Amber Ross

RFI Community Innovation Fellow – Custer County, Neb.
Custer Economic Development
Workforce Intern

Why did you choose this experience?

I’ve been involved with this RFI Serviceship Experience for three consecutive years in varying capacities. In each experience, these students have created an invaluable piece of work that’s benefited our organization and community in both direct and indirect ways. This program is always an obvious choice for us.

What do you hope to gain?

Progress. Our communities have people constantly working on developing this County as a whole and we get in the trenches often. These students bring a different way of thinking and enough autonomy that we create meaningful and measurable progress.

What value will this bring to your community?

It’s always a win to get young people, especially those with rural backgrounds and an understanding of community, to work with us. The tangible value will be in the progress and completion of our outlined projects. The intangible is the connections with our business and community leaders – the growth of the network and collaboration with high-achieving students with a different worldview and persisting desire to help.

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

We are always striving to build something that people want to be a part of. The best way to accommodate those people is to hear and see their needs – we can’t define them from afar. That’s what these students bring.

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

To my knowledge, there’s approximately one avenue for communities to have a brokered relationship with students at the University. Unless we’ve develop our own individual way with our limited resources, these students don’t have rural Nebraska top of mind. RFI accomplishes this beautifully.

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

If not now then when? We live in the information age. People have access to anything whenever they want it. Rural America can be competitive if we show up and do the work and remember to tell people about it. There is uniqueness baked into every small town and it’s our responsibility to showcase it and exploit it to create an experience people want to move to and be immersed in.

Dr. Reimers-Hild To Leave RFI 6/30 To Pursue Her Desired Future

Connie Reimers-Hild, Associate Executive Director & Chief Furturist, Rural Futures Institute

To My Colleagues, My Friends Pursuing A Thriving Rural Future:

What future do you want to create?

This is the question the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska has been asking individuals, businesses and communities during my four years as Chief Futurist. Most recently, the Institute had to ask itself this question when faced with a budget cut and reorganization process. The road has not been easy; however, the small RFI team and its partners have risen through the transition to accomplish several incredible wins.

  • Recognition of the RFI Nexus as a way to co-create the future with rural people and places. We intentionally and openly use the nexus to partner with students, faculty and communities — of both place and practice  — to co-create the future. RFI has been invited to share this model with several universities focused on strategically strengthening their rural engagement efforts. It is an honor to be part of the team that has created a successful engagement model being recognized and adopted by other organizations.
  • Evolution of the RFI Student Serviceship program into the prestigious and transformational RFI Fellows model focused on inclusive leadership with the guidance and expertise of Dr. Helen Fagan as well as communications and branding under Katelyn Ideus.
  • A bold communications and brand strategy for the Institute, particularly the evolved Fellows model, under the leadership of Katelyn Ideus. Students, faculty and partners continue to come to the Rural Futures Institute for this expertise.
  • Collaboration with leaders is a cornerstone of success for RFI. Theresa Klein, RFI’s engagement lead, has been working with four communities to launch the 2019 Fellows pilot kicking off May 13, 2019. Our goal is to develop long-term relationships with community leaders and students, so we can better understand the needs and opportunities of our rural communities and leaders as well as future generations.
  • New records and milestones with faculty, students and communities who have elevated 50+ projects funded through RFI Competitive Awards, administered by Kim Peterson. For example, researchers at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center used a Competitive Award from RFI to strengthen their Building Healthy Families program. The team recently received a $2.5 million grant from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to reduce obesity in rural communities with a program they developed. Their award is one of the largest in the University’s history. It is also the largest research award in UNK’s history. This is only one of many Competitive Awards that supported innovative impacts for faculty, students ands communities.
  • Launch of the Nebraska Thriving Index, which is a tool designed to fill the gap in economic and quality of life data comparisons for rural regions. Partners creating this valuable index will provide practical tools for economic developers, local, elected and appointed officials, community leaders and others interested in economic and quality of life indicators in decision making and reporting.
  • Release of three seasons of the Rural Futures Podcast, which has established RFI as an expert in opportunities, trends and innovation in rural areas. Guests have included prolific researchers, international futurists, successful rural entrepreneurs and NU’s very own incredible students. Requests continue to come in to appear on the show from top government officials and leaders from all around the world.
  • Founding partner of the University of Nebraska SourceLink Resource Navigator, a tool designed to make finding entrepreneurship and business resources in Nebraska more seamless, thanks to Shawn Kaskie. Shawn serves both RFI and Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Initiative.
  • Connection of partners throughout Nebraska and the University with corporations like Microsoft and Apple and countries such as Japan and Australia all focused on serving and elevating rural communities.
  • Nebraska Extension’s adoption of RFI’s previous serviceship model for the University’s flood recovery efforts throughout the state this summer. Serviceship was originally created through a partnership with faculty members from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln through RFI Competitive Awards.

