Our Team/

Samantha Guenther

January 21, 2020
Graduate Assistant
Sam serves as a graduate assistant for Rural Futures Institute and the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She works as a catalyst within RFI Fellows, primarily students. She also works closely with the …

Sam serves as a graduate assistant for Rural Futures Institute and the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She works as a catalyst within RFI Fellows, primarily students. She also works closely with the inclusive leadership research efforts.

Sam previously served RFI as a serviceship student in Norfolk, Nebraska, during the summer of 2018, and served as the senior fellow for RFI during the 2019 experience.

Sam holds a bachelor’s of science in agricultural leadership education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since graduation, she has moved to Arapahoe, Neb., while continuing to work with Rural Futures Institute and pursue a master’s degree in leadership education at UNL.

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Brooke Manny

January 21, 2020
Graduate Assistant
Brooke Manny is a graduate research and teaching assistant for the Rural Futures Institute and the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She works closely with RFI Fellows and leadership research. She is a student …

Brooke Manny is a graduate research and teaching assistant for the Rural Futures Institute and the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She works closely with RFI Fellows and leadership research. She is a student in UNL’s M.S. Leadership Education program.

Brooke is a recent graduate from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan, where she earned her bachlor of arts in history and leadership studies.

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Helen Fagan, Ph.D.

June 28, 2018
Director of Leadership Engagement
Dr. Fagan is a leadership and diversity scholar and consultant. She is the CEO and founder of Global Leadership Group, an assistant professor of practice in leadership engagement at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a qualified executive coach. Helen holds her …

Dr. Fagan is a leadership and diversity scholar and consultant. She is the CEO and founder of Global Leadership Group, an assistant professor of practice in leadership engagement at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a qualified executive coach.

Helen holds her doctorate in human sciences with emphasis in leadership. She studied international economics and British political economy at Oxford University during the formation of the European Union. Helen is a certified diversity trainer, a qualified administrator of the intercultural development inventory and a certified emotional intelligence and diversity trainer.

For the last four years she has also served as a faculty with the Qatar Institute for Intercultural Communication, providing workshops for faculty, staff and graduate students working at six U.S. universities in Education City in Qatar.

Dr. Fagan’s expertise in developing inclusive leaders, organizations and communities has enabled her to speak in multiple nations and four continents. Dr. Fagan’s passion is to develop leaders who create better tomorrows.

In 2000, she became the first coordinator of diversity and cultural competence initiatives at Bryan Health during which time the initiative gained national recognition. During that time, she played a key role in the recruitment and resettlement of nurses from the Philippines and worked diligently to address employment and healthcare needs of refugees and immigrants. Because of her dedication, she has received multiple awards including a key to the city of Lincoln.

Dr .Fagan’s Website Dr. Fagan’s CV
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Kim Peterson

November 17, 2017
Director of Competitive Awards & Finance
Kim Peterson grew up on a family farm in Fillmore County, Neb., and currently resides on the family farm near Grafton. She is a former Nebraska LEAD member. Kim attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and graduated with a degree …

Kim Peterson grew up on a family farm in Fillmore County, Neb., and currently resides on the family farm near Grafton. She is a former Nebraska LEAD member. Kim attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and graduated with a degree in animal science. Upon graduation, Kim served as Communications Director for the Nebraska Stock Growers Association in Alliance. After five years, she returned to the family farm in Fillmore County and stayed at home for a few years to raise her four sons.

In 1992, she accepted the position of Communications Coordinator with the University of Nebraska at the South Central Research and Extension Center. She was employed there until the center closed in 2003. Kim then transferred to UNL where she served as Coordinator and Outreach Program Specialist for the Nebraska Rural Initiative.

With the Rural Futures Institute Kim serves as Director of Competitive Awards and Finance. More recently, Kim has taken classes to complete a graduate degree in Marketing, Communications and Advertising.

Kim is married and she and her husband, Stan, have four sons, all whom live in rural Nebraska. The family has grown with the addition of three daughter-in-laws and eight grandchildren. Kim enjoys crafts, quilting, and most importantly, spending time with family and living the great life in rural Nebraska.

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Katelyn Ideus

November 17, 2017
Director of Communications & PR
Katelyn Ideus serves as the Director of Communications & Public Relations at the Rural Futures Insitute and the National Strategic Research Institute, both at the University of Nebraska. She develops the strategic communications plan for the Institutes, producing, stimulating and …

Katelyn Ideus serves as the Director of Communications & Public Relations at the Rural Futures Insitute and the National Strategic Research Institute, both at the University of Nebraska. She develops the strategic communications plan for the Institutes, producing, stimulating and delivering stories about the successes earned, innovations created and solutions found.

Katelyn previously supported the University of Nebraska’s online education initiatives for five years, specifically the University of Nebraska High School, which works with schools and students around the world. Prior to that, she worked in internal communications at Nelnet, Inc. She also served as communications specialist for a children’s hospital in downtown St. Louis, working with St. Louis University faculty physicians to support rural community hospitals throughout Missouri and Illinois.

She holds a masters degree in integrated media communications and bachelors degree in news editorial and broadcast journalism, both from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism & Mass Communications.

Katelyn lives with her husband and three children near Adams, Neb., where they are part of the Ideus Family Farms operation. Katelyn’s husband, Tyler, is a specialist of physical medicine at Lincoln Performance & Sports Medicine in Lincoln, Neb., and he travels the world teaching. Listen to his Rural Futures Podcast episode that Katelyn produced!

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Mark Balschweid, Ph.D.

November 16, 2017
Interim Executive Director
Mark Balschweid, Ph.D., joined the Rural Futures Institute as Interim Executive Director on July 1, 2019. He is Professor and Head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication. His Ph.D. is in Agricultural Education from Oregon State University. …

Mark Balschweid, Ph.D., joined the Rural Futures Institute as Interim Executive Director on July 1, 2019. He is Professor and Head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication. His Ph.D. is in Agricultural Education from Oregon State University. As a former high school agricultural science teacher, Dr. Balschweid developed his research interests by highlighting the intersection of science and agriculture in the secondary classroom as a way to enhance student interest in science and increase student knowledge of life sciences. Dr. Balschweid spent 10 years teaching and conducting research in teacher preparation for agricultural sciences at Purdue University prior to moving to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Dr. Balschweid has worked extensively in evaluating international programs in agricultural and extension education. He received a Fulbright Fellowship and spent a year teaching and conducting research at Jamaica’s College of Agriculture, Science, and Education. He authored Jamaica’s first Bachelor of Sciences Degree in Agricultural Education and continues to consult in Jamaica and the Middle East.

He is interested in providing students with international experiences that shape their worldview.

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