at work, we can hear the hustle and bustle of downtown Auburn – a change of pace that we have welcomed with open arms! 

COVID-19 put a dent in our original plans for the summer. Projects like entrepreneurship and coding camps were no longer in the picture so we went back to the drawing board. We still wanted to make an impact in the community, and found the best way to do that was to get out and visit with people. 

During the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the Auburn Development Council created a gift card program where they would match what gift cards business sold up to $1000. Our task was to do a follow up survey with each business who participated. This project has been by far one of our favorite things to work on. We not only were able to develop relationships with several different business owners in Auburn, but we were able to help promote ADC in the process. Listening to the impact ADC had made on community businesses during an uncertain time was inspiring. Every owner we visited had their own unique story. 

“Economic development especially in a rural community is all about strengthening and creating new relationships. Meaningful relationships make the biggest impact.”

Emma Hoffschneider

During a visit with Sonia Kester, owner of Country Handmade, we mentioned our community service requirement. Instantly her eyes lit up, she said “Oh I have something you could do.” The next day we sat down with Sonia and her husband and helped them answer some marketing questions they were struggling with. We now have a weekly meeting with Sonia and her husband to help them market their store for the remainder of our fellowship. Community service is so broad, and sometimes it’s as easy as picking up trash on the side of the road or as unique as helping others develop a marketing plan. 

“Rural communities run solely on human compassion. Without it, rural America would cease to exist.”

Brittney Emerson

Aside from surveying business leaders and volunteering, we have developed an internal marketing campaign for the Auburn Development Council. While surveying in the community we noticed a common trend. People were grateful for what the ADC was doing, but didn’t know what they were all about. We wanted to do something to fix this issue. As a result we launched our very own marketing campaign for ADC. Over the next few weeks we will conduct several interviews with ADC’s Board of Directors. We hope to be able to create a year’s worth of content in a matter of a few weeks. 

While COVID-19 may have put a damper on our original ideas, it hasn’t stopped us from leaving an impact. In many ways the lessons we have learned as a result of a global pandemic will prove useful as we continue to grow and learn in both our professional and personal lives.

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#RFIFellows in Action: Pierce County

July 19, 2020
By Judith Grey and Marie Meis We have seen a lot of our projects moving forward over the last couple weeks! We know our work is important because we are giving the communities within the county a jumpstart, if not a booster, to …

By Judith Grey and Marie Meis

We have seen a lot of our projects moving forward over the last couple weeks! We know our work is important because we are giving the communities within the county a jumpstart, if not a booster, to keep on moving forward in the right direction of improving themselves and taking advantages of their opportunities. 

Since we last wrote, we have put on a community event celebrating the opening of Osmond’s new pool. It was a heartwarming experience to see a pool celebration turn into an elaborate event with various moving parts. The newscast from US92, a local food truck and an ice cream truck offered their services to add to the event. It was a much needed event for the community of Osmond, and it was nice to see the positive interaction of a community that we get to be a part of. 

We have also been working on creating community videos and recently posted the community video for Osmond. The stats were astounding to see that the community responses on Facebook with 7.7k views, 99 shares, and 11k people reached! In addition, there have been 63 new likes since we were placed in Pierce County. It was moving to see the responses from the community on Facebook that the town of Osmond was represented well. 

Additionally, we have completed flyers to encourage people in the county to get on shopwhereilive.com and also to claim their domain on google maps. These projects help our business owners have the opportunity to have a worldwide customer base and be accessible to those who travel through the community or newcomers to the community. 

“Our projects are allowing me to see how much a rural area has to offer and why each community in Pierce County is so valuable. I’ve realized how much I can do with simple actions and how much collaborative work can help a project. Having a focus on assets rather than deficits has been one of the biggest takeaways for me not for just future projects, but the way I look at my life.”

Marie Meis

We also have had the opportunity to sit in different Chamber and City Council meetings to gain a perspective on what each community is going through and how our work is impacting them. These meetings enabled us to get to know the personality of each town so that we can efficiently cater to them. 

The variety of work that we were given truly gave us the flexibility of switching to different projects when we needed a mental break. We are able to switch from one task to focus on another which allows us to be motivated to do more projects. A bonus is that we get to see the real impact of what we’re doing each day. Our videos, events, posters, and everything else are being shown across the county and starting real conversations.

Through it all, we have learned about how rural communities operate and stay alive with strong communication because it is noticeable how they need each other to function. In a rural community, everyone knows each other and that influences the great or not so great results in how they stay alive. We have learned the weight and significance of how one person can trigger great things, and how important it is to utilize each other as a soundboard to reach the goal that we’re all aiming for.

“Pierce County is looking for change. We are making an impact because they have been encouraging and accepting the opportunities we put before them.”

Judith Grey

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#RFIFellows in Action: Ravenna

July 19, 2020
By Ethan Weiche, Connor McFayden, Kori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase It’s been three weeks since our last update and we have been busier than ever! Since then we have wrapped up old projects, started new ones, and done more than our fair share of …
Ravenna Community Foundation honors the RFI interns through donating money towards their projects in Ravenna.

By Ethan WeicheConnor McFaydenKori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase

It’s been three weeks since our last update and we have been busier than ever! Since then we have wrapped up old projects, started new ones, and done more than our fair share of downward dogs (special thanks to Jacquie at Rural Roots Yoga!).

Seeing some of our work start to pay off in the community has been very rewarding. The scavenger hunt night was extremely successful, and we are anticipating a similar outcome for the upcoming community concert. We all agree that being able to see and experience tangible results such as these are a major perk of the job. However, these successes don’t come without their challenges. Every day presents us with new problems to solve, which only makes the process that much more rewarding.

“The fellows have brought enthusiasm and passion into Ravenna and renewed the community’s excitement. Overall they face every challenge with grit and every project with determination.” – Amber Ross, Community Innovation Fellow

Kori & Andy

We have been in full force trying to get as much accomplished before we have to leave. A lot of our time has been put towards marketing and social media to create a stronger online presence. Last Friday we sent out our first monthly newsletter that will go out to all businesses, and we are currently batch working more for the future!

“I never want this experience to end. Ravenna has become my home away from home, and I can’t imagine leaving here at the end of July to go back to school. I have gained so much hands on experience, and I’m just so thankful for everything and everyone that has made this fellowship incredibly life changing!”

Kori Siebert

A program called Sentext has also been a priority during our time here. The idea behind this program is to keep community members up to date and in the loop with everything happening in town. Our business highlights are a constant everyday occurrence, and we just uploaded many of the videos to our “Ravenna Chamber of Commerce” YouTube channel.

“This experience showed me how rural Nebraska communities are essential in the development of the state. I met hardworking people, committed and amazing leaders, and inspiring business owners. I’ve enjoyed hearing their stories and seeing them at events, as well as getting to share my culture and experiences with them. I am grateful for all the skills, people, and challenges Ravenna has offered me this summer.”

Andromede “Andy” Uwase

Small Business Saturday has also become an essential social media tool as we’ve started to bring more awareness to the unique businesses in Ravenna. On top of all our projects, we have been working on finalizing the small details of our upcoming FREE concert at the Ravenna golf course on Saturday at 8 p.m. 

Connor & Ethan

Since our last update we have continued to push for putting plants in the median, put together a first draft of a brochure for the hike/bike trail and pulled off a popular scavenger hunt and cruise night. In order to accomplish this work, we have had to pitch the idea to put plants in the medians of main street at a recent City Council Meeting. While we intended to only propose our idea for the plants, we also got a unique glimpse of how a rural town operates at the local government level. It was nice to see and engage with community members about both our specific project and what they wanted to see done in general. While we were nervous, it was a wonderful experience and reaffirmed our belief in the power of rural towns and their resilience when coming together.

“This program has shown me just how much passion exists in rural communities. You get to meet so many wonderful, hardworking people that are willing to step up to make their hometown a better place. It’s inspiring to see them in action, and gratifying to know that we could help them in a big way.”

Connor McFayden 

Amidst all the meetings, clue-writing sessions and fights with Adobe software, we have also found the time for some smaller projects, too, including: writing grants for the local EMS team and Historical Society, tracking down blurbs for a Ravenna brochure and setting up an Amazon SMILE account for a local non-profit. 

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#RFIFellows in Action: Arapahoe

July 24, 2020
By Aline Abayo and Megan Tofflemire The last couple of weeks have been quiet and busy at the same time. Some of the projects we shared with you in the recent update are now coming to an end. We have two brochures ready …
The RFI team visited Arapahoe! From left: Kim Peterson, Kate Warner, Aline Abayo, Megan Tofflemire, Angie Moore, Samantha Guenther, Helen Fagan

By Aline Abayo and Megan Tofflemire

The last couple of weeks have been quiet and busy at the same time. Some of the projects we shared with you in the recent update are now coming to an end. We have two brochures ready to be printed and sent to the community, and the entrepreneurship competition is scheduled on this Friday, July 24. We are happy to see some finished products from our work so far, and we look forward to seeing our other projects come to fruition!

Since we last wrote, we have been working on two beautification projects which are now in their implementation stage. One of these projects was organizing a community mural that could make people stop and appreciate what Arapahoe has to offer. We have been working closely with artists from IMPACT Art to create a design that is modern, meaningful to the community, and gorgeous. The support from the community, along with the City Council, has been extremely helpful and encouraging. 

