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Staff and Associates

Heartland Center Staff

Milan Wall
Lincoln, Nebraska
Milan Wall, Co-Director of the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, is a management and communications expert with more than 40 years experience in dealing with the critical issues facing American society and culture. Mr. Wall has been a newspaper reporter and editorial columnist, a university lecturer and a speaker at regional and national conferences on such topics as educational leadership, economic development and uses of technology in education. Before he helped found the Heartland Center, he was Executive Vice President of the University of Mid-America, a multi-state consortium that was recognized internationally for its imaginative approaches to adult education. With Dr. Vicki Luther, he is co-author of a number of publications on leadership and community development, including The Entrepreneurial Community: A Strategic Leadership Approach to Community Survival, Clues to Rural Community Survival and Schools as Entrepreneurs: Helping Small Towns Survive. Previously, he served as editor of the Nebraska School Leader, which won three national awards for excellence among state publications on education during his tenure. In 1993, Mr. Wall was honored with the Award of Excellence, the distinguished alumni recognition of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Teachers College. In addition to airports and airplanes, Milan spends as much time as possible trout fishing at a secret location in Wyoming he refuses to divulge!

Kurt Mantonya
Senior Associate
Lincoln, Nebraska

Kurt Mantonya conducts primary research for the Center, focusing on ethnographic and anthropological research. He brings experience in Native American and Latino issues, project coordination, collaborative community based planning and the rapid growth of rural communities. His experience also includes working with projects on applied cultural anthropology of the Great Plains, Native American and Latino health care issues and policy analysis. Kurt also designs and presents training programs.

Mr. Mantonya’s professional career has revolved around archaeology, anthropology and education for the past 15 years. He taught eighth grade math and science and served as a librarian and coach on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona and also helped initiate a gifted and talented program. As an applied anthropologist, Mr. Mantonya has conducted work nationally and internationally. Some of these projects ranged from social and cultural issues like HIV in rural Nebraska to housing on reservations, the meatpacking industry in the Midwest and natural resource management and kinship systems in rural Mexico. He has also been involved in national and community service projects by directing a large multi-partner Americorps and Americorps*VISTA program for the City of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Mr. Mantonya has contributed numerous articles and encyclopedia entries for anthropological publications and has presented to many scholarly and professional societies. He is currently a fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology and also serves on the American Indian Issues subcommittee, past board member of the Community Development Society and recipient of the Donald Littrell new professional award from the CDS.  He received a B.S. in sociology from Kansas State University in 1994 and a Master’s of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2002.

Vicki Luther, Ph.D.
Founding Co-Director
Vicki Luther, a founding co-director of the Heartland Center with Milan Wall, has retired from the center and is devoting her energy to her favorite equestrian activities and volunteering in the Texas Hill Country.  Vicki is the co-author of numerous Heartland Center publications, including Clues to Rural Community Survival, and she is the 1992 international Community Development Achievement Award from the Community Development Society.  A cum laude graduate of Marywood College, she also received a master’s degree in cultural change from Central Washington University and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Gonzaga University.

Heartland Center Associates

Craig Schroeder, Board President and Consulting Associate
Lincoln, Nebraska

Craig Schroeder is Senior Fellow with the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, where he works primarily on entrepreneurial community development and youth entrepreneurship. Of particular note is Craig’s work in creating the Youth Attraction Formula, a tool for rural communities to recognize persistent population decline largely due to significant youth out-migration.

For three years Craig was the Executive Director at the Nebraska Rural Development Commission. In 1998, Mr. Schroeder established the Nebraska Telecommunications and Electronic Commerce Initiative, or NTEC, which assisted rural communities in expanding economic development and career opportunities via the Web. Craig has also worked as an appointee of Governor Ben Nelson and for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture as Ag Promotion Specialist.  Craig holds a B.S. in Agricultural Economics with emphasis in Rural Community Economics and Marketing from the University of Nebraska.

Reshell Ray
Lincoln, Nebraska
Reshell Ray is a project consulting associate of the Heartland Center for Leadership Development and has a wide range of experience in training in community development, leadership and diversity. Ms. Ray often serves as primary trainer and facilitator for projects and provides expertise regarding diversity and accessibility.

Ms. Ray is currently assistant director of the Student Involvement Culture Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Previously, she was the management analyst for the city of Pacific, Missouri, where her duties included advising the Planning and Economic Development Commission. She is the recipient of many honors and awards for outstanding service to students and community at the University of Nebraska. Ms. Ray is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State University and holds a Master’s degree in planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Leon Sharpe
St. Louis, Missouri
Leon Sharpe is President of Praxis LLC, a human relations consulting firm that specializes in leadership training, strategic planning and issues pertaining to community development and diversity. He spent nine years with the American Youth Foundation where, as director of community education and international leadership, he organized and managed training conferences for emerging leaders from over 25 countries.

He has designed and conducted professional development programs for corporations, government agencies, school districts and universities throughout the United States. His client list includes the Central States Coalition of Essential Schools, MasterCard, Monsanto, Enterprise Development International, Webster University and the Cramer Institute. As a senior training associate with the Heartland Center, Leon has worked on numerous projects including Empowering Neighborhood People in Washington, DC and a leadership-training program with the University of Northern Namibia, Africa. He also serves as a regular trainer for the Heartland Center’s annual institute, Helping Small Towns Succeed.