Episode 2 | RFI Student Serviceship Q&A

Nov. 2, 2017

Show Notes:

On this episode of Catch up with Chuck, Chuck is joined by RFI Student Serviceship alum Emily Coffey, senior NU political science major. They talk about the serviceship experience, and what you can do to get involved.

The deadline for students and communities to apply for RFI Student Serviceship 2018 is November 20, 2017.

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Full Transcript:

[0:01] Good morning, welcome back to Catch Up With Chuck, [0:04] this periodic broadcast that is live [0:07] from the Rural Futures Institute [0:09] at the University of Nebraska. [0:11] I’m Chuck Schroeder, [0:12] the Executive Director of the Institute, [0:14] and today we’re gonna be talking about RFI’s [0:17] Student Serviceship Program that has had [0:20] remarkable success since it kicked off in 2013. [0:23] Listen, if you have questions during the broadcast, [0:26] please post them, and we’ll try to respond to you as we go, [0:30] we appreciate you being on board with us.

[0:32] Plus, in joining me today is a young woman [0:36] who is really making a difference in our world, [0:38] Emily Coffey is a senior here at UNL. [0:41] She’s a political science major, [0:43] going to be heading to law school, [0:45] but Emily was one of our high-achieving students [0:50] that participated in the Rural Serviceship Program [0:53] just last summer, and right now, she is working [0:57] for RFI for the academic year, [1:00] to try to pave the way for other students to follow [1:03] in her footsteps. [1:04] So Emily, what’s happening right now?

[1:06] Well, right now, we’re in the thick [1:08] of our recruitment stage for both communities [1:10] and for students. [1:12] Both of those applications are due November 20th, [1:15] so there are a couple more weeks to get applications in. [1:18] And those can be found on the RFI website, [1:20] under the Serviceship page.

[1:21] Wonderful, and we’ll remind you of those dates [1:23] again before we’re done. [1:25] Well, listen, this program has had a pretty fun history, [1:29] and you were able to come along, I believe, [1:32] in its fourth year. [1:33] Talk a little bit about its history [1:35] and its development over time.

[1:37] Well, like you said, we’re in our sixth year right now, [1:39] so recruiting interns for the sixth summer, [1:41] and serviceship is actually a hybrid, [1:44] between service learning and traditional internship, [1:47] so the interns who are recruited are trained [1:49] by the Rural Futures Institute and other university faculty, [1:53] and then they go to the host communities, [1:55] where they have a host team of mentors who are [1:58] leaders in the community, [2:00] and they’re given important community projects, [2:02] and they have a lot of autonomy over that, [2:04] so that gives them the opportunity to make connections [2:07] within the community, and then also develop [2:09] a lot of professional skills along the way.

[2:12] Well, it’s students like you that have really [2:14] made it a success. [2:15] And I think it’s important to note [2:17] that the Student Serviceship Program, [2:21] like everything we do at the Rural Futures Institute, [2:23] really began as a partnership. [2:25] These things don’t just plop down from the sky. [2:29] Began as a big idea that was shared [2:32] by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, [2:35] a non-profit based here in Lincoln [2:36] that works with rural communities around the country. [2:40] But also involved were our friends Dr. Tom Field [2:43] who runs the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, [2:46] Dr. Lindsay Hastings, who is the Executive Director [2:50] of the Nebraska Human Resources Institute, [2:52] and Reshell Ray, here at UNL, [2:55] who is very involved in community engagement [2:59] and having students involved in that way.

[3:01] So, it started like it should, as a big idea, [3:04] with some really good people driving the way, [3:07] and it’s grown into something of real significance. [3:11] There have been 38 students now, [3:13] through the course of the program, [3:15] that have worked in 19 Nebraska communities, [3:18] as well as now actually doing some work in Indiana, [3:20] which was a big step forward for us. [3:22] So, that’s been fun. [3:24] Well, listen, let’s get specific. [3:27] Emily, you and your partner worked in one of Nebraska’s [3:30] most progressive rural communities last summer. [3:33] Talk a little bit about that experience.