The second beautification project was planning to get 16 planters filled with beautiful plant life in our downtown business district in an effort to create a more inviting appearance. After pitching our ideas to the City Council, we have gotten support for both of these projects to be funded by our community LB840 money. We are incredibly excited to see how these projects turn out!

In an attempt to make our community more beautiful, we didn’t stop in our downtown. We have been working with an outstanding member of the community Nate Swanson, who was kind enough to help us create a community video that shows the beauty of Arapahoe. Last week, our team met Nate and flew a drone around the city to take videos and photos. The community members are sending in beautiful pictures of town to be in the video. Currently, Nate is busy editing and putting together all parts. 

Moreover, we have been helping businesses with their online presence. We helped business owners create and manage google my business accounts, Facebook pages, Shopify accounts, and other marketing and selling websites depending on the type of the business. We weren’t experts in this field, but we had to learn and make sure that we have as much information available for business owners. Grow Nebraska’s presentation at the Arapahoe Chamber of Commerce explained how important it is to have businesses’ information out there and had some of them reach out to us afterward for us to help them with their accounts.

“I think that this experience has created a very rare outcome. There has been a mutual benefit for not only the community but also us as fellows. I think it’s really interesting when the community members tell us that we are bringing a new spark and a lively energy to the community. For me the community has created a parallel impact on my spirit. I feel as though a fire has been lit under me, inspiring a restored passion for community.”

Megan Tofflemire

With only 2 weeks left, we have started coming up with plans to make sure that the team that will take over the projects will understand what our goals were and what we wanted the community to gain from them. We plan on making reports of how we did all the projects we worked on, and how they can manage them in the future. 

“Coming up with ideas is the easiest part of the process; everyone can do that. However, making sure that those ideas change people’s lives is what makes us unique.”

Aline Abayo

To conclude, the last few weeks have been full of learning moments for both of us. We hope that our ideas and projects will inspire members of this community to work together and continue to make Arapahoe grow in the future!

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#RFIFellows In Action: Arapahoe Final Summary!

July 31, 2020
By Aline Abayo and Megan Tofflemire Throughout the past eight weeks there have been several occasions on which we were asked what we wanted to take away from this experience. Our answers to the question were somewhat expected: real world work experience, greater …

By Aline Abayo and Megan Tofflemire

Throughout the past eight weeks there have been several occasions on which we were asked what we wanted to take away from this experience. Our answers to the question were somewhat expected: real world work experience, greater sense of self-confidence, more inclusive leadership skills, and connections that will help us kickstart a future career. What was unexpected was the immense amount of growth and knowledge that we were able to see in such a short period of time. In just eight weeks, we have gained all that we had hoped for and far more than we could have imagined.

“The summer of 2020 will not be easily forgotten. For many, the Coronavirus pandemic has made sure of that. But for me, there is also a more positive reason. 2020 is the year that I started an 8-week journey into the unknown and reclaimed a sense of confidence as a leader. The summer of 2020 gifted me with a growth mindset and passion for rural community development that will follow me into my future.”

Megan Tofflemire

We had no idea that we would be on a first name basis with the fantastic owner of the Arapahoe Floral shop, visiting her nearly every day and often giving in to the fun sales she had to offer. We could not have imagined the support that we would feel from the City Council, who were incredibly welcoming and accepting of our ideas and presence. We never would have anticipated the kind-hearted people who took time to invite us into their businesses, homes and hearts.

As a couple of outsiders, Arapahoe embraced us and showed us the true meaning of community. Community is the reason people choose to live in rural Nebraska. Community is the greatest commodity that our state has to offer. This experience has shown us the need to invest in rural communities and ensure that this sense of community is able to reach as many people as possible. 

“Being in this community built a passion in me to be an agent of change and inclusivity. I have grown to appreciate our differences and learn that those differences can bring us closer instead of tearing us apart. This change was not an easy adjustment to make, but it is worth it in the long run.”

Aline Abayo

For some of our projects such as the entrepreneurship competition, update to online presence, volunteer and tourism guides, and community promotional video, we were able to see the results first hand. For these projects that are expected to come to a close after our departure such as the beautification projects (the mural and downtown flower pots), marketing for the City’s new Economic Development Plan (LB840 funding), connecting alumni and colleges with community workforce openings/opportunities, and the youth career investment project, we are creating implementation plans to ensure that the community continues to reap the anticipated rewards no matter who oversees them. 

As we prepare to return to our own communities in one short week, we can’t help but to pack the lessons that this amazing experience has graced us with. In combination with our newly inspired passion for rural community development, we hope to put our greater senses of self-awareness, communication skills, and knowledge to use. Our hope is to be ambassadors and advocates for rural Nebraska wherever we are and whatever we are doing!

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#RFIFellows In Action: Auburn Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Emma Hoffschneider and Brittney Emerson This summer we had the opportunity to grow not only as individuals, but also as a collective group. The valuable tools and lessons learned will stay with us for the remainder of both our personal and professional …

Brittney and Emma helping local business owner, Sonia Kistner, with her store’s Facebook page.

By Emma Hoffschneider and Brittney Emerson

This summer we had the opportunity to grow not only as individuals, but also as a collective group. The valuable tools and lessons learned will stay with us for the remainder of both our personal and professional lives. 

“I applied for Rural Futures because I love my rural hometown. RFI is making a big impact on small town Nebraska and I am forever grateful for this experience.”

Brittney Emerson

Through this experience,we learned that there is no “cookie cutter” definition of inclusive leadership because it is a multitude of things. It’s welcoming diverse groups to the table and seeing how our differences can become unique assets. We now recognize the importance of each person’s unique strengths and weaknesses. We have grown our cultural mindsets. We have learned how our diverse cultures not only makes us unique, but also strengthens our team. We can confidently say that we grew as effective team members and inclusive leaders. 

“Inclusive leadership is not only listening to everyone’s voice, but also recognizing everyone’s unique background and mindset.”

Emma Hoffschnieder

Additionally, we are blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from such a passionate group of ladies in Auburn. Julia, Kim and Leslie showed us their passions, frustrations, and future dreams while emulating the dignity and grace of inclusive leaders. 

We have loved the journey that RFI has taken us on. It was not only a time of great joy, but also an experience of enormous growth. Auburn, Nebraska, thank you for welcoming us into your community and giving us a new place to keep in our hearts! 

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#RFIFellows In Action: Chadron Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Tyra Reardon and Sawyer Smith This summer has absolutely flown by quickly. It is hard to believe that our time in Chadron is coming to a close this week. We have been able to create a lasting impact not only on the …

For one of our weekly team Zoom calls we met in Kerri’s office to conduct our meeting. Left to Right: Sawyer Smith, Tyra Reardon, Terri Haynes (on the computer), and Kerri Rempp. 

By Tyra Reardon and Sawyer Smith

This summer has absolutely flown by quickly. It is hard to believe that our time in Chadron is coming to a close this week. We have been able to create a lasting impact not only on the Chadron community, but also the entire Nebraska panhandle. 

Tyra: This summer I focused my time on creating resources for Educational Service Unit 13 (ESU 13) and Discover Northwest Nebraska. I created two comprehensive mental health needs assessments for ESU 13 to implement. These assessments will be used to gauge the needs of the entire panhandle when it comes to mental health in schools.

After creating the needs assessments, I worked on the ESU 13 caseload data dashboard. This data dashboard will showcase the demographics of the students currently receiving mental health services, highlight trends, and identify weaknesses. For Discover Northwest Nebraska, I created merchandising mockups and uploaded tourist attractions coordinates on Google Maps. 

“I look forward to being able to further better myself and those around me by using the skills I have learned from being an RFI fellow. This has truly been an unforgettable experience!”

Tyra reardon

Sawyer: This summer, I spent the majority of my time focusing on the website redesign for Discover Northwest Nebraska. This redesign helped modernize the website, and helped make the site easier to navigate. The new website, when launched, will showcase all of what Northwest Nebraska has to offer its visitors.

Additionally, I worked alongside Tyra on the comprehensive mental health needs assessments for ESU 13. Beyond that, I had the opportunity to translate into Spanish the needs assessment that will be given to parents, in order to help make it accessible to more families. 

We were also able to volunteer within the community. We have created a PowerPoint presentation for the Dawes County Joint Planning Committee to use to advocate for their organization, a mental health community providers brochure for Chadron Public Schools, and working at the concession stands at the Chadron Nationals baseball games.

“Being an RFI fellow this summer has definitely taught me a lot about being an inclusive leader. I have learned skills that I will likely use for the rest of my life, and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn and grow through this experience.

Sawyer Smith

We would like to thank the Dawes County community for their hospitality. We will forever remember our experiences as RFI Fellows thanks to our time here in Chadron!

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#RFIFellows In Action: Pawnee County Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Rachel Williss This summer was chaos, I must say. Even now that I can look back on my summer experience in full, I have trouble organizing it into words. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from the thousands …
Rachel interviewing Dr. Robert Diffendal who is a retired UNL geology professor.

By Rachel Williss

This summer was chaos, I must say. Even now that I can look back on my summer experience in full, I have trouble organizing it into words. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from the thousands of photos I’ve taken this summer, it is that the picture you see depends greatly on the lens you use, the angle you look from and the details you choose to focus on.

Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I am more independent and adaptable than I thought I was. The changes and uncertainty that came with COVID-19 were the start of it, but our community team and schedule went through a lot of changes as well. In the future I will have more confidence to embrace change, although right now it seems to be the only way forward. 

