Catch Up With Chuck Episode 12 Diversity in Rural Communities with RFI Fellow Athena Ramos, Ph.D.


Feb. 1, 2018

Joining Chuck in this week’s episode of Catch Up With Chuck is RFI Faculty Fellow Athena Ramos, Ph.D. of the UNMC College of Public Health Center for Reducing Health Disparities, whose work focuses on health and wellness factors of immigrant populations, often in rural settings, but not exclusively.

Ramos served as the principle investigator on two RFI-funded research projects in 2016 and 2017. The first project, “Understanding Hispanics and Sense of Community”, was conducted in two Nebraska counties to better understand the assets and challenges associated with being Hispanic in rural Nebraska. This project explored immigrants’ sense of community, life satisfaction and types of participation in community life.

The second project, “Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities”, used appreciative inquiry to interview community leaders about creating welcoming communities and worked with partners to develop powerful narratives, provide access to resources and disseminate best practices.

Between 2010 and 2015, there was tremendous growth of the Latino population in the United States. Nebraska alone gained 18,863 new Hispanic residents in that timeframe. Both projects focus on how to better integrate and engage these immigrant newcomers in community life.

Bringing people together despite their differences is important to Ramos. She believes in the power of community and the importance of engaging community partners in her research. The “Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities” research project has partnered with Heartland Workers Center, Comite Latino de Schuyler, Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Nebraska Power District. RFI also believes that communities are not just localities, but also networked groups of individuals working together toward a common goal and shared purpose.

Disseminating the findings of her research in creative and effective ways is also important to Ramos. Besides writing a journal paper, her team also wrote a community report and one page fact sheets in both English and Spanish. She believes in helping the community understand the project and its results, as well as with being transparent and sharing data with her partners from the research projects.


“The end goal for me and most researchers who are involved at the University is we want our research to be meaningful, to be relevant, and to be useful … I really believe that I can make a difference, so that is what I really try to do.”

-Athena Ramos, Ph.D.


Ramos was chosen as an RFI Faculty Fellow because of her understanding of the relationships between the University and the community. She knows how the University can resonate and should create impact with rural communities throughout the state.


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