UNK students award Rural Futures Institute grants to new businesses

By SARA GIBONEY
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney students took classroom lessons to rural communities and helped two new businesses prosper by recently awarding them $2,500 grants.

The Students Engaged in Economic Development of Rural Areas project aimed to engage undergraduate students in economic development in rural communities.

Mathematics and statistics senior lecturer Kaye Sorensen and biology associate professor Marc Albrecht developed the project with the help of a teaching and engagement grant from the Rural Futures Institute. The grants must go to projects that demonstrate collaboration across campuses, departments and disciplines while also including external stakeholders.

“We wanted to engage the students in our classes with some real life math, biology, rural and agricultural experience to give some real life relevancy to their studies,” Sorensen said.

Students from Sorensen’s Finite Mathematics class and Albrecht’s Biological Statistics class contacted stakeholders from their rural hometowns who were looking for business ideas. Students also researched community assets and needs, and the feasibility of prospective businesses.

UNK students came up with 15 business proposals and narrowed them to a pair of winners.

Misty Stinson, owner of Alliance Health in Alliance, and Christie Urwiller, owner of Christie’s Kitchen in Ravenna, received the $2,500 grants during November’s 2013 Rural Futures Conference in Lincoln.

“They both have unique concepts,” Sorensen said of why the businesses were chosen. “They’re working with reused items, they’re bringing in local produce, local materials and working with what they have to create a viable business.”

Shawn Kaskie, director of the Center for Rural Research and Development, along with Allan Groenke, Entrepreneur in Residence at UNK, and Jake Messersmith, associate professor in the Department of Business, gave students guidance during the project.

“Our hope is that students came away with more reasons why they study statistics, they study numbers, rural concerns, environmental concerns,” Sorensen said. “The project aimed to bring relevancy to students lives and to make them more aware of rural concerns and how they could really make a difference in their communities.”

RURAL FUTURES INSTITUTE
Building on the strengths and assets in rural Nebraska, the Great Plains and globally, the Rural Futures Institute, through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, aims to mobilize the resources and talents of the University of Nebraska and its partners, including community partners, to create knowledge and action that supports rural people and places to achieve unique paths to their desired futures.

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Source: Kaye Sorensen, 308-865-8633, sorensenkm@unk.edu
Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529, giboneys2@unk.edu

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