I have also been able to refine my technical skills like photography, video editing, and graphic design. Although I have taken related courses at UNL, dedicating my entire summer to those skills has made me more comfortable with them and given me a portfolio that I can be proud of. 

Lastly, I have gained a new appreciation for learning the history and story behind everything. The museums and old buildings of Pawnee County are filled with good stories, and I wish I would have time to hear them all. I am motivated to learn more about the history of my own town as well when I return this weekend.

As I wrap up my experience here in Pawnee County, I am leaving behind a starting place for them to build their brand as a tourism destination. Going forward, the Pawnee County Promotional Network (PCPN) will be able to:

  • Continue to build the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles (@seepawNEecounty) that I created and set a structure for. Having an online presence will help them reach a wider audience, show what the county has to offer to people farther away and have an accessible method of communication with potential tourists. 
  • Pull content for social media and other marketing materials from the photo library of roughly 1500 of the photos I took throughout the county, combed through and sorted. This will make it faster and easier for them to develop marketing content in the future, as well as providing a more cohesive look.
  • Use the videos I constructed from interviews, video and photos of interesting places throughout the county to create a self-guided, county-wide driving tour. They will also be able to use the raw footage I took for the videos in other promotional media as they see fit. The driving tour is something that has worked well as a promotional tool in other places, which is why the PCPN wanted someone with the skills and the time to develop one for Pawnee County. It will encourage people who would normally just drive through the area to actually stop and explore each town. 

I can’t wait to see how the projects will develop in the future. I will definitely go back to Pawnee County to visit, and I am sure I will see new angles to take pictures from. It really is the perfect day trip destination (and I am not just saying that because I get paid to). 

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#RFIFellows In Action: Pierce County Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Judith Grey and Marie Meis As our time in Pierce County is coming to a close, we cannot help but be sad to leave Pierce County. We have been welcomed by the residents of this area, and we have loved every minute …
Marie and Judith with local ice cream shop owner, Wanda Backus

By Judith Grey and Marie Meis

As our time in Pierce County is coming to a close, we cannot help but be sad to leave Pierce County. We have been welcomed by the residents of this area, and we have loved every minute we have shared with them. Susan Norris has helped us form deep connections that will last long past our eight weeks here. 

“Pierce County offered so much I didn’t expect. Such as being able to form connections with so many great people and how often these rural communities have an event planned. Each town offers something unique and we hope our projects were able to capture that. Pierce County will always have a place in my heart.”

Marie Meis

Pierce County is a thriving area, and we got to see firsthand how much it has to offer. We feel very lucky that we could help with their marketing and promotion. Our community videos had a huge response from residents, and it is because there are people in rural Nebraska that are passionate about where they are from.

One way that we have grown is from working to put our ideas and plans to action. Marie typically struggles with idea creation and seeing where needs are. Judith is an idealistic person but can’t always see how to put my ideas into action. Together, we spent hours brainstorming how we could tackle the priorities for Pierce County and put our skills together. Ultimately, this led to us being able to produce seven videos, two logos, three community events, six flyers and much more in our short time here. It was only able to happen because of a great program, fantastic boss and supporting communities. 

“My experience in Pierce County impacted me as much as we impacted them–if not more. It’s inspiring to see the potential for change and the action needed to start rolling toward the goals.”

judith grey

As we leave Pierce County, we will be taking a lot with us. We are grateful for the connections we formed, the leadership skills we gained, and the knowledge of how to put our ideas into action. 

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#RFIFellows In Action: Ravenna Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Ethan Weiche, Connor McFayden, Kori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase As our time in Ravenna comes to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on what this experience has meant to each of us and what we are going to carry forward. It’s …

By Ethan WeicheConnor McFaydenKori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase

As our time in Ravenna comes to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on what this experience has meant to each of us and what we are going to carry forward. It’s hard to believe that just a couple months ago, Ravenna was little more than a name on a map to us and now it has become a second home. We learned a lot from this small town, from the projects we dedicated our working hours to and the people that filled the spaces inbetween, and we are thankful that we were able to give something back to the community that welcomed us so warmly. With that, we’d like to take this last opportunity to tell you about the projects that meant the most to us. 

Kori & Andy: We have been working hard to finalize all of our projects, while also starting some new ones! Our main focus this summer has been with local businesses and marketing content. Through our interactions with business owners, we have both grown so much in the aspect of not only hearing the needs of others, but understanding where they’re coming from. We are glad that we helped bring more awareness to these businesses and to the growth of their operation in the future.

“This experience has been eye opening and transformational. I’ve learned new skills and gained experiences that can’t be taught in a classroom. If there is one thing that I will take away from this fellowship, it is that people are the most important thing. The relationships and friendships that I’ve built are so fulfilling and help grow towards progress, not only in myself but in the heart of this community.”

Kori Siebert

“I have worked this summer by contributing to Ravenna’s development and learning new marketing skills and strategies, which helped me better understand the importance of marketing for businesses. Through this experience, I have seen how young people are crucial to the development of rural communities.”

Andromede Uwase

Connor & Ethan: With most of our projects coming to a close, we’ve realized how much we’ve done for Ravenna, and in turn how much Ravenna has done for us. For example, our largest and most consistent project, landscaping the medians on Main St., will end with us submitting a final application to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, handing off our final calendar to our newly appointed garden club president, and then, waiting. Waiting because plants cannot be planted until next spring. This has taught us the value in planning for the future and thinking ahead; asking ourselves what the community members will need in the future has been a critical exercise in many of our projects.

“This experience has challenged me to think about what my actions will accomplish a year from now, 5 years from now, a decade from now. It’s difficult work to anticipate what will come in the future, especially in light of our current turbulent times, but it is crucial to achieving change in a big way.”

Connor McFayden

“This experience has been transformational in several ways, chief among which is how I have come to view ‘sustainable’ work. I am leaving Ravenna with further clarity that sustainability has as much to do with the people and those involved, as with the type of project; inspired and committed community members must be involved if a project is to have any meaningful lifespan and impact.”

Ethan Weiche

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#RFIFellows In Action: Wahoo Final Summary

July 31, 2020
It’s hard to believe our summer in Wahoo is coming to an end, but we are more than grateful for the wonderful experiences and learning opportunities we had this summer. Although our projects are wrapping up, we will carry many …

Celebrating the end of the “Visit531Nebraska” tour as they returned to their hometown, Wahoo!

It’s hard to believe our summer in Wahoo is coming to an end, but we are more than grateful for the wonderful experiences and learning opportunities we had this summer. Although our projects are wrapping up, we will carry many things from this summer with us far into the future.

“This summer showed us how important it is to see the possibilities. We all know how quickly our “normal” can change. Emerging on the other side of those changes will be easier if we better understand ourselves and where we want to be. Oscaline, Amanda, and Savannah moved many projects forward, but also helped us see our community differently and this will help us long after they are gone.”

Theresa Klein, Community Innovation Fellow

Savannah: This summer we came in with the idea that we’d spend our time helping revive businesses and getting projects started, but what we quickly learned was that there was already plenty happening in Wahoo. Almost every day, we have had the opportunity to meet with someone new to learn another perspective or another story about what makes Wahoo a thriving rural community that is focused on embracing their roots and has their eyes set on the future.

Our ideas and our perspectives were positively embraced from day one, and we felt as if every meeting we had, we learned something new and walked away with another valuable connection. It will be difficult to move away from a town like Wahoo, but the connections I’ve made here will undoubtedly carry with me through the remainder of my college experience. 

Oscaline: As the summer wraps up, I reflect on the first days when I moved to the community – the warm welcome I received, the sweetness of people whom I met, the excitement I had to get started, and the lessons I learned along the way. Now after a wonderful opportunity to work on different projects including a community guide, designing brochures and the H.O.P.E. campaign, I have learned many lessons that I will take with me on my next journey. 

Working with people who are different from me in various aspects made me realize that diversity goes deeper than what is seen on the outside. As a woman of color who is living in a time of social injustice, it made me realize how Wahoo is an inclusive community. Looking back I would say that this was such a stretching, yet rewarding experience in many ways. I am grateful for all this growth.

“With all the conversations happening in our country today about diversity and inclusion of everyone, we have had a lot of honest and open conversations with our fellows. Through this, I have learned so much about how to think beyond my little world here in Wahoo.”

Melissa Harrell, Community Innovation Fellow

Amanda: Through this experience, my eyes were opened as to what it takes to operate a rural community and truly help businesses and residents thrive. The amount of drive and dedication in the Wahoo community to make this happen is inspiring. 

We were welcomed with open arms and given the creative freedom this summer to work on projects that were challenging, yet aligned with our strengths and interests. We did our best to spark innovation, creativity, and a multitude of new ideas. 

Now it’s time for Wahoo to continue to develop a unified approach as to the direction they want to go and how they will get there. The relationships I built and the learning I experienced will outlast the summer weeks that flew by so quickly. I will always cherish my summer with RFI and the Wahoo community who supported us and did whatever it took to help us have the best summer possible.

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Read!


Communities

Arapahoe

Focus: Economic and Community Development

The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with alumni and entrepreneurs. Students will also focus on a campaign to secure the passage of LB840 in the November election. Other projects will include building the new economic development organization through determining community and business needs, helping local businesses get an online presence, developing community marketing, and more.

Team:
Students: Aline Abayo, Megan Tofflemire
Innovators: Angie Moore, Kate Warner

Sponsored By: Arapahoe Economic Development, City of Arapahoe

Auburn

Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training

The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option municipal economic development act that authorizes incorporated cities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes. Additional projects will include entrepreneurship, coding camp and mobile STEM lab promotion, business recruitment and workforce training.

