Voices of the Plains

A monthly series hosted by the Center for Great Plains Studies Graduate Fellows

The Center is launching a new online series to amplify the voices of distinctive communities on the Great Plains whose perspectives have historically been marginalized, underrepresented, or misunderstood. This new series is brought to you by our dynamic group of Graduate Fellows, graduate students who come from fields as diverse as Civil Engineering, Biological Sciences, English, Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, and Natural Resources. They have combined their unique interests and expertise to create a compelling series of accessible conversations focused on the region.

Join the Graduate Fellows virtually the last Thursday of each month from 5-6:30 p.m. for this series of fresh and stimulating discussions, open to all.


April 28:

Part 1: Voices in Great Plains Conservation and International Ecosystems (45 minutes)

In this part one, Jazmin Castillo will discuss the application of Great Plains habitat and natural resources conservation to international ecosystems, from the perspective of an early career BIPOC scientist. Castillo is a B.S. and M.S. graduate of the School of Natural Resources at UNL. She did her master's research on hyena population dynamics in Botswana through a multidisciplinary National Science Foundation fellowship focused on the ecological resilience of agroecosystems. She has recently translated her skills to a position working on the national trails system with the United States Forest Service based out of Washington, D.C. and is planning to continue her career with the Forest Service.

Part 2: Voices of Heartland Immigrant and Refugee Communities (45 minutes)

Given the rich history of the Great Plains as a site of significant immigrant and refugee resettlement, Part 2 is a discussion centering the intersections of immigrant experience, place-based education, and advocacy work across local communities. The guest speaker is Maysaa Khalaf, who is majoring in business administration with a concentration in international business and economy at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She was born in Sinjar, Nineveh, Iraq, and is part of the Yazidi community/religion. Upon moving to the U.S., Khalaf restarted high school and graduated in 3 years. She is a first generation student and earned a Buffett scholarship. Khalaf is currently interning with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development on the international business team. She is the president of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization (CEO) at UNO. Her current project is promoting communities within the state of Nebraska.

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March 31: Voices of Animal Advocacy Groups

This installment highlights the ongoing work of groups involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, pet rescue, and education.

Presenter Bio:
Laura Stastny is the Executive Director of Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc. She is an IWRC Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator and has been a multi-species wildlife rehabilitator and public educator for more than 20 years. Stastny has extensive experience in animal-related fields – She has worked as a veterinary practice manager; was the executive director of a humane society and conducted cruelty investigations for the state of Minnesota; and has served on disaster relief and wide-scale rescue teams for the HSUS.

Facilitator Bio:
Paul Grosskopf is a Graduate Fellow at the Center and an English PhD student in Literary and Cultural Studies. He graduated with a B.S. from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and an M.A. from Northern Illinois University. At UNL, Grosskopf splits his time between teaching in the English Department and working as an editorial assistant in the Willa Cather Archive. His research interests include fat studies, print culture, transnationalism, and modernity in American literature and culture.

Feb. 24: Voices of Nebraska Farmers

This event looked at the challenges of infrastructure, mental health, climate change, and pressure from large corporations. Video above.

Presenter Bio:
Bradi Heaberlin recently received her M.A. in Geography from Indiana University, where she wrote a thesis, titled "Farm Stress and the Production of Rural Sacrifice Zones," exploring the ways in which economic issues in the farm economy contribute to mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and the possibility of suicide among farmers and ranchers. Her work is fundamentally concerned with the ways in which the social fabric of rural communities are disrupted and hollowed out as a result of land and industry consolidation.

Facilitator Bio:
Bailey McNichol is a Graduate Fellow at the Center for Great Plains Studies and a third-year PhD Student in Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research is focused on understanding patterns of plant diversity and the effects of climate change on Nebraska's forests.