Rural Futures Institute launches faculty, community fellows program |

Rural Futures Institute launches faculty, community fellows program

LINCOLN, Neb. – Innovation is most likely to occur where disciplines intersect and when a diverse and inclusive group of stakeholders is working hard on an issue or opportunity. The Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska has employed this fundamental principle to launch a distinctive fellows program dedicated to research, teaching and application with and in rural communities in Nebraska and beyond.

Fifteen faculty researchers from the University of Nebraska and other institutions as well as 10 community practitioners from across Nebraska have assembled to think strategically about opportunities in rural business, health care, education, technology and more.

“Rural communities and their leaders face a complex, interwoven universe of factors that cannot be neatly split apart for observation and lone actions,” said RFI Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. “RFI Fellows already understand this and have been working diligently throughout their careers to create solutions and opportunities for rural people and places.

“By bringing various disciplines of researchers together with community leaders in this purposeful way, we not only intend to help rural residents thrive, but to also give rural America a significant and consistent voice, and position it as vital to the future of our country.”

Through their work, RFI Fellows will connect with partners from across the University of Nebraska system, scholars from other academic institutions and experts in the public and private sectors to strengthen their capacity for research and application. They will foster student experiences in concert with communities, strengthening the community-by-community presence of RFI throughout Nebraska, the Great Plains and the world.


RFI Faculty Fellows are professors and researchers who have contributed significantly to rural communities and people through research, teaching and outreach and intend to continue to strengthen the statewide, national and international knowledge resource of rural.

Todd Bartee, Professor, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kinesiology and Sports Sciences

Robert Blair, Professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Public Administration, Public Affairs, and Community Service

Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, Extension Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Panhandle Research and Extension Center

Randy Cantrell, Rural Sociologist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Jim Cavaye, Professor, Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Queensland, Australia

Bree Dority, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Economics

Gregory Karst, Executive Associate Dean, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Allied Health Professionals

Peter Longo, Professor, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Political Science

Bradley Lubben, Extension Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Agricultural Economics

Athena Ramos, Community Health Program Manager/Instructor, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health,

Center for Reducing Health Disparities

Kyle Ryan, Associate Professor, Peru State College, Exercise Science

Jessica Shoemaker, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law

Eric Thompson, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Business Administration, Economics

Kim Wilson, Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Architecture

Amanda Witte, Project Manager, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools


RFI Community Innovation Fellows are community leaders, alumni and professionals from both the private and non-profit sectors working to advance rural people and places. This group represents rural places that have creatively partnered with RFI to inform outreach and programming efforts while connecting research and resources directly to communities and leaders. They are innovators in their industries and the communities they represent.

Tiffany Crouse, Director, Hastings Downtown Center Association, Hastings, Neb.

Marty Fattig, CEO, Nemaha County Hospital, Auburn, Neb.

Melissa Garcia, Community Affairs Manager, Black Hills Energy, Broken Bow, Neb.

Rachel Herpel, Assistant Director, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.

Don Macke, Co-Founder, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Lincoln, Neb.

Greg Ptacek, Director, Economic Development, City of Neligh, Neligh, Neb.

Reshell Ray, Assistant Director of Student Involvement, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Neb.

Robert Stowell, J.D., Stowell & Geweke, P.C., L.L.O., Ord, Neb.

Milan Wall, Co-Director, Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Lincoln, Neb.

Jeff Yost, President and CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation, Lincoln, Neb.

Extended details and video introductions of each of the fellows are available at

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