[3:35] So, yeah, my partner and I, Shelby Riggs, [3:37] were placed in York, Nebraska, and our major project [3:40] was LB840, which is an economic development initiative [3:43] and we were working on marketing that [3:46] and actually forming their strategic plan. [3:48] And so that included a lot of educating community [3:51] members and leaders on what LB840 entailed. [3:54] And LB840 would be really beneficial for York, [3:58]because it would allow them to do some job recruitment, [4:00] job retention, infrastructure installation, [4:03] and also housing development. [4:05] So we’re really hopeful that the work we did [4:08] while we were there this summer will help them [4:10] to pass the initiative in May.

[4:12] I think it’s so important for people [4:13] to understand that experience, [4:16] because this was not an internship [4:18] where you were making coffee and making popcorn [4:20] down at the co-op.

[4:21] (Emily laughs) No.

[4:23] You were really engaged with the community, [4:24] and something that is a high priority for them, [4:27] and helps to build that community for the future. [4:30] I think that’s really important. [4:31] So, let’s be honest, Emily, you’re a Lincoln girl, [4:36] you’re a city kid by Nebraska standards. [4:39] What drew you to this experience, [4:42] and talk a little bit about what it means for you, [4:45]and your thoughts about your future.

[4:47] Well, I’ve had internships in the past, [4:49] so I wanted something that would be unique, [4:52] and when I saw the RFI opportunity, [4:55] I saw they were looking for somebody that has a lot [4:58] of leadership experience and volunteer experience, [5:00] and had high verbal and written communication skills, [5:03] and I was like, “Oh, I could do this!” [5:05] And actually, it was in my interview that I really decided [5:09] this was something I was invested in, [5:11] because I wanted a project that I could take ownership of, [5:14] and an opportunity that would give me professional [5:17] development and skills development. [5:19] And so I think RFI was a really great fit for me, [5:23] and so was York, to be honest. [5:26] The mentors we had there were excellent, [5:28] and they really cared about our professional development. [5:30] And I actually got to do a lot of job shadowing [5:33] while I was out there, so I have kind of an idea [5:35] of what legal professions are available [5:37] in rural communities.

[5:39] Well, you know, York is such a great community, [5:41] I go back to my days [5:43] with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, [5:45] and just remembering the long line of people [5:48] they’ve had in that community that have been strong leaders, [5:50] that have been visionary, and by the way, [5:53] always willing to share their talents with young people [5:56]and build for the future, so that was a great experience. [5:59] Well, listen, we were so impressed with the results [6:02] that you were able to achieve in York, [6:04] and your leadership talents, that we asked you to come [6:08] on board here during the academic year. [6:10] So tell us, really, what you’re doing, [6:11] and by the way, repeat those dates one more time, [6:14] so folks that are interested can sign up.

[6:18] Yeah, so right now we’re in the thick [6:20] of student and community recruitment, [6:22] those are both due November 20th, [6:24] and then we’ll be doing interviews [6:26] before the end of the semester. [6:28] And then once all that is over, [6:30] I will start to work on analyzing the impact [6:33] that serviceship has on RFI, on students, [6:36] and on the communities, [6:37] and then we’ll also be doing a cost-benefit analysis, [6:40] so that we have a dollar amount to give [6:42] to each serviceship experience.

[6:44] I thought that was an important story to tell, [6:46] because that evaluation piece does something that, [6:49] historically, has been missing from some elements [6:52] of community development work and we think having you [6:56] involved at this stage of your life and career [7:00] in those evaluation, perhaps creates a good foundation [7:03] for you as well as creating some great information [7:06] for the Rural Futures Institute to use as we make [7:10] our plans going forward.

[7:11] Well listen, that’s what we do [7:13] at the Rural Futures Institute, [7:15] we harness the intellectual energy [7:17] of University of Nebraska and its partners, [7:21] and partners like the community of York, [7:24] partners like Emily and students and faculty [7:28] that work with us on these projects, [7:30] we do all these things to try [7:32] and have a positive impact on humankind. [7:34] So, Emily, we’re very proud of the decisions that you made [7:38] to be involved with us [7:40] and the work that you’re doing right now. [7:42] We think you’re still helping to make the world [7:43] a better place. [7:44] (Emily chuckles)

[7:46] Well, listen, that’s it for this edition [7:48] with Catch Up With Chuck. [7:50] We’re gonna be coming back in future stories, [7:53] looking at people and places in rural America, [7:56] success stories, folks who are making rural communities [8:00] a legitimate best place for worthwhile living. [8:03] We’ll be back.

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