Team:
Students: Brittney Emerson, Emma Hoffschneider
Innovators: Julia Oestmann, Kim Beger

Sponsored By: Auburn Development Council

Dawes County | Chadron, Crawford, Harrison

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 Reardon, Sawyer Smith
Innovators: Katie Carrizales, Terri Haynes, Sandy Montague-Roes, Kerri Rempp

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

Pierce County | Hadar, Osmond, Pierce, Plainview

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 Grey, Marie Meis
Innovators: Chad Anderson, Susan Norris

Sponsored By: Pierce County Economic Development

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:
Students: Connor McFayden, Kori Siebert, Andromede Uwase, Ethan Weiche
Innovators: Amber Ross, Gena McPherson

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

Pawnee County | Burchard, DuBois, Lewiston, Pawnee City, Steinauer, Table Rock

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 Osbon, Rachel Williss
Innovators: Kenneth Edwards, Amy Hunzeker

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

Wahoo

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 Most, Oscaline Usanase
Innovators: Theresa Klein, Melissa Harrell

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

RFI Student Fellows

Aline Abayo

February 3, 2020
Sophomore Integrated Science Agricultural EconomicsUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Arapahoe Focus: Economic and Community Development The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and …

Sophomore

Integrated Science
Agricultural Economics
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Arapahoe

Focus: Economic and Community Development

The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with alumni and entrepreneurs. Students will also focus on a campaign to secure the passage of LB840 in the November election. Other projects will include building the new economic development organization through determining community and business needs, helping local businesses get an online presence, developing community marketing, and more.

Team:
Students: Aline AbayoMegan Tofflemire
Innovators: Angie Moore, Kate Warner

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I was looking for new challenges and ways to develop myself as a problem solver, analytical thinker and a leader as well.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain experience in working with different people and different cultures. I will develop myself as an inclusive leader and directly engage in solving current challenges in today’s communities.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

Considering the world’s rapid development and globalization, at some point, students will need inclusive leadership to work with people with different backgrounds and statuses to be the best they can be.

Why should students work in rural communities?

Rural communities are a big part of the world, especially in Nebraska. They have different backgrounds, skills and expectations. Also, rural communities have a lot of resources.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Personally, it is crucial for me to give back to Nebraska because the Nebraska community helped me to continue my journey as a student, a young scientist, and an innovator.

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

Through community engagement, entrepreneurship and innovations, I am positive that rural communities will improve.

Bio

Brittney Emerson

February 3, 2020
JuniorAgricultural LeadershipUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln 2020 Community: Auburn, Nemaha County Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option …

Junior
Agricultural Leadership
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

2020 Community: Auburn, Nemaha County

Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training

The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option municipal economic development act that authorizes incorporated cities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes. Additional projects will include entrepreneurship, coding camp and mobile STEM lab promotion, business recruitment and workforce training.

Team
Students: Brittney EmersonEmma Hoffschneider
Innovators: Julia OestmannKim Beger

Sponsored By: Auburn Development Council, Nemaha County Development Foundation Fund, Nemaha County Hospital

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose to apply to be an RFI Fellow because I have had several sorority sisters that have taken part in this program and enjoyed their time. It is a new opportunity for me to grow as an individual and a leader.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain experience for the future and critical thinking skills. I know that this will force me out of my comfort zone.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

Everyone has different beliefs, values and opinions. Having opportunities like this that immerse us into leadership positions with diverse followers helps students like myself to understand how to solve an issue with the resources available as well as be more open-minded to those willing to help.

Why should students work in rural communities?

The great thing about rural communities is that the people are all kind and welcoming. Community members are looking to improve their place they call home, and if the students through this experience can help them do that then I think that can have a huge impact on both parties.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Growing up, students are dependent on everything around them to help them grow up into successful adults. It is important that students are grateful for what they have been given and show it by giving back to those things that they used to depend on so that new generations can continue to give and take what is needed for their success.

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

We continue to move forward, and we should make sure we take our rural communities with us. These communities can be known for being slow-paced and that’s not all bad, but as far as changes for the better, I hope that someday by introducing innovative trends and technology to rural areas as they are becoming popular in urban areas will help improve these communities.

Bio

Savannah Gerlach

February 3, 2020
SophomoreAgricultural Economics International AgricultureUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln 2020 Community: Wahoo Focus: Community Development, Community Marketing 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. …

Sophomore
Agricultural Economics
International Agriculture
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

2020 Community: Wahoo

Focus: Community Development, Community Marketing

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: Amanda MostOscaline Usanase
Innovators: Theresa KleinMelissa Harrell

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose this experience because I believe in the potential in rural communities. While getting to serve a community, I’ll grow while helping the community to grow as well.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain a whole new perspective on inclusive leadership while stepping outside my comfort zone and learning what it means to be a part of rural development. I hope to gain new friendships and connections across the state, and I also look forward to gaining insight on how I have the power to help make a difference in a rural community.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I think it is important students have this type of experience with inclusive leadership because it provides hands-on learning and interaction within communities, solving problems and innovating in a way we never have before. It’s first-hand learning where we’re actually doing the work — we’ll get to learn inclusive leadership, so we can apply it today and in the future.

Why should students work in rural communities?

I think it’s important for students to have this type of experience in a rural community because this type of exposure to small communities can send positive messages about the opportunities that small communities have and can encourage them to come back home to small towns. My rural community undoubtedly provided me with numerous opportunities for me to learn about leadership and service.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

It is important students give back because, just as much as anywhere else, Nebraska has a story to tell and a perspective that can be valuable to anyone. It has built us up to be the people we are today and has taught me that a sense of community and hard work can be state-wide and that no matter how far you wander, you can always find a place back home.

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

With this experience through the Rural Futures Institute, we have a tremendous opportunity to move communities forward because with the students we have to serve the communities, we’re adding fresh eyes and a unique perspective that can add value to these communities in ways they never thought of. I think that our tech-savvy generation can add to these communities by helping innovate and rethink the most efficient and creative ways they can expand the exposure of their community.

Bio

Judith Grey

February 3, 2020
Senior Science Business Union College 2020 Community: Pierce County 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 …

Senior

Science Business

Union College

2020 Community: Pierce County

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
Innovators: Chad AndersonSusan Norris

Sponsored By: Pierce County Economic Development

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I have a strong up bringing with doing community service, and it seemed to me to be a thrilling experience to be apart of.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain some knowledge, understanding, and experience towards a goal to grow as a respectable and quality adult by taking on tasks and learning to find solutions by using resources that are accessible.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I think it is important for students to have this type of experience because it helps with the transition from college students to adults with mentors to give pointers — in America we don’t really have something that is spread around the country to do so.

Why should students work in rural communities?

It is important for students to have this type of experience in a rural community because you become a part of something greater that is close knit due to the community aspect, but will have an impact in people’s lives and it may be seen quickly, but most likely over a period of time.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

It is important for students to give back to Nebraska because we all come from somewhere, and even if it is not your home, someone else claims it as such. Since we’ll live here for a bit of our time, it is good to let the residents know we appreciate them.

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

We have minds from everywhere attending colleges in Nebraska, and everyone is taking the time to express themselves and give a variety of ideas to work with.

Bio

Emma Hoffschneider

February 3, 2020
SophomoreCommunications & Public RelationsUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln 2020 Community: Auburn, Nemaha County Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the …

Sophomore
Communications & Public Relations
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

2020 Community: Auburn, Nemaha County

Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training

The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option municipal economic development act that authorizes incorporated cities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes. Additional projects will include entrepreneurship, coding camp and mobile STEM lab promotion, business recruitment and workforce training.

Team
Students: Brittney EmersonEmma Hoffschneider
Innovators: Julia OestmannKim Beger

Sponsored By: Auburn Development Council, Nemaha County Development Foundation Fund, Nemaha County Hospital

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose this experience for the opportunity to make a positive impact in a rural community similar to the one where I was raised. I have experienced first hand the incredible things rural communities can do if they are given a chance. To be given the opportunity to help rural communities reach their full potential is priceless. Ultimately, my strong passion for rural America and helping others led me too this life changing experience.

What do you hope to gain?

After my summer as a RFI Fellow I hope to have strengthened my leadership abilities, continued to develop my networking abilities, helped others realize their potential, and continued to learn and grow as an inclusive leader.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

It is important for students to have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development because of the personal growth each fellow will experience this summer. Inclusive leadership is a valuable skill for students to possess. In our future professional careers we will need to have the ability to work with a large amount of people who come from different backgrounds, have opposing views or approach tasks differently than us. This type of experience lets student fellows have the opportunity to strengthen and fine tune their inclusive leadership so we will be prepared for our future careers.

Why should students work in rural communities?

Personally, having this experience in a rural community allows me to see the challenges my own community has faced. By allowing students to live and work in a rural community, RFI is giving us an inside look to our potential future life. Personally, I hope to someday live in a rural community. By being a summer fellow with RFI, I am gaining the necessary skill set I will need to succeed in my future community. Having this type of experience is critical because it not only allows us a chance to make a positive impact, but it allows us to create valuable connections and build career-strengthening skills, things we will need in every aspect of our future life and career.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Service is a critical part of every community in Nebraska. As students, we have often times had the help of others in our daily lives, whether that is the support of our community in our activities or academic endeavors. It is crucial for students to give back to Nebraska because we need to ensure future generations will have the same opportunities as we did. Giving back to Nebraska ensures the continuation of meaningful growth in all of its communities. As we continue to grow and learn as individuals we need to share our talents with our communities so they will be able to continue to grow and prosper.

