Title: Professor of management
Years at UNK: 33
Education: Bachelor of Science, physics and applied mathematics, Northwest Missouri State University, 1975; Master of Arts, economics, UNL, 1985; Doctorate, economics, UNL, 1987.
Professional career: Research analyst, Nebraska Department of Revenue, 1975-80; Manager of research and statistics, Nebraska Energy Office, 1980-82; Teacher and counselor, Grace Christian High School (Philippines), 1982-83; Graduate teaching assistant, UNL, 1985-87; Instructor, UNL, 1987; Director, UNK Center for Rural Economic Development, 1988-90; Assistant professor, UNK, 1988-93; Associate professor, UNK, 1993-2001; Professor, UNK, 2001-present.
Awards/Honors: Outstanding Faculty Award, UNK Learning Commons, 2016; Distinguished Paper Award, Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal, 1997; Outstanding Paper Award, Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 1997.
Family: Wife, Cora Lee; Children, Jamie, Beth and Joe.
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Ron Konecny never expected to be a university professor.
That wasn’t part of the plan when he graduated from Northwest Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree in physics and applied mathematics.
It wasn’t even part of the plan when he first joined the University of Nebraska at Kearney more than 30 years ago.
A Texas native, Konecny spent seven years working in research and statistics for the Nebraska Department of Revenue and Nebraska Energy Office before earning a master’s degree in economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
While pursuing a doctorate at UNL, he was employed by a consulting firm hired by the U.S. Department of the Interior to study the economic impact of offshore oil spills. The consulting work was great, but it would also require a lot of travel.
“I needed to stay close to home,” said Konecny, who lived in Lincoln with his wife and their three children.
Konecny stayed with the consulting firm for about a year after completing his doctorate in economics in 1987, then a new opportunity surfaced.
UNK was launching a Center for Rural Economic Development and Konecny applied to be its director – a position he figured he’d keep “for a little bit.”
That decision led to a 33-year career at UNK.
“My wife and kids fell in love with the town,” said Konecny, who is retiring this August. “We couldn’t think of a better place to be.”
Konecny served as director of the Center for Rural Economic Development for two years while simultaneously transitioning to an open faculty position. His wife, Cora Lee, taught in UNK’s English Language Institute for 11 years and their children all earned degrees from the university – daughters Jamie and Beth received bachelor’s degrees in finance and industrial distribution, respectively, and son Joe holds a Master of Business Administration from UNK.
A professor in the department of management, Konecny says there are many parts of the job that made the past three decades so gratifying, starting with his colleagues and students.
“I enjoy the people in my department. And it’s always fun to be around the students,” said Konecny, who also appreciates the university’s leadership over the years, from the chancellors to the College of Business and Technology deans to the management department chairs.
“It’s been a great reward to be here this long in one position,” he added.
Another satisfying aspect of the job has been serving the state of Nebraska through his research.
Konecny collaborated with UNK economics professor Allan Jenkins on several projects with a statewide impact.
The UNK researchers completed the first study looking at the economic impact of the annual sandhill crane migration in central Nebraska, and they were hired as economic experts to conduct and evaluate research on both sides of the Keystone XL pipeline debate. Konecny and Jenkins also completed and later updated a cost-benefit analysis for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska, which voters approved in 2018.
“It’s always fun to do things that actually impact Nebraska,” said Konecny, who currently serves on the UNK Faculty Senate and College of Business and Technology Faculty Dean’s Advisory Committee and as the faculty adviser for The Navigators, a Christian ministry organization for UNK students.
A Kearney resident, Konecny plans to remain in the community after retirement, but he hopes to travel more – once it’s allowed. The self-described “amateur inventor and tinkerer” will keep the creative juices flowing by further exploring artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“That’d be my next job,” the 66-year-old said.
Hopefully, it’s as rewarding as his current profession has been.
“It’s been a great career,” Konecny said. “I couldn’t think of a better one.”