UNI impacts rural Iowa communities

Like many kids growing up in small town Iowa, Staci Schmeling wasn’t sure which profession was right for her.


The Emmetsburg native had always loved math, but it wasn’t until she was working as a tutor at a community college that she fell in love with teaching. She transferred to UNI, earned her education degree and now teaches math in Elkader, pop. 1,200. 


Rural Iowa

“I love helping people,” she said. 


UNI has long produced some of the nation’s best teachers, but sometimes forgotten is the fact that many chose to make their impact in rural Iowa communities. More than 400 educators graduate from UNI each year and can now be found in nearly every Iowa school district in all 99 counties. 


Teachers aren’t the only way UNI is making a big impact in small Iowa communities.


The Institute for Decision Making (IDM) is the community economic development arm of UNI’s Business and Community Services. For over a quarter century, IDM has been providing planning, technical assistance, applied research and training to Iowans concerned about their community’s economic vitality. 


“The majority of that work has been in rural Iowa communities,” said IDM director Drew Conrad. “IDM has served over 800 communities, nonprofits and economic development groups throughout the state. In the past seven years, those clients have been in 90 of Iowa’s 99 counties.”


IDM is also active in statewide efforts to foster economic growth in Iowa’s rural communities and regions. IDM staff serve on the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa (ERI) Initiative Task Force, including chairing the ERI’s Growing Rural Iowa Task Force. They also serve on the Iowa Rural Development Council’s (IRDC) Leadership Team and have helped to plan and hold the IRDC’s Rural Summit.

Additional information about IDM can be found here.