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

In today’s world people are becoming more and more creative in everything they do. Now provides the perfect opportunity to move rural communities forward because people are more adept at thinking outside of the box. Personally, I hope to move smaller communities forward by helping them realize their own uniqueness and how to use it for their benefit.

Bio

Connor McFayden

February 3, 2020
Junior Environmental Studies, Community and Regional Planning, Natural Resources and Environmental Economics 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, …

Junior

Environmental Studies, Community and Regional Planning, Natural Resources and Environmental Economics

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:
Students: Connor McFaydenKori SiebertAndromede UwaseEthan Weiche
Innovators: Amber RossGena McPherson

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I want to make a difference in my state. This program gives me the perfect opportunity to do that.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope that I will gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing rural Nebraska and what steps can be taken to address them, as well as experience in working with and supporting communities.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I think it is crucial to develop inclusive leaders in order to address the complex issues we face now and into the future. The best teacher is experience, and this program promises to provide a lot of that.

Why should students work in rural communities?

I am concerned that my generation has written off rural communities as stagnant and unimportant. Experiences like these can reveal the opportunities and importance of the communities that support the metropolises we are all familiar with.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Nebraska is my home. I owe everything I am to the people here. I can’t pay it all back, but I can contribute to the communities that raised me.

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

I think the increasing connectivity our world experiences through technology is a great catalyst for growth in rural communities. Connecting businesses and people through this network can have a phenomenal impact on the communities that have felt disconnected from the mainstream for generations.

Bio

Marie Meis

February 3, 2020
Sophomore Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication and Journalism University of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Pierce County Focus: Community Marketing, Resident Retention and Recruitment The main focus of this project will be to market Pierce County. Students will help …

Sophomore

Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication and Journalism

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Pierce County

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
Innovators: Chad AndersonSusan Norris

Sponsored By: Pierce County Economic Development

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I love rural Nebraska, and I’m beyond excited to live and work in a community for a whole summer. I love taking on projects, and I feel like this program will benefit me greatly. I hope I can give back in a meaningful way.

What do you hope to gain?

I want to live, work and socialize in a new community where I can expand my network, learn new skills and help the community.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

Inclusive leadership is so vital in any organization. The concepts and practices can be applied in so many ways, and students can use those during their summer but always carry it with them afterwards.

Why should students work in rural communities?

There is nothing like the experience of being totally immersed in a community. There is so much more to see, and I hope I can learn more about what it takes to keep a rural community surviving.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

In my time in a small school and in various organizations, I’ve learned things don’t happen unless people step up. Each person has a responsibility to serve and give back and what better place to start than locally.

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

Each community has different things that makes it unique and exciting. Capitalizing on those strengths and making them even better can provide a place people want to visit and even live in.

Bio

Amanda Most

February 3, 2020
Junior Agricultural Education-LeadershipEngler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship University of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Wahooa 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. …

Junior

Agricultural Education-Leadership
Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Wahooa

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:
Peers: Savannah GerlachOscaline Usanase
Innovators: Theresa KleinMelissa Harrell

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I am grateful for my roots tied to agriculture and rural Nebraska, and I am passionate about keeping rural areas alive and thriving. I hope to work in a rural area upon graduating from college, so the Rural Futures Institute is the perfect opportunity for me to gain a variety of experiences that will benefit my future.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain valuable knowledge and skills in many areas of rural development that will benefit my future career and establish important connections and relationships within my placement community.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

Exposing students to new experiences, people and lifestyles helps them gain new perspectives and be challenged to think differently. This builds leaders who are better equipped to solve the world’s challenges.

Why should students work in rural communities?

Being immersed in a rural community creates an appreciation for a simpler lifestyle. There may be fewer shopping and restaurant choices, but there is a lot of value and much to be gained from living in a rural community.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Giving back to our state shows an appreciation for what it has given us thus far in life, but it also shows our desire and dedication to continue working to improve the Good Life.

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

Although they may be overlooked to some, I believe rural communities are on the rise. People are realizing the value of handmade, family-owned and locally grown. To help move smaller communities forward, it is my dream to create a marketing tool for rural areas. By spreading the word and making rural communities accessible to others, they will be able to thrive.

Bio

Kate Osbon

February 3, 2020
Junior Hospitality, Restaurant, and Tourism Management University of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Table Rock, Pawnee County Focus: Community Marketing, Economic Development, Tourism The main focus of this project will be to implement a comprehensive social media strategy for …

Junior

Hospitality, Restaurant, and Tourism Management

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Table Rock, Pawnee County

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
Peer: Rachel Williss
Innovators: Kenneth EdwardsAmy Hunzeker

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I am friends with Megan Coan, who participated in this opportunity last year, and I saw the experiences she was able to have, so I finally messaged her and asked what she was participating in because I knew it was something special. Then, when I took ALEC 466 this fall with Dr. Fagan, I was able to see how she led and what her goals were as an educator on inclusivity. This class really had an impact on me and I enjoyed Dr. Fagan. When she spoke to the class about this program I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of, especially with my hospitality degree and background of growing up in a small community.

What do you hope to gain?

I want to leave the community at the end of my time with deep connections and a sense of a new place to call home. As for my work there, I want to leave knowing I helped where it was needed. I simply was an extra pair of hands and eyes that the community needed to get one of their goals completed.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

As a student in the hospitality industry, I am able to see how global our world is becoming. I also have seen my hometown become a more diverse community, which is something I was not sure would ever happen. I personally have seen how amazing learning and working with others cultures, backgrounds and traditions can be, so I am excited to become more educated. I think education is the key to a more cohesive world, and with my knowledge, I want to be able to spread it with everyone I lead now and in the future.

Why should students work in rural communities?

Rural communities, although small, affect so much of our state and country. Through agriculture and feeding our world, as well as growing young adults, they have a large impact. I know I want to give back to a type of community like my hometown. Bassett really started my journey, and I know it’s important to give back. I know the best way for me to give back right now is to work in a community and give them some working hands and young eyes.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Nebraska is the state that raised me and is what I advocate for when I’m anywhere in the world. I have family in California, and it’s amazing how much I get to share about our state my whole life. This state has given me a lot and I want to be able to keep it going through giving back.

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

I’m from Bassett, NE, it’s a town of about 600 people. Growing up there I always would hear people from out of town want to see all these different things. These attractions to visitors were just part of the community to me, so I didn’t even see them as something to market to tourists. I think this is true in many communities. So many people have lived there for so long, they are used to what is so unique about their town. That’s why I think it’s great to have a fresh and young pair of eyes come and emphasize what’s great.

Bio

Tyra Ann Reardon

February 3, 2020
Senior Family and Consumer Sciences Education University of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Communities: Chadron, Crawford & Harrison | Dawes County Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion The student fellows will work to complete SHAPE …

Senior

Family and Consumer Sciences Education

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Communities: Chadron, Crawford & Harrison | Dawes County

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:
Peer: Sawyer Smith
Innovators: Katie CarrizalesTerri HaynesSandy Montague-Roes, Kerri Rempp

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose to be a RFI fellow in order to expand upon my self while helping impact others. I want to give back to the state that has given me so much. I am from a small community in Nebraska, and I want to learn more about and give back to other rural towns outside of my own.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain a better understanding of myself and our awesome state! I plan to live and teach in a rural community in Nebraska, and I want to learn as much as possible about the communities across the state.I also want to improve on my leadership, communication, and teamwork skills by immersing myself into a new community and culture.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I think it is extremely important for students to gain inclusive leadership skills. We are the future workforce, so knowing how to properly lead and understand others is crucial.

Why should students work in rural communities?

I grew up in a very small town in Nebraska, and it has helped shape me into the person that I am today. I think every student should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a rural community. Doing this helps show you a multitude of things, from where our food comes from to the day-to-day workings of a community outside of your own.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Giving back to Nebraska helps ensure our future. Nebraska is in the Bread Basket of the world; we feed millions. Helping the communities that are helping so many is a no brainer, in my opinion. The importance to give back to Nebraska even goes beyond feeding our future. It is important for students to give back to Nebraska to help further create a strong foundation for our own futures. Helping the communities that we may one day want to work and live in helps ensure that they are sustained and thriving for ourselves and others.

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

There is no better time than now to help move rural communities forward because of the threat these communities have faced over the past year. The floods that tore through these communities has left many of them in a devastating state. Helping rebuild and move these communities forward will help ensure a stable future for thousands of businesses, farms, and families. I want to help drive these communities forward by teaching the next generation in rural Nebraska communities. After I graduate, I want to return to a small community to live and teach in. I also want to help strengthen rural communities by providing them with mental health resources. Mental health is one of the most over looked aspects of a person’s overall well being. Because of this, I want to help provide a more in depth mental illness education in schools and communities. I want to accomplish this by making rural communities aware of the resources that are available to them, and also help bring in more mental health assets.

