Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Mark Burbach

Date of this Version


Document Type



Staggs, D. (2020). Exploring How Graduates of the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy Influence Community Capitals: Two Case Studies [Unpublished masters thesis]. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark E. Burbach. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2020

Copyright 2020 Dakota W. Staggs


Natural resources are foundational to any community and so leadership regarding those resources is a key factor to consider in order to understand communities. The vitality and strength of a community, however, is not solely dependent upon the natural resources available to it but depends on the collection of assets and individuals within it. This study sought to understand how individual leaders, graduates of the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy, influence each of the seven community capitals outlined by Flora, Flora, and Gasteyer (2016), and how their individual civic capacity, as defined by Sun and Anderson (2012), contribute to community capacity. Twelve graduates of the Academy and eighteen members of their communities were interviewed to comprise two qualitative case studies, one from the graduates’ perspective, and one from the community members’ perspective. Eight themes emerged from the interviews with graduates and nine themes emerged from interviews with community members. Findings reveal that graduates had the greatest influence on community capitals by bringing others together for a common purpose rather than focusing on individual viewpoints and by utilizing bonding and bridging social capital to equip communities with additional resources. By influencing their community’s capitals and acting with community interests in mind, Academy graduates strengthen collective capacity and increase ability to address challenges.

Advisor: Mark E. Burbach