Leadership Nebraska Selects Local Participant

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry is pleased to announce that Dustin Favinger, Justin Gould, Derek Rusher, Melissa Scott-Pandorf and Marsha Wilkerson have been selected to participate in Leadership Nebraska Class XII.

Dustin Favinger is the Director of the College of Business & Technology Career Center at University of Nebraska at Kearney. The Career Center provides personal and professional development for CBT students through experiential learning and career planning.

He holds an MBA from the University of Nebraska-Kearney; an M.A.Ed. with an emphasis in Sports Administration from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and a B.S. in Sports Administration from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Dustin also has certifications as a Dave Ramsey Financial Coach, Master Training and is a Gallup Entrepreneurial Talent Coach.

He is a Senator on the UNK Staff Senate; board member of East Brooke HOA; on the Kearney High School Small Learning Community CORE Assessment team; Leadership UNK; Kearney Little League board member; Kearney Area United Way board member and is a graduate of Leadership Kearney Class #22.

Justin Gould has twelve years of experience in the Natural Gas Utility Business, including six years in a leadership role. He started his career in Frederick, CO with SourceGas and moved to Albion in 2014 to become a Division Manager with SourceGas. In 2016 as part of the Black Hills acquisition of SourceGas, he was promoted to Sr. Operations Manager of the Central Region in Nebraska. This move brought him to Kearney, where he currently leads a team of 88 staff members spread across 13 field offices that service customers in 122 communities across Central Nebraska.

He attended Front Range Community College in Longmont, CO - General Studies 2000-2002, Peregrine Leadership Institute - Course Completion 2016 and Leadership Resources- Course Completion 2018.

Justin volunteers for events with United Way, Junior Achievement, and the Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska’s Mobile Produce Pantry.

Derek Rusher is President/CEO of Nebraska’s third-largest chamber, the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce. His team just received the top rating, a 5-Star distinction, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Outside of the Chamber, Derek is President of a non-profit business, Impact Art. He possesses more than 15 years of experience as a teacher, and many more as a former collegiate athlete and coach.

He is a graduate of Hastings College with a B.A in Education. He has completed 30 hours towards a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in Education Administration. Derek also began his Institute of Organizational Management certification last year, completing year one of a four-year program.

Derek is an active member of his church and involved in a men’s group called Forge. He serves on the Junior Achievement Board and teaches a course on Entrepreneurship at Kearney High School yearly. He serves on many boards including the Buffalo County Community Partners Board, Economic Development, the Nebraska Veterans First, and Center for Rural Research & Development and the Kearney Works Board. He graduated from Leadership Kearney Class #22. Derek is also a volunteer basketball coach.

Melissa Scott-Pandorf is a Research Scientist under the Health and Human Performance Contract at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Her research is related to maintaining crew health during long duration space flight. She worked full-time onsite at NASA’s Johnson Space Center from 2008-2011 where she was honored with the BRAVO award in 2010 for her work as a liaison between laboratory scientists and engineers working with the International Space Station. Melissa became connected with NASA’s Johnson Space Center after moving to Houston to pursue her doctorate in Biomechanics at the University of Houston. In 2005, she was selected into their prestigious internship program. Subsequently, her dissertation work related to space suit design and locomotion was funded by a NASA grant. Following the completion of her doctorate, Melissa was offered a full-time position at Johnson Space Center on the Bioastronautics Contract under the company, Wyle. In late 2011, Melissa moved back home to Nebraska with her young family but was able to continue her work via a telecommuting contract through her company KBRwyle. She also serves as adjunct faculty in the Biomechanics Department of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha as well as her Masters of Science in Exercise Science with emphasis in Biomechanics. She attended University of Houston and received her Doctor of Philosophy in Motor Control and Biomechanics.

Melissa has served on the Kearney Area Children’s Museum Board of Directors for 6 years; is a founder of 100 Women Who Care Kearney; coaches youth basketball, and voluntarily gives presentations at schools, camps and banquets to encourage excitement in STEM.

Marsha Wilkerson has served as the director of marketing and community outreach for BD Construction for more than three years. Prior to that, she was the regional director of marketing and communications for CHI Nebraska. Her career began in Omaha as a communications consultant traveling to work for companies in the U.S. and Canada. She later worked in marketing for Methodist Health System and DTN. She chose to move to Kearney when their sons reached school age and Marsha took a job as the Executive Director of United Way of the Kearney Area. Marsha also helps her husband with marketing for Big Prairie Homes, the modular home dealership serving Central and Western Nebraska and Northern Kansas that the couple owns.

Marsha was one of the last graduates from Kearney State College earning a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and Advertising. She has volunteered as stewardship chair and capital campaign committee leader for Holy Cross Lutheran Church; a Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce board member; CHI Health Good Samaritan Foundation Board member; Buffalo County Stampede Half Marathon communication chair; Healthy Community Awards committee member and chairperson of Go Red for Women. She also co-led a group of citizens to educate the community about the $75 million bond issue to build a new Kearney High School and expand and renovate the existing middle schools. She competed in Kearney’s Dancing with the Stars and disco-ed her way to the Judge’s Choice award as a Rotary fundraiser for the Central Nebraska Veteran’s Memorial Park.

Leadership Nebraska was founded in 2006 to identify current and emerging leaders throughout the state, enhance their leadership skills and deepen their knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing Nebraska.

Participants have been selected from different regions of the state and possess varied backgrounds and diverse talents. All candidates have demonstrated an abiding interest in Nebraska and its future.

The program consists of six sessions covering a broad range of key Nebraska issues including economic development, health care, education, agriculture, government and policy development. Class XII begins with an orientation in June and will conclude in February 2020 with a commencement in Lincoln. Sessions will be conducted throughout various locations of the state.

Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber, said: “Nebraska faces complex challenges in this new economy. To maintain and enhance our state’s competitiveness, we need well-informed, connected leaders who are ready to serve their fellow Nebraskans.”

Article courtesy of Nebraska Chamber of Commerce

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