About Our University-Wide Institutes

The University of Nebraska system has invested in four interdisciplinary, University-wide institutes, each focused on areas in which the University and the state has unique strengths. Through these institutes, talented experts from across our four campuses come together, finding innovative solutions to challenges that face our state, our nation, and our world. 



The University of Nebraska is a 21st-century leader in the development of new technologies and in meeting the challenge of feeding a growing world population. The university must and will continue to drive support for sustainable agricultural production and natural resource use. However, the university is equally focused on harnessing its intellectual resources. These priorities enable the university to help shape a vibrant and healthy rural landscape. The Rural Futures Institute draws on the expertise present on each campus, bringing together NU’s researchers and industry developers to strengthen rural Nebraska.

“This is the most comprehensive, aggressive effort to truly change the trajectory for rural people. Not only in Nebraska and the Great Plains, but potentially around the world.”—Chuck Schroeder, Founding Executive Director, Rural Futures Institute

The RFI will support, encourage and build local leaders who envision communities that are thriving economically, socially and culturally. It will help provide a legitimate choice for young adults seeking the best place to launch careers, build families, and be active citizens in an environment where they can make a difference. The Institute’s immediate focus is to build networks of community, business and organizational leaders, subject matter experts, educators and thought leaders who are invested in positive rural futures. In addition, nearly $2.35 million has been invested in teaching and research grants that focus on issues impacting rural people and places.


The Buffett Early Childhood Institute is dedicated to promoting the development and learning of children from birth to age 8, focused especially on those who are vulnerable because of poverty, abuse, or developmental, learning, or behavioral challenges. Two signature programs illuminate the goals of the Institute: the Achievement Gap Challenge works to help narrow the gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children in Nebraska. The Workforce Development Program focuses on increasing the quality and quantity of early childhood educators.

“The Buffett Institute offers a rare opportunity to move the field of early childhood forward to change the lives of children and families in Nebraska and beyond. My goal is for Nebraska to become the best place in the nation to be a baby." —Dr. Samuel J. Meisels, Founding Executive Director, Buffett Early Childhood Institute”

In 2013, Dr. Samuel J. Meisels became the founding executive director BECI. Dr. Meisels is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the assessment of young children and early childhood development. He was formerly president of Erikson Institute in Chicago, the country’s premiere graduate school in child development. Dr. Meisels has named a national advisory board of prominent leaders in the field, both from higher education and the private sector.


The National Strategic Research Institute’s mission is to be a leading institution for research and development to combat weapons of mass destruction. More than 350  researchers work to defend America and its allies against increasingly sophisticated attacks, whether from chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, cyber warfare or nuclear weapons. One of only 13 University-Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) in the country, the NSRI was established in 2012 in partnership with USSTRATCOM and the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness.

The NSRI concentrates on five core research competencies: nuclear detection and forensics; detection of chemical and biological weapons; passive defense against weapons of mass destruction; consequence management; space, cyber and telecommunications law.  Researchers in the areas of vaccine development; space, cyber and telecommunications law; consequence management; and nuclear detection and forensics work collaboratively to develop and deliver solutions to significant security threats. 

“I’m very excited about being involved in this UARC, promoting the exceptional research capabilities of the university, and delivering potential solutions to some of the most challenging missions of USSTRATCOM.” —Gen. Robert Hinson, Founding Executive Director, National Strategic Research Institute

Leading this prestigious research institute is Robert Hinson, retired lieutenant general of the U.S. Air Force and former vice president of Northrop Grummond Corp. Gen. Hinson brings highly relevant military and private sector experience to the Institute, and was successful in securing $9 million in research contracts in the NSRI’s first year. The initial contract award provides for up to $84 million over five years.


The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute was founded in 2010 to address one of the greatest challenges facing the global community: feeding a population expected to increase 40 percent by 2050. Future generations must produce the global food supply using less water and land resources than what is used today—a tall task when roughly 70 percent of all today’s freshwater withdrawals are for agriculture. The DWFI is a research, education and policy analysis institute committed to helping the world efficiently use its limited freshwater resources to ensure food security for current and future generations. 

"We are proud of all we’ve accomplished to begin to address one of the 21st century’s most urgent challenges: ensuring global food security in the face of a changing climate and increasing competition for scarce water resources.” —Dr. Peter McCornick, Executive Director, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute 

Partnerships range from a joint master’s degree program with UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands, the world’s largest graduate program in water management, to collaborative research with USAID’s Middle East and North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence, and research with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on drought monitoring and improved sustainability of crop production.