The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources has named Mary Emery as the inaugural director of Rural Prosperity Nebraska. She will begin her appointment Feb. 15.
Emery currently serves as a professor of psychology, sociology and rural studies at South Dakota State University, where her primary scholarship and research interests include community and economic development; community change; program planning; and diversity, inclusion and equity in higher education. She was selected to lead Rural Prosperity Nebraska through a national search and was one of three finalists who interviewed on campus earlier this fall. In addition, Emery will serve as a professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication.
“We are very excited to have Dr. Emery join us,” said Mark Balschweid, head of ALEC and chair of the search advisory committee. “The caliber of the candidates who applied for this position was astounding, and yet Mary stood out among her peers in her capacity to understand the challenges rural communities face and how to help those communities turn their struggles into opportunities for growth.”
Before joining South Dakota State in 2011, Emery worked as a faculty chair for the GPIDEA Interdisciplinary Master’s Degree program in community development, associate director for the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State University, and senior associate for the Heartland Center for Leadership Development in Lincoln. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science and doctoral degree in sociology from Rutgers University.
“The success of both our state and our university is closely tied to the strength and vitality of Nebraska’s rural communities,” said Mike Boehm, NU Vice President and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I am thrilled that Dr. Emery, an experienced scholar with a nuanced understanding of many of the issues rural communities face, will lead Rural Prosperity Nebraska.
Launched in 2020, Rural Prosperity Nebraska combines the scholarship of University of Nebraska professors and researchers with the on-the-ground expertise of extension educators to strengthen activity and quality of life in Nebraska’s rural communities. In his five-year strategic plan announced in 2020, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter named rural community vitality as one of five areas in which NU will focus its efforts to cultivate partnerships and grow its impact.
The university is not alone in focusing on rural prosperity. By working with community leaders on community-identified projects, Rural Prosperity Nebraska sees collaboration as the driving force behind its recent successes in an array of fields. Communities such as Plainview have revitalized their downtowns. More than 268 new Latino-owned businesses have opened across the state. Legislative Bill 396, the Nebraska Farm-to-School Program Act, was passed. The Rural Fellowship program has organized immersive internships for students to live and work in rural communities. These and other successes emerge when Rural Prosperity Nebraska educators and local leaders team up to help communities strengthen their culture and achieve their own version of prosperity.
The search for a Rural Prosperity Nebraska program leader is still underway. While the director and program leader will work closely together, the latter will be stationed at the West Central Research, Extension and Education Center in North Platte. To view the application information, click here.
For more information on Rural Prosperity Nebraska, click here.