Dr. Randy Cantrell has a joint appointment between the Rural Futures Institute and the University of Nebraska Extension. One of his notable projects is the Rural Poll, which is an annual survey conducted by the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics in partnership with the Rural Futures Institute. He received his BA in anthropology and economics from Michigan State University (1971), MS in labor studies from the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations (1973), and PhD in development sociology from Cornell University (1976). He joined the University of Nebraska in 1995, following a seventeen-year career with Cooperative Extension at the University of Minnesota in various outreach and administrative roles.
Dr. Cantrell grew up in the small southern Michigan community of Jonesville, where his family operated a bakery on Main Street. His academic and teaching interests continue to reflect his commitment to small rural communities. As the director of Minnesota’s State Data Center in the early 1990s, he became interested in how communities and institutions adapt to demographic changes, and he has advised communities throughout the Midwest on the nature and impact of demographic trends. His research has focused on institutional change in rural areas, and his publications reflect that interest, with a special emphasis on voluntary and nonprofit organizations.