Rural Futures Institute Awards Grants, Begins Search for Director

East Campus pillars at enterance

March 28, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. — College students will go into rural communities to help with leadership and entrepreneurship projects and mentor troubled juveniles in youth rehab centers and faculty will help communities convince University of Nebraska graduates to return to their communities to work and live.

Those are some of the 11 projects funded in the first round of Rural Futures Institute grants for research, teaching and engagement. More than $750,000 in grants were awarded.

RFI also is in the midst of searching for its first permanent director and planning its second Rural Futures Conference, set for Nov. 3-5 in Lincoln.

Mark Gustafson, interim director of RFI, said, "The first Rural Futures Conference last year really helped set the agenda for the institute, and we expect the hiring of a director, the awarding of these grants and our second conference in the fall to really move us forward."

What's key about RFI, Gustafson said, is that it involves all four NU campuses – faculty and students – working with community leaders to help strengthen rural Nebraska.

"We've asked faculty to come up with creative new opportunities to engaging with rural communities," Gustafson said. While the grants are awarded to NU faculty, he emphasized that RFI wants communities and nonprofit organizations with bold, creative ideas to bring those forward to the institute.


Grant recipients in the research and engagement category:

– Communities Creating Their Own Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Communities Activation Process, Anita Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Goals are to attract and retain working age people and create entrepreneurial environments that help revitalize communities. This project will test the model in eight communities.

– Community Marketing: Taking a New Look at Rural Communities in the Great Plains, Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Research will determine whether confidence, capacity-building and behavior toward marketing communities can be increased through study circles and community wide conversations.

– Entrepreneurship Based Economic Development, Robert Bernier, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Nebraska Business Development Center, College of Business Administration. This project will pilot an entrepreneurship incubator tested model with communities to identify actions communities can take to increase entrepreneurship.

– Rural Sourcing, Shawn Kaskie, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Center for Rural Research and Development. "Rural sourcing" relates to existing and start-up companies strategically locating in rural areas to reduce labor costs and increase employee reliability. This project will build on a successful "cross-sourcing" model to recruit NU alumni back to rural Nebraska in targeted professional service occupations.

– Using Crowdsourcing for Leadership Development in Rural Communities, Roni Reiter-Palmon, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Psychology. This project will design and implement a virtual (crowdlearning) case-based leadership development program for rural Nebraska civic and business leaders.


Grant recipients in the teaching and engagement category:

– Ecotourism and Agritourism Development in Nebraska, Lisa Pennisi, University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources. Teaching ecotourism with a strong service-learning and community engagement component. Students will apply ecotourism principles and develop entrepreneurial, community planning, capacity building and tourism marketing skills while engaging stakeholders in rural communities.

– Engaging Nebraska, Impacting Communities, Transforming Students, Jeff Day, University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture. This grant will develop transformational curricula with civic engagement by establishing a robust service-learning program in the College of Architecture. Transform 12 existing courses and develop new courses and programs that engage students in projects across the state.

– Juvenile Re-entry to Nebraska's Rural Communities, Anne Hobbs, University of Nebraska at Omaha's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Matches college student mentors from rural towns with youth committed to the Youth Rehabilitation Centers. Mentors will work with youth on educational, employment, social skills and other goals.

– Rural Community Serviceship Program, Tom Field, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, the Nebraska Human Resources Institute, UNL Student Involvement and the Heartland Center for Leadership Development. Recruit student participants interested in leadership development and entrepreneurship. Students will be placed in rural communities in teams of at least two; they will assist communities with a project specified by community leaders.

– The Rural Public Health Undergraduate Student Research Project, Patrik Johansson, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, Rural Health Education Network. Supports faculty-led undergraduate student public health research projects at Nebraska's three state colleges and UNK as a way to introduce undergraduate students to public health.

– Students Engaged in Economic Development of Rural Areas, UNK Department of Mathematics, Kaye Sorensen, and UNK Department of Biology, Marc Albrecht. Engage UNK students in creation and assembly of rural economic development ideas – both their own and those of members of the communities. The most promising ideas will be presented to RFI.

Sixty-seven research and engagement pre-proposals and 33 teaching and engagement proposals were submitted.

The institute was established to build partnerships between the university and rural communities in an effort to help rural areas be resilient, sustainable and innovative.

Mark Gustafson, Ph.D.
Interim Director
Rural Futures Institute

Dan Moser
IANR News Service

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