Bio

Kori Siebert

February 3, 2020
Senior Speech Communications – emphasis in Organizational Leadership and Public Relations Wayne State College 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 …

Senior

Speech Communications – emphasis in Organizational Leadership and Public Relations

Wayne State College

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 McFayden, Andromede Uwase, Ethan Weiche
Innovators: Amber RossGena McPherson

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I love what RFI stands for, and rural communities have a special place in my heart. I chose this experience because I want to be able to give back to another small community since mine molded me into who I am today and the dreams I have for the future.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain more opportunities where I can grow and challenge myself as a leader. In the end, I hope to have more public relations experience, and that I am able to leave a positive lasting impression on the community I’m working with.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

It’s great to be able to push boundaries and think outside of the norm. Being involved in the RFI program can help one grow as a leader and be better prepared for the future.

Why should students work in rural communities?

I think it’s important for students to have this type of experience in a rural community because it allows them to get out of their comfort zone and really connect with all types of business owners and people within the community.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Nebraska is a great place to grow up and meet amazingly kind people here. It’s important for us to give back to Nebraska because it’s given so much to us. I want to someday raise my family here, and I want the communities thriving even more than they are now, for the next generation.

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

RFI provides tremendous opportunities for communities to move forward by bringing in fresh eyes to help see things from a different perspective. I hope that I’m able to help these smaller communities move forward in the way that they see fit for their own community, whether that’s through social media, community events or planning for the future in whatever way.

Bio

Sawyer Smith

February 3, 2020
Sophomore Mathematics, Computer Science and Psychology College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Chadron, Crawford & Harrison | Dawes County Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion The student fellows will …

Sophomore

Mathematics, Computer Science and Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Chadron, Crawford & Harrison | Dawes County

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:
Peer: Tyra Ann Reardon
Innovators: Katie CarrizalesTerri HaynesSandy Montague-Roes, Kerri Rempp

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose this experience because I thought it presented a unique opportunity to do something that I might not otherwise have been able to do. It gives me a chance to not only develop as a person, but also to be able to serve a community as a part of that development.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain a greater understanding of the world that I live in and the people that inhabit that world through this experience. Additionally, I hope to gain skills and experiences that I can use going forward in my professional career.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

This type of experience is hugely important because of the nature of where our world is headed. As our world becomes more and more global, the people of the world need to become more and more capable of interacting and working with different groups of people, and this type of experience is an excellent way to teach those types of skills.

Why should students work in rural communities?

The fact of the matter is, not everyone comes from the same background. Personally, I was raised in a tiny, affluent bubble, but continuing to stay inside of that bubble isn’t going to help me progress as a person. In order to experience that kind of growth, people (including me) need to change their situation.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

People who live in Nebraska, regardless of whether or not they’re from the state itself, have a lot to gain from the world around them. It seems only fair that if we as people are willing to take, we should in turn be willing to give back, to continue to foster the growth and development of a community.

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

We are at a turning point for global and personal development. My generation has begun to enter the workplace and influence the world, and the choices that we make now are going to have huge impacts on the future. In order to maintain those impacts and move them in a positive direction, we need to be able to have support from our peers. At the base of this support comes education. I have been very blessed to have the education that I do, and I want to be able to help other people get a similar education. It is one of the most powerful tools that people today can and do have. I believe that making education accessible to everyone is one of the best ways to create change, on a personal level, as well as on the community level.

Bio

Megan Tofflemire

February 3, 2020
Senior Criminal Justice, Spanish, Pre-Law Wayne State College 2020 Community: Arapahoe Focus: Economic and Community Development The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with …

Senior

Criminal Justice, Spanish, Pre-Law

Wayne State College

2020 Community: Arapahoe

Focus: Economic and Community Development

The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with alumni and entrepreneurs. Students will also focus on a campaign to secure the passage of LB840 in the November election. Other projects will include building the new economic development organization through determining community and business needs, helping local businesses get an online presence, developing community marketing, and more.

Team:
Peer: Aline Abayo
Innovators: Angie Moore, Kate Warner

Sponsored By: Arapahoe Economic Development, City of Arapahoe

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

This program offered me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and expand my individual abilities, without losing sight of where I came from. I chose this program because I feel that the leadership, staff and immersive experience are unlike any other internship program I have seen. I am looking forward to the opportunity to witness the impact made on the community I work with, as well as the opportunity to strengthen my personal abilities through the 1-on-1 coaching experience.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain an individual confidence that enables me to take a more assertive approach to leadership, problem solving and conflict management. I also hope to strengthen my communication skills, so I am confident in my abilities to communicate effectively with any individual, especially public officials. Finally, I hope to gain a working knowledge of the behind the scenes work that goes into a thriving small town community.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I think if students stay within their comfort zones and don’t take the initiative to learn about different leadership styles, methods and opportunities, they are ultimately hindering their potential growth. Inclusive leadership development accentuates the importance of respectfully working alongside others and openly accepting ideas to create a welcoming atmosphere. This open-mindedness creates a platform for shared ideas, knowledge and ultimately growth.

Why should students work in rural communities?

If we utilize an inclusive leadership method, it is likely that our awareness and knowledge of diversity will be enhanced. Diversity is an important part of our community dynamic. We should focus on creating a community that is not just accepting, but welcoming to diversity. A greater understanding of diversity furthers our awareness of the adversity that is impacting our community as a whole.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Nebraska is more than a state, Nebraska is a genuine community. Being raised here has graced us with a kindhearted midwestern acceptance that is sustained by the people within it. To believe that our state is powered by anything other than citizens hoping for prosperous growth is unrealistic. It is our people that keep this state great, and we as students are the future of Nebraska, which is why we need to give back with our time, effort, and knowledge.

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

Nebraska is currently in a state of growth. As expansion continues, it becomes increasingly important for us to work alongside our rural communities to ensure that they are not left behind. We want to enable our rural communities to grow alongside the rest of our state. A couple ideas that I have to move small town communities forward are educating future generations on the success that can take place within their own communities and expanding marketing for the often times overlooked businesses small towns have to offer.

Bio

Oscaline Usanase

February 3, 2020
Senior Integrated Science, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural ResourcesUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Wahoo Focus: Civic Engagement, Communications The students will work to identify and develop a comprehensive communications plan that …

Senior

Integrated Science, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Wahoo

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:
Peers: Savannah Gerlach, Amanda Most
Innovators: Theresa KleinMelissa Harrell

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

Nebraska being like my second home, I chose to be part of this experience because I want to give back to the community. I come from a small town in Rwanda, and I would love to use my skills in contributing to the greater cause in the rural communities of Nebraska.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to have gained work experience that I will take with me in the next steps of my life.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I think it is very important for students to have this experience in terms of inclusive leadership development because we are all different in some kind of way. We have different nationalities, beliefs, gender orientations, and more, and since we will be working with people who are different from us, I think it is good to know how to be inclusive despite our differences.

Why should students work in rural communities?

I believe it is important because this is a chance for students to serve, and give back to the rural community.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Nebraska is among the leading states in beef and corn production, and I think it is important for students to be part of advancement of Nebraska in different aspects by using their knowledge and skills.

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

Now is the important time because there is imbalance in rural and urban population because so many people have moved to urban areas, and I am looking forward to be part of a project that will help in the development of the rural communities.

Bio

Andromede “Andy” Uwase

February 3, 2020
Sophomore Integrated Science with Society and Environment Concentration College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural ResourcesUniversity 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 …

Sophomore

Integrated Science with Society and Environment Concentration

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
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
Students: Connor McFaydenKori Siebert, Ethan Weiche
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 to get the opportunity to serve my community, work with them, listen to them and know what challenges they are facing and how we can find some solution together. Also, I chose this experience to develop my leadership skills, which includes communication and team work. Last but not least, I chose this experience to challenge myself and prepare for my future career. My goal is to work with people by working together to solve some issues. This experience is a great way of preparing myself to achieve that goal of serving the community in need.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to grow as a leader. By working closely with the community, I hope to gain a better understanding of what needs to be done and make my contributions to solve problems. I hope to meet new people, build long lasting relationships with my fellow leaders, learn from them, and share my experiences as well. By working with people from different backgrounds and with diverse experience, it will improve my leadership skills.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

I dream of a world where everyone respect everyone’s uniqueness and differences and knows that everyone has to bring something unique in a group to achieve something bigger. Yes, inclusive leadership development is needed for everyone to be capable and welcoming leaders who provide the comfortable environment for everyone.

Why should students work in rural communities?

Rural communities play a big part in the economic development of the country and as the primary source of food. Students needs this type of experience to join forces with people in rural communities, help them to exploit their resources, learn from each other, and inspire each other.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

As an international student, Nebraska has provided many things for me: I have education, new family and friends and opportunity to work on my future. It is important to give back to Nebraska because it gave us so much already.

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

Rural communities have many opportunities to offer and exploit to develop. Now is the best time, with technology, higher education, and many people willing to work together. It would be better if we take advantage of all to develop and move rural communities forward.

Bio

Ethan Weiche

March 2, 2020
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 …

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.