Working with the RFI team, including many incredible students, has been both an honor and a privilege. I am amazed by the dedication of this team, especially when faced with prolonged adversity. Our University and our state is fortunate to have such committed people working for a thriving rural future.

In my 25 years at the University of Nebraska, I have seen the amazing transformation of students, colleagues, leaders, businesses and communities. The privilege of doing this work has resulted in the opportunity to teach more than 25,000 learners, coach hundreds of high-level leaders and deliver countless keynotes and workshops. I’ve authored or co-authored 55 publications, 10 workbooks, four books and one book chapter as well as created and hosted an internationally recognized podcast. These resources have been utilized by tens of thousands of people, many of whom I have never met, in more than 175 countries in what now is global classroom. It is my hope that I have helped, in some small way, transform the future for colleagues, friends, stakeholders and learners —  not only through the scholarship that has resulted from my work — but from the connections and transformations that people have chosen to create for themselves. I am so excited to see what the next 25 years brings!

Now, it is my turn to transform.

RFI boldly believes we have the capacity to shape our own futures, and so do I. It is time for me to focus on cultivating my desired future by growing Wild Innovation, a strategic foresight and coaching firm I founded to help leaders better understand the future and strengthen their capacity to shape it. My executive leadership experience at RFI has provided me with the knowledge and tools needed to expand my business offerings into the future of work with a focus on leadership that truly fosters gender equity and female empowerment. I am excited to continue my personal mission focused on helping people achieve their desired futures.

This decision has not been easy. My family has enjoyed living in rural Nebraska for several generations, and we plan on making this a home for future generations to enjoy. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister and aunt raising children and enjoying relatives who live throughout our great state, I care deeply about both the present and future of Nebraska.  

Nebraska can be the place of choice for people, businesses and families well into the future. It is an abundant state with amazing people and rich resources. Thanks to all who have been part of my life and career. I look forward to continuing great work, partnerships and collaborations in Nebraska and beyond!

Here’s to the future,

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

May 1, 2019

Episode 30

Wow! What a pleasure to host Janet Palmtag, this week’s episode 30 season 3 finale podcast guest at our intern appreciation luncheon today!

Janet — your discussion of taking risks, taking action and taking charge left us all inspired! Thank you!

Janet is an entrepreneur, community leader and University of Nebraska President Council stakeholder. .
Listen where you get your podcasts!

May 1, 2019

We couldn’t be more proud to know these young women! The voices behind the voices of the Rural Futures Podcast and the social media handles of the Rural Futures Institute.

Thank you @storytellerkaty and @kaitvanloon for all of your energy, insights, expertise and passion. You will be missed but we can’t wait to see where you go!

May 2, 2019

Episode 30

In Janet Palmtag’s mind– empowering others is what it’s going to take to be a successful leader in the future, and it’s an important skill to have present day too👏

In Episode 30 of the Rural Futures Podcast, Janet and Dr. Connie discuss what it takes to be an including leader, the importance of being a good listener, being an entrepreneur as a woman, volunteerism and much more🙌

May 1, 2019

Episode 30 Bold Voice

“Rural needs to be funded and championed, and we need to be here to tell all the stories of the people and opportunities within it,” says University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduating senior Katy Bagniewski during the Bold Voices student segment of the Season 3 Finale.

Katy, who is a Rochester, Minn., native majoring in agricultural and environmental sciences communication in UNL’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, digs deep into the impact her RFI internship and NU experience had on her as an undergrad.

April 30, 2019

Episode 30

That’s right it’s our LAST podcast episode of Season 3👊 Episode 30 guest is rural maverick Janet Palmtag.

Janet is a true leader and an entrepreneur 🌟She’s been a volunteer throughout her community for several years, so she tells it like it is when it comes to leadership from a company and community perspective💚

April 29, 2019

Nebraska Thriving Index

It’s finals week for University of Nebraska 💥 and in the last month there have been so many exciting leadership opportunities for students! One of those opportunities was a research fair on Lincoln’s campus.

Three Bureau for Business Research Scholars at Nebraska College of Business have been working on a team led by Eric Thompson to develop the Nebraska Thriving Index 💪The single presenter is graduating senior Tim Paschal who looked at Statistical Matching for Benchmarking Analysis⚡️

The two presenters are Tommie Brechbill and Jordan Duffin Wong. Tommie is a graduating senior and Jordan will continue working next year on the Thriving Index project 👏 Their research titled “Examining Effects of Quality-of-Life Amenities on Population, Employment, and Income Growth” informed the creation of the Nebraska Thriving Index 💫