Center for Great Plains Studies to host symposium on rural education and school consolidation at UNK April 5-6

Peter Longo, Professor of Political Science, Fellow of the center: 308-865-8506, email:; Kim Weide, Events Coordinator, Center for Great Plains Studies: 402- 472-3964, email:

Kearney, Neb. March 26, 2013 — More than one-third of U.S. children attend school in rural areas or small towns. Many communities in the Great Plains have been losing population for nearly a century. School consolidation is an approach already chosen by many school districts while others struggle to find different strategies. What are the options and how can we support rural schools?

As part of Rural Schools Week in Nebraska, the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska will host its 39th annual symposium on April 5-6 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the Younes Conference Center in Kearney. The symposium’s theme is “Gains and Losses from School Consolidation in the Great Plains.”

“This theme serves as a launching point to give participants the opportunity to connect the pros and cons of school consolidation with protecting the quality of life in rural communities,” symposium chairman Peter Longo said.

The symposium, which is open to the public, will address such questions as: What are the causes and consequences of school consolidation? What are its effects on students? How do we sustain the vitality of rural schools and rural communities?

Over two days in Kearney, more than two dozen speakers will give presentations – including Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, co-founder of the Center for Rural Affairs and rural policy and education consultant Marty Strange, and several school district superintendents and university deans. This is the first Center for Great Plains Studies symposium taking place at UNK. The symposium will also feature a free concert by the Hutchins Consort, a photography exhibition at the Museum of Nebraska Art and Sandhill crane watching.

Paul Theobald, author of several books on rural education and a dean at Buena Vista University, will give the keynote address. He has published widely on the topic of community- and place-based education – the idea that learning through the outdoor environment and a student’s community is a key component of a strong education. His symposium topic will be “Rural Schools and Communities at the Intersection of Assumptions and Evidence.”

To register or get more information about the conference, visit or email

The University of Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies is a four-campus interdisciplinary, research and teaching program. Its mission is to promote a greater understanding of the people, culture, history, and environment of the Great Plains through a variety of research, teaching, and outreach programs.