Bio

Rachel Williss

February 3, 2020
Junior Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication University of Nebraska–Lincoln Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Community: Table Rock | Pawnee County Focus: Community Marketing, Economic Development, Tourism The main focus of this project will be to implement a comprehensive social media strategy …

Junior

Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Community: Table Rock | Pawnee County

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:
Peer: Kate Osbon
Innovators: Kenneth EdwardsAmy Hunzeker

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

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose this opportunity because everything about it is purposeful and impactful. I liked that my internship would be constructed around my strengths, so that they can be put to use by a community that can benefit from them, while also giving me a chance to practice them outside of the classroom and develop professionally. I also liked the fact that this internship would push me out of my comfort zone. I will get to explore a new part of the state and new responsibilities. The opportunity to make an impact beyond just gaining work experience is not something many other internships offer.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to discover a new area of Nebraska, build relationships, gain new perspectives and increase my experience in media development and in leadership.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

It is unavoidable to see that our world is constantly developing and becoming more diverse. Establishing inclusive leadership skills is not only important, but essential for cooperation and unity. Learning to be respectful and welcoming of new perspectives and ideas improves the accomplishment of everyone involved and builds trust, which is foundational for success. Skills and experience in inclusive leadership are applicable to all careers. This opportunity is especially important for students because many are still discovering their identity, career path, and leadership philosophy that they will take with them into the future. Developing more inclusive leaders will help to heal the divides in our communities and in our country.

Why should students work in rural communities?

Rural communities are the backbone of our state, and learning from them is important for communication and understanding. Many of us will have careers that require us to interact with people from all over Nebraska, so experiencing rural perspectives while also experiencing the perspectives of our university city is beneficial. Completing an internship in a place that may be unfamiliar also gives students greater responsibility and independence.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

Having a supportive community is a part of our identity and is one of our advantages as a state. It is important to contribute to it and advocate for it so that it remains that way for years to come. It is also rewarding get to know an area you may not be familiar with. While we are all Nebraskans, there is still a lot of diversity in communities and in the land throughout the state. Building relationships in new places helps strengthen communication, understanding, and trust between communities.

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

The world is more interconnected, making it easier to share knowledge, ideas, opportunities and resources. I think that encouraging more of this communication both within Nebraska and beyond will strengthen us as a state.

Bio


RFI Community Innovation Fellows

Kerri Rempp

May 12, 2020
Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director Chadron, Crawford and Harrison Neb. Graduate of University of South Dakota, Liberal Arts College, Mass Communications Department 2020 Experience Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion The student fellows will work to …

Northwest Nebraska Tourism

Director

Chadron, Crawford and Harrison Neb.

Graduate of University of South Dakota, Liberal Arts College, Mass Communications Department

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 HaynesSandy Montague-Roes

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

Kerri’s Nebraska Story

My family moved to the Cody-Kilgore area in 1989 from western South Dakota. I graduated from Cody-Kilgore High School in 1995 and returned to South Dakota for college. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I moved back to Broken Bow, Nebraska, where I worked at the local newspaper for seven years. My family relocated to Northwest Nebraska in 2007, and I spent 12 years working at the local newspaper in Chadron before taking the position as director of Discover Northwest Nebraska in 2019.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to expand my leadership skills and learn new ways to inspire employees, co-workers and volunteers as we work together to improve our business and community.

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

It’s important the leaders we choose to head our businesses and organizations know the best ways to communicate with and motivate those who are working with them or under them. Doing so effectively makes a huge difference in the success of any project and helps inspire loyalty from employees and volunteers.

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

The RFI interns’ work with Discover Northwest Nebraska will help our organization promote the region as a tourist destination. Tourism is our number two economic industry in the area, and serves an important function in our region. As the only employee of Discover Northwest Nebraska, there is only so much I can get done at any one time. Working with the RFI interns will allow us to accomplish several projects to enhance tourism and promote the region.

Why is rural important?

Living in a rural area is often viewed as a disadvantage, but it offers a unique lifestyle with many advantages for those who call rural areas our home. Keeping rural economies vibrant make it possible for families to enjoy those lifestyle choices while still supporting their families economically. Rural America helps feed the world through agriculture, and finding ways to expand economic opportunities also will help our family farmers continue their important role in the world.

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

Technologically, we are more advanced now than we have ever been. That provides us with a chance to connect small businesses in rural communities with the larger world. From a tourism standpoint, rural Northwest Nebraska offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities to attract young families/couples/individuals who are looking for ways to hike, bike or hunt unique areas without the crowds found in other places. Those outdoor opportunities are set against significant historical, cultural and geological backgrounds, making the region even more attractive to tourists. Continuing to grow the tourism industry in Northwest Nebraska brings added value to local businesses by putting them in front of new customers.

Bio

Kate Warner

May 12, 2020
Warner Real Estate and Warner Beef Genetics Broker and Owner Arapahoe, Neb. Graduate of Colorado State University, Business Administration 2020 Experience Focus: Economic and Community Development The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One …

Warner Real Estate and Warner Beef Genetics

Broker and Owner

Arapahoe, Neb.

Graduate of Colorado State University, Business Administration

2020 Experience

Focus: Economic and Community Development

The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with alumni and entrepreneurs. Students will also focus on a campaign to secure the passage of LB840 in the November election. Other projects will include building the new economic development organization through determining community and business needs, helping local businesses get an online presence, developing community marketing, and more.

Team:
Students: Aline Abayo, Megan Tofflemire
Peer: Angie Moore

Sponsored By: Arapahoe Economic Development, City of Arapahoe

Kate’s Nebraska Story

I moved to Nebraska in December 2008 after meeting my husband in Colorado, where I lived at the time. We were married 6 months after meeting and I moved to Arapahoe, NE to be with Dan and his two girls Gentry & Berkley. We have since added two boys as well to our family, Kallan & Creyton.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain knowledge and resources in order to help our community grow with some help in the area of economic development. Hopefully I can contribute in helping make some new and exciting things happen in our area.

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

I believe we can never have enough knowledge in terms of growing and developing as a leader. I think leadership development is crucial in order to continue to grow.

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

I believe NU students can bring some new and fresh ideas and  will have knowledge from a different perspective. I believe they can contribute as the next generation, how they will want to live and work and what that future looks like for their generation. I think the support from NU statewide through this program says a lot NU caring for the success of all communities. Success for the larger cities of Lincoln & Omaha to the importance of helping the small rural towns on the west side of the state to grow and be successful as well.

Why is rural important?

I don’t think the urban areas, not only in Nebraska but across this country, realize how important agriculture is for this country. The amount of food produced in our country alone can feed millions of people each year. Our country has over 350 million people to feed and that doesn’t include the rest of the world. I don’t think people realize that agriculture drives most other businesses in the rural areas and agriculture has been in a very bad financial position for over 5 years now. This could be detrimental to our rural areas.

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

Now is always better than too late. This is a crucial time, especially after the hurt COVID has put on the economy. We need to find a way for more affordable housing in rural areas and to also find companies to recruit into our areas that may be interested in finding communities to relocate that is better for their employees as far as good schools for their kids, more affordable housing and a great way of life that our rural areas provide.

Bio

Angie Moore

May 12, 2020
Arapahoe Chamber of Commerce President Arapahoe, Neb. 2020 Experience Focus: Economic and Community Development The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with alumni and …

Arapahoe Chamber of Commerce

President

Arapahoe, Neb.

2020 Experience

Focus: Economic and Community Development

The students will work on a variety of community and economic development projects. One goal is to connect local store fronts and homes with alumni and entrepreneurs. Students will also focus on a campaign to secure the passage of LB840 in the November election. Other projects will include building the new economic development organization through determining community and business needs, helping local businesses get an online presence, developing community marketing, and more.

Team:
Students: Aline Abayo, Megan Tofflemire
Peer: Kate Warner

Sponsored By: Arapahoe Economic Development, City of Arapahoe

Angie’s Nebraska Story

I was born in Benkelman, Nebraska, lived in Palisade, Nebraska and started school in Chappell, Nebraska. I moved to Arapahoe in the 2nd grade and have lived here ever since.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope we can create a recruitment program for Arapahoe Alumni to buy/take over/build businesses in our community.

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

It is always good to plan ahead in any business and from a new perspective as well.

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

It is important to get the ball rolling for future development and to get/be present in the minds of those that own and operate businesses now and for those who have aspirations of being business owners themselves.

Why is rural important?

Rural has a lot of agriculture, which feeds the urban, but it is also a way of life that is safe, secure, and appealing to young families. We are diverse, adaptable, and hard working.

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

I would like to implement a program that provides an avenue for our alum to move back to our communities and continue and/or build our businesses. Alumni are our target audience because they already have an investment in this community.

Bio

Katie Carrizales

May 12, 2020
Educational Service Unit 13 Behavioral/Mental Health Director Chadron, Neb. Graduate of University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Northern Colorado 2020 Experience Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion The student fellows will work to complete SHAPE …

Educational Service Unit 13

Behavioral/Mental Health Director

Chadron, Neb.

Graduate of University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Northern Colorado

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: Terri HaynesSandy 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

Katie’s Nebraska Story

My I was born in Torrington, Wyoming and have lived in the panhandle of Nebraska my entire childhood. I attended a small two-room school house, where my mother was my teacher, until sixth grade when I attended Morrill Public School in Morrill, Nebraska. I graduated from Morrill High School. My Husband and I met in high school and attended UNL for our undergraduate and UNC for our graduate school. After graduating from UNC we decided to move back to western Nebraska and both found job opportunities in Scottsbluff, NE. We are passionate about staying in the panhandle and working toward enhanced services for the residents of western NE.

What do you hope to gain?

I am excited for the opportunity to learn more about inclusive leadership.

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

The only way we grow as leaders is to engage in self-reflection. I believe to become more inclusive this will also be required and may serve as a catalyst for personal growth.

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

No response.

Why is rural important?

Rural provides such benefit such as a close-knit community feel, warm welcoming atmosphere and an amazing work ethic. We are also used to collaboration and welcome this opportunity as it is essential to the survival of most any organization in rural locations.

