Conference to focus on creating bold future for Nebraska, Great Plains

April 9, 2012

Globalization and other factors are rapidly changing the world. To create a successful future, people in rural America must anticipate and manage this ever-changing environment.

With that in mind, the University of Nebraska will host the inaugural Rural Futures Conference May 8-10 at The Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln. The theme of the conference is "Connecting Innovation" -- a challenge to participants to interact and think boldly about the future of rural Nebraska and the Great Plains.

The conference is open to anyone, especially those interested in ensuring a strong future for rural areas for the benefit of all of Nebraska and the region. Registration for the conference is open until April 30. Cost is $120, which includes all conference events, materials and meals.

"The conference is designed to implant the seeds for a new culture of innovation around the role of higher education in supporting positive rural futures," said Ronnie Green, vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska and Harlan vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Frans Johansson, a New York entrepreneur and author of "The Medici Effect," will deliver the keynote address, titled "Creating Breakthrough Innovations." Encouraging conference participants to live and work at "the Intersection," where ideas from different fields and cultures meet and collide, Johansson's talk will emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in ensuring success in rural areas. Johansson has spoken to audiences around the world and his book is an international best seller.

Other speakers and panelists include: Joel Sartore, National Geographic photographer; Nebraska native Jay Keasling, CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California at Berkeley; and Jim Cavaye, associate professor of rural development at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Green and Gov. Dave Heineman will make welcoming remarks for the conference, and NU President James B. Milliken, UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman and University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen are among the other university leaders who will make remarks.

The third day of the conference, May 10, will be a working session that allows participants to interact and discuss topics related to the future of rural Nebraska, the Great Plains and the world. The day will include a moderated "open space session" so participants can learn from their peers and tackle questions related to the formation of a University of Nebraska Rural Futures Institute.

"This conference is truly designed to excite faculty, staff, students, partners and stakeholders to provide feedback and a setting to build robust partnerships to address potential objectives of an institute focused on positive rural futures," Green said.

Members of the media are welcome to attend any part of the conference at no charge. Speakers will be available for interviews upon request; please contact the conference planning team at to set up an interview.

More information is at Follow the Rural Futures Conference on Twitter (hashtag #RFC2012) and Facebook for the most up-to-date conference details.

Contact: Ronnie D. Green, NU vice president of agriculture and natural resources and IANR Harlan vice chancellor, 402-472-2808,

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska