Kelly Asche (MPP ’12) knows from first-hand experience that rural Minnesota often is the canary in the coal mine, alerting the whole state to looming issues such as workforce shortages, lack of affordable housing and immigration reform.
As a research associate with the Center for Rural Policy and Development, Asche studies topics of importance to rural regions. He is building a data site to make information on population, income, migration patterns, and economic trends more readily available to policymakers in rural areas.
Asche has observed the growing economic divide between urban and rural communities in Minnesota, but he also has witnessed that some rural regions are leading economic growth.
“There is a diverse range of challenges facing the entire state, and they have different impacts on rural communities,” he said. “These places need to take charge of naming their own unique solutions.”
Asche grew up in Hancock, Minnesota, and attended the University of Minnesota, Morris before moving to the Twin Cities. “I ran a coffee shop, toured Europe, worked on political campaigns and for a nonprofit organization,” he said. “I decided I disliked advocacy but loved policy and data.”
He then came to the Humphrey School to earn his Master of Public Policy degree, where he met “the late, great Gary DeCramer,” a long-time, beloved Humphrey School professor who had represented rural southwest Minnesota in the State Legislature. “We had a blast waxing poetic about small town life.”
Asche and his wife decided they wanted to live in a lower density area, so they moved west to New London. He worked with the Center for Small Towns before taking his current position.
“Obviously, rural areas have become much more of a focus since the last election,” he said. “The rural narrative is used to represent many different things, and it’s easy to exploit.”
Asche says the Humphrey School helped him navigate the complicated scenarios of rural life. “The Humphrey School taught me how to employ a multi-factor focus to analyze the kind of complex problems rural communities are facing, and to communicate concisely and precisely about them.”