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

For many years we have been using technology to reduce travel and improve connections and collaboration due to the geographic layout of our service area. With COVID-19, we have been forced to now think of additional ways to utilize and enhance our use of technology for these purposes. Additionally, other more metropolis sites have become more accepting of using technology for these purposes. I feel this shift in thinking will serve as a launch pad for those of us in even rural areas to have more interaction with and collaboration with organizations around the state and perhaps even outside of state boundaries.

Bio

Chad Anderson

March 2, 2020
City of PierceCity AdministratorPierce, 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 …

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.

Bio

Kim Beger

March 2, 2020
Auburn Development CouncilVice PresidentAuburn, Neb. 2020 Experience Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option municipal economic …

Auburn Development Council
Vice President
Auburn, Neb.

2020 Experience

Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training

The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option municipal economic development act that authorizes incorporated cities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes. Additional projects will include entrepreneurship, coding camp and mobile STEM lab promotion, business recruitment and workforce training.

Team:
Students: Brittney EmersonEmma Hoffschneider
Peer: Julia Oestmann

Sponsored By: Auburn Development Council, Nemaha County Development Foundation Fund, Nemaha County Hospital

Kim’s Nebraska Story

I was born and raised in Auburn, Nebraska and moved away when I was 18 years old. I lived in Georgia, South Korea, Oklahoma, Hawaii and Denver before returning home six years later.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain the perspective and insight of college students coming into a community they do not know. When you live the day to day, you loose perspective of the good things and how to promote your community. You also start to overlook the things that need improved upon. ADC wants to know what we need to do to keep our youth in Auburn and how to attract those who have already left to come back home.

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

I think it is important for our community leaders to receive feedback from young people not familiar with our community. When you are in a small community you get used to the way things are. I think this is a great opportunity for Auburn leaders to interact with students as peers and not just as students. Bringing in a new and fresh way of thinking and asking questions will be very helpful in getting our leadership to open up to new ideas and approaches.

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

As with most small rural communities the resources are not available to have full time staff or multiple staff persons. ADC’s leadership is looking forward to working with the students. ADC is a volunteer board and the time available to them is limited to spend on big projects. We see this as an opportunity to make substantial progress on the ideas and plans we have to move our community forward.

Why is rural important?

Rural is important because there is a lot of talent and passion in our communities. There are many opportunities to be created in rural communities and when creating these opportunities it makes a significant difference to those who live in those communities. Rural is safe for your children to run care-free, neighbors look out for each other, education is high quality with more support for the students, it is a great place to raise a family and you get more personalized care at your medical facilities. In rural communities you get to be engaged and create the place you want to live. You can choose to be part of the solution and work together with your community leaders or be a community leader.

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

For years there has been an exodus from rural to urban. In our community we have been fortunate to see younger and middle aged people move back. There has been a well-kept secret about the valued lifestyle one can have in a rural community. I believe there is a transition happening where people are getting tired of the rat race and value family time more. With technology many people can work from home, if you have broadband, which gives families the best of family time and a job they love. Arts and tourism is one way to promote your community and bring in opportunities for new businesses and increased sales tax. Providing technology and work force training. Having a skilled population is paramount for attracting companies to employ people. Providing broadband so people have the opportunity to work from home and choose where they would like to live. You also have to have nice affordable housing or have housing incentives to rehabilitate the older homes. HGTV has spawned a lot of home renovations and creativity. Small communities have an opportunity to create or update their housing stock, which in return will create more tax revenue. I would also focus on entrepreneurship. Moving people from a hobby to a business would help create jobs and fill and empty building in the rural communities. Incentives could be explored to help with initial start up costs.

Bio

Kenneth Edwards

March 2, 2020
Table Rock Development CorporationVice PresidentTable 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 …

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!

Bio

Melissa Harrell

March 2, 2020
City of WahooCity Administrator/TreasurerWahoo, Neb. University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of ArchitectureUniversity 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 …

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.

Bio

Terri Haynes

March 2, 2020
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 …

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.

Bio

Amy Hunzeker

March 2, 2020
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 …

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.

Bio

Theresa Klein

March 2, 2020
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 …

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.

Bio

Gena McPherson

March 3, 2020
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 …
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.

Bio

Susan Norris

March 2, 2020
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. …

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.

Bio

Julia Oestmann

February 3, 2020
Content Strategist BCom Solutions Auburn, Neb. Graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism & Mass Communications Connect on LinkedIn 2020 Experience Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research …

Content Strategist

BCom Solutions

Auburn, Neb.

Graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism & Mass Communications

Connect on LinkedIn

2020 Experience

Focus: Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Training

The primary project will involve creating a great marketing and research effort with a strong community campaign to secure passage of LB840, the local option municipal economic development act that authorizes incorporated cities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes. Additional projects will include entrepreneurship, coding camp and mobile STEM lab promotion, business recruitment and workforce training.

Team:
Students: Brittney EmersonEmma Hoffschneider
Peer: Kim Beger

Sponsored By: Auburn Development Council, Nemaha County Development Foundation Fund, Nemaha County Hospital

Julia’s Nebraska Story

I have lived in Nebraska my whole life. I grew up a few miles outside of Johnson and graduated high school from Johnson-Brock. In 2014, I headed off to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, trading a town with about nine total streets for one with more than 400 stoplights! The marketing agency I work for is headquartered in the Lincoln Haymarket, but its unique rural ties allow me to split my time between the capital city and Auburn, Neb., which is great, because my heart will always live in Nemaha County!

What do you hope to gain?

I was a communications intern for the Rural Futures Institute in college. I would love to help foster the same growth and development I experienced being a part of the program.

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

The key to positive community growth is inclusion — of both people and diverse ideas. I think it’s important as a leader to foster that inclusion and make the best effort possible to help the community thrive.

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

It sounds cliché to say, but it truly is always great to get young people in the door to pour their time and ideas into a community. Even though rural communities are the heartbeat of Nebraska, they don’t usually receive that type of investment.

I also think it’s important for University of Nebraska students to experience the vibrance of rural Nebraska. Some of them may be familiar with what it’s like to live in a rural area, but for others it could be incredibly eye-opening.

In this age of technology, the opportunities for young people in rural America are real and truly endless, and it’s important that we make the time and commitment to cultivate those opportunities so that they don’t fall behind or shrivel up.

Why is rural important?

Perhaps I’m biased, but to me, rural is the backbone and the heart beat of the United States. It is home to the ag cycle that produces our food, and it is quickly becoming the hub for cleaner energy and renewable plastic solutions. That doesn’t mean that rural America is without its setbacks. It’s important that we develop and protect the opportunities and resources that exist in rural, while continuing to work toward solutions for issues such as access to health care and broadband. A thriving rural U.S. is in the best interest of everyone.

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

With the rapidly changing landscape of agriculture and job availability, the reality is that the population of many rural communities is both aging and shrinking. I believe that by capitalizing on changes in technology and seizing rural broadband opportunities, we can start to shift those trends. As the job market changes, more and more young people have the ability to work from anywhere — so why not work in the middle of everywhere? There are hundreds of reasons to choose rural — including, but not limited to, a lower cost of living, safe neighborhoods, clean air, vibrant community spirit and more.

Bio

Sandy Montague-Roes

March 3, 2020
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 …

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.

Bio

Amber Ross

February 3, 2020
Ravenna Economic Development Corporation Director Ravenna, Neb. Graduate in Agribusiness from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln 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 …

Ravenna Economic Development Corporation

Director

Ravenna, Neb.

Graduate in Agribusiness from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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
Innovators: Gena McPherson

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

Amber’s Nebraska Story

Nebraska born and raised! Grew up in Callaway, moved to Lincoln for college, spent some time in various communities for my internships, now I’ve moved to Ravenna! Moved in December of 2019 and started working in January 2020.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to increase my understanding of others. That will help me be a better leader and be more inclusive to those around me.

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

The world as a whole, but specifically Nebraska, is changing very quickly. The world is more connected now than it ever has been. Communities need to embrace that change. The training will help community leaders down that path.

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

The fact that the University of Nebraska through the Rural Futures Institute wants to connect with rural communities is awesome! Students always have such a fresh perspective on various challenges. Having them share their thoughts and ideas lead to such innovative projects and solutions.

Why is rural important?

Rural communities are the backbone of this nation. Things always start small; from concerts to organizations, banks to hotels. Things that start small can always become great. I believe the same for rural. Communities that are small can always become great.

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

As communities of all sizes are changing demographically rural communities will have the opportunity to entice people to move out of larger growing cities.

Bio


RFI Faculty Fellows

Gina Matkin
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Ferial Pearson
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Leadership Coaches

Tori Pierce is a graduate teaching assistant for the agricultural leadership, education and communication department at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL).

Tori graduated from UNL with a bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in leadership education.  She is now pursuing her Ph.D. in human sciences with a specialization in leadership and working as a leadership consultant and coach. Tori is trained in leadership coaching and the intercultural development inventory.

Blaise Lanoha is a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant for the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL).

Blaise graduated from UNL with a bachelor’s in psychology before completing his master’s in human relations at the University of Oklahoma. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in human sciences with a specialization in leadership. Outside of academia, he works independently as a leadership coach and nonprofit mentor. Blaise considers himself a lifelong learner and is trained in leadership coaching as well as the intercultural development inventory.

Feeling Inspired To Join Us?

RFI is currently accepting interest from communities for a 2021 experience!

2021 Experience Details