Rural Fellows

Rural Fellows is a unique program designed to connect college students to rural Nebraska communities to give hands-on working experience to students while promoting meaningful change for the communities that make Nebraska so strong.

Each summer since 2013, college students from Nebraska and beyond have spent their summers living and working in rural communities across Nebraska and the Midwest. These students, known as Rural Fellows, complete projects focused on supporting communities make progress toward strategic and specific goals that help the community thrive.

Rural Fellows commonly focus on creating impact in:

  • Community, workforce and economic development
  • Business development
  • Early childhood education
  • Community marketing and communications
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Mental health services
  • Inclusive leadership development
  • and more!



Rural Prosperity Nebraska selects communities via an application and interview process. Communities must identify a team to build out projects, and identify funding to support projects, housing for the 10-week period, and the fellows’ stipends (approximately $12,000; $5,000 per student pair and $2,000 for housing).   

We have completed the selection process for 2021. You are welcome to fill out the application or contact a team member about participating in Rural Fellows 2021. 

Online Application

Pdf Application

Kim Beger

Kim Beger
2020 Community Innovation Fellow

"Having the opportunity to participate in the Fellows Program was very rewarding for me and the community. The value these students bring to the community lasts much longer than one summer. Through the inclusive leadership training, which every organization and workplace should be required to have, I was able to shift my perspective and view our community through the students' eyes and experiences. I would encourage every community to sponsor student fellows."

Student Fellows

Rural Prosperity Nebraska selects student fellows via a competitive application and interview process. Students have the opportunity to earn $5000 through a 10-week (400 hour) hands-on work experience in a placement community. Applicants may be enrolled in any college, study any major, and are required to have a minimum GPA of 2.5/4.0. Pairs of fellows live in their new community to work on community-defined projects and serve their host communities for 10 weeks during summer. 

We have completed the selection process for 2021. You are welcome to fill out the application or contact a team member about participating in Rural Fellows 2021. 

Apply Now

magan tofflemire

Megan Tofflemire
2020 Arapahoe Student Fellow

"This program offered me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and expand my individual abilities, without losing sight of where I came from. I chose this program because I feel that the leadership, staff, and immersive experience are unlike any other internship program I have seen."

Through their projects, Rural Fellows help communities solve problems and address important issues. Their work pays off – recent economic impact analysis indicates that, on average, participating communities realize an economic impact of $28,000 by participating in the program-- while both student and community fellows gain valuable work experience, Inclusive Community Leadership development, build connections with communities and the people who live there, and see first-hand all that rural life has to offer.

To better prepare students and communities for the Rural Fellows program experience, all selected student and community fellows receive a three-week interactive and transformational inclusive leadership, team and community development training hosted by diversity and inclusion researcher and consultant, Dr. Helen Fagan, and her team. Additionally, all fellows receive individualized coaching by qualified coaches throughout the summer.

Students and communities are supported through this experience by guidance and a community visit from RPN staff, as well as numerous connections to experts across the NU system. Rural Fellows is partnered with a team of researchers who strive to conduct and develop research in a rural Nebraska community context to better guide how communities plan to grow and develop.

By working closely with research faculty from across the NU system, students connect the university’s intellectual capital with communities in every corner of the state.

the impact of rural fellows

Our fellows make a difference in their communities.

In 2019, participating communities saw an average economic impact of $28,000. Click the reports below to learn more:

Want to know more?

View the videos below to hear from 2020 rural fellows about their projects and their impact.
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does the timeline look like for this process?

  • Starting Sept. 1, 2020: Student and Community Recruitment
  • Oct. 2020 - Mar. 2021: Interviews and Selection of Participants
  • May 10-24, 2021: Pre-Academy Training - This is a virtual asynchronous training created with 8-10 hours of self-paced content to prepare everyone for this experience. It is typically held over a two-week period in May.
  • May 25-27, 2021: Academy Training - This is 2.5 days of team bonding and activities to prepare teams for their time in the communities. This is typically held in late May or early June.
  • May 31 - August 6, 2021: Experience - This is approximately 10 weeks of living and working in a placement rural community. This is typically June through early August. 
  • August 6, 2021: Final Poster Presentations - This is a 1-2 hour ceremony where we recognize and celebrate our participants' accomplishments. 

Q: Can you give me examples of some previous projects?

Communities offer a variety of different projects each year. Some examples include researching LB840 and developing an implementation plan, establishing a community marketing and social media presence, developing a website to share mental health resources, or analyzing a community’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities to develop an action plan and begin working on it. Oftentimes, communities also add smaller projects to keep students busy such as organizing events, gaining community support on upcoming projects, or designing and enacting a community beautification plan. You can hear more about previous projects through the videos above.

Q: Can you explain how you match students to communities?

The primary basis for matching students to communities depends on the project(s) that the community is trying to accomplish. Projects require certain skills, abilities and interests so we find students who would be able to successfully accomplish that work. Additionally, we work to match student pairs and community leaders that we believe would work together well based on their leadership styles and work preferences. The information guiding this matching comes from the applications and interviews with both students and communities.

Q:Is housing provided for students within the placement communities? What does that housing look like? How do communities find that housing?

We ask the communities to provide housing for the students. The type of housing depends on what the community has available. In previous years, communities have identified apartments, rental houses, homestays, hotels, or local college dorms.

Q: Are students on their own for meals?

Yes, students are responsible for providing their own meals.

Q: What is the typical dress code for this experience?

Dress code depends on the workplace expectations in each community. It is common for students to wear business casual and occasionally wear business professional for formal presentations or events.

Q: What if I have a planned family obligation this summer?

In the past, students and community leaders have been able to take time off the program for vacation or other short term obligations. Students will need to request for this time off from their community supervisor.

Q: Do students have the opportunity to earn course credit through this experience?

Yes, there are a couple ways to do so. Students can enroll in ALEC 422: Facilitation and Project Planning for either the winter or summer sessions to partake in a course related to this experience. Please email Helen Fagan for information on how to enroll. Her email is at the bottom of this page. Students can also earn internship/capstone credit through their department.

Our People


helen fagan

Dr. Helen Fagan
program coordinator

brooke wells

Brooke Wells
research lead

samantha guenther

Samantha Guenther
program lead

kim peterson

Jordan Rasmussen
community lead

Faculty Fellows

gina matkin

Dr. Gina Matkin
Faculty Fellow

ferial pearson

Dr. Ferial Pearson
Faculty Fellow