Community Conversations with Jordan Rasmussen

Community Conversations with Jordan Rasmussen
November 15, 2022

As you look across your rural town, are there community development opportunities and projects that go untouched? Are there areas where the community could use a fresh perspective? What if you harnessed the energy, talent, and knowledge of college students for a summer to help your town move these opportunities forward?

The Rural Fellows program places college students in rural communities across the state, as part of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. During this seven-week summer fellowship, students learn from and work alongside local leaders on community-identified priority projects—anything from planning for childcare development to community marketing. Each of the student pairs placed in a community arrive with the knowledge they have gained in the classroom and a boundless energy for what could be. The students are also able to tap back into University and Extension faculty for information and resources.

During the summer of 2022, Rural Fellows lived and worked in Stanton and Wakefield, and 14 other locations and communities of practice across Nebraska. In Wakefield, local leaders mentored and collaborated with the student pair to create a hybrid wellness center at the Farmers Market and conduct a needs assessment exploring the possibility of a local grocery store. The Rural Fellows located in Stanton assisted with the development of community branding and enhanced the community’s social media presence to aid in the recruitment of residents and businesses. The students and community leaders in Wakefield and Stanton made progress toward strategic and specific goals to help these communities thrive into the future.

Community leaders working alongside the student Fellows also grow in their capacities during the summer experience. As part of the program local leaders participate in an interactive and transformational training that focuses on leadership, team building, and community development. The skills and capacities local leaders gain through the Rural Fellows experience remain in the community and foster the further growth and development of the town and those that call it home.

The community application for the Rural Fellows program is open now through December 30. Community grants are available to support student salary and housing costs. For more information or to apply to be a Rural Fellows community, please visit the Rural Fellows website.