Thomas C. Sorensen Seminar: Nebraska Schools and Community Vitality


Concerns for community vitality abound in communities as small as a small town in western Nebraska or an area as urban as Lincoln. There is ample evidence that the economic and educational vitality of a community is related to its general health, and especially to the community’s civic health. This discussion was designed to explore the nature of community life, specifically, address the question of what roles schools should play in a community.

This event was co-sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, the University of Nebraska at Kearney Office of the Chancellor, University of Nebraska at Kearney’s College of Education, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Department of Political Science.

Faculty coordinator:
Dr. John L. Anderson received his PhD. from Washington State University in 1993 and joined the faculty at UNK. Anderson began his career in education as a social sciences educator in the Wyoming public schools. His interest in education is derived from his strong commitment to student learning and his scholarship on topics related to the workings of democracies. Anderson currently serves on the executive board of the National Network for Educational Renewal (a 40 plus university international network) as the chair of the Arts & Sciences group.

Dr. Claude Louishomme holds a Ph.D. degree in political science from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. He joined the Department of Political Science at UNK in January 2001 after 11 years of public service. From 1983 through 1991, he worked as a project manager and senior planner with St. Louis Development Corporation. In this capacity, he wrote blighting studies, redevelopment plans, and grant applications, and worked with developers, businesses, and elected officials as part of the effort to retain and attract businesses to the city of St. Louis. Dr. Louishomme served as director of Real Estate and Community Development at the St. Louis County Economic Council from 1993 through 1996. In this position, he assisted older, inner-suburban communities to initiate assessments of their inventories of commercial and industrial properties; establish relationships with developers and private employers; and facilitated the development of new working arrangements between the local, county, state, and federal officials. In addition, Dr. Louishomme wrote two grant applications that were funded by the Economic Development Administration. The more than $6 million provided by these grants were used for property acquisition and construction of two business incubators in the communities of Lemay and Chesterfield.

Dr. Louishomme’s experience as a public administrator complements his interest in teaching and researching issues related to public policy, the policy process, intergovernmental relations, state and local politics, ethnic politics, public administration, and policy analysis. His publications include “Competing for Growth: The Exceptional Case of Gaming” American Behavioral Scientist April (2003) 46(8): 1104-1125; “Building the Infrastructure for Urban Tourism: The Case of St. Louis” in The Infrastructure of Play edited by D. R. Judd (2003). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe (with D. Laslo, D. Phares, and D. Judd); “Gaming Taxation, State” in The Encyclopedia of Taxation and Tax Policy, Handbook on Taxation (1999) (with D. Phares); The Economic Impact of Gaming in Missouri (1998) (with D. Phares and C. Leven); and “Gaming in the United States: Taxation, Revenues, and Economic Impact” in Handbook on Taxation (1999); and “St. Louis a Politically Fragmented Area” in Regional Politics: America in a Post-City Age, Urban Affairs Annual Review (1996) (with D. Phares).

Dr. Doug Christensen is the Nebraska Commissioner of Education. Throughout his career, Dr. Christensen’s work and dedication to students and education have been recognized locally, at the state level, and, in recent years, nationally. In 2003, Dr. Christensen was named Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine, a national publication, which drew increased national recognition of his leadership and success in implementing the state’s unique accountability system. He has been recognized by the state’s premier teachers’ college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when he was awarded the Teachers College Alumni Association Award of Excellence. State curriculum leaders in multiple disciplines have honored him, including world languages, English, economic education, and career education.

Dr. Ken Anderson has been superintendent of the Kearney Public Schools for the past five years (since 2001). In that time, KPS has obtained funding for and began construction of the Merryman Performing Arts Center, developed strong community involvement in the schools, strengthened educational partnerships, and created an environment that inspires the love of learning.

Before coming to KPS, Ken Anderson was superintendent of the Hastings Public Schools from 1990 – 2001. Prior to 1990, he was superintendent in Geneva and Oxford. He began his career in education as a school psychologist in Blair, Nebraska. Dr. Anderson has a B.A. in Psychology from North Park College in Chicago, Illinois. He completed his M.S. in Educational Psychology at UNO and a Ph.D. in Administration, Curriculum, and Instruction at UNL in 1985.

Dr. Anderson has received many honors in recent years, both from within and outside his profession. In 1999, he received the Distinguished Service Award given by the Nebraska Council of School Administrators and was voted the Nebraska State Superintendent of the Year by his fellow superintendents. He also received the MAX Award for Community Service from the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. He also received the prestigious David Hutcheson Award for Distinguished Service to Nebraska Education awarded by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.