RFI Student Serviceship Interns Start Their Rural Nebraska Experiences

For eight University of Nebraska (NU) students, this week marks the start of their “rural immersion” into four Nebraska communities.

McCook, Neb., North Platte, Neb., West Point, Neb., and York, Neb., are hosting pairs of University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) and University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) students through Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Student Serviceship. A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, “serviceships” provide communities with tangible results on important self-defined projects while giving students resume-building work and insight into the career and life opportunities in rural places.

Community host teams include subject-matter experts and leadership mentors that assist with students’ major projects, connect them with volunteering opportunities and invite them to participate in community events and activities. RFI provides support and guidance throughout the nine-week serviceship experience, and all participants learn and share on behalf of rural community growth. RFI Student Serviceship was made possible in partnership with the Heartland Center of Leadership Development.

“We have had many students go into communities through RFI Student Serviceship and make a positive, significant and ongoing impact,” said Chuck Schroeder, RFI Executive Director. “But, as importantly, the students themselves gain real-world experience and build a network that influences them for a lifetime.

 

“We have had many students go into communities through RFI Student Serviceship and make a positive, significant and ongoing impact. But, as importantly, the students themselves gain real-world experience and build a network that influences them for a lifetime.”

–Chuck Schroeder, RFI Executive Director

 

“It is our way of giving students a new or a first experience in a rural community, so they can be storytellers, champions and leaders for rural throughout their lives. And it gives communities specific results from the University of Nebraska.”

All student interns completed a one-week leadership training course hosted by RFI the week of May 22. They got to know their partners, learned more about their communities, gained details about their projects and held online meetings with their community host teams. NU faculty and staff as well as community leaders served as guest speakers, introducing the students to personal and professional development strategies as well as community development theories and practices. The students also explored Firth, Neb., and Seward, Neb., to hear from local leaders and entrepreneurs.

“I knew this was going to be a great resume-building experience for me,” said UNL agribusiness major Amber Ross. “What I didn’t realize is how much support I would have, and how much of a professional network I would build. Just the training course was an incredible experience, so I obviously can’t wait to start my projects in West Point.”

2017 Project Summaries

In McCook, Neb., Tyan Boyer and Collin Fleecs, exercise science majors at UNK, are creating health science education summer day camps for area youth. The camps will provide hands-on educational environments that integrate many key skills necessary to not only improve the health of rural youth, but also inspire future health professionals.

UNL agricultural economics major Syndi Lienemann and UNL agricultural education major Trey Mogensen are helping North Platte, Neb., connect the dots between workforce recruitment and workforce readiness. They will work hand-in-hand with North Platte Public School, the North Platte Chamber of Commerce and the business community to identify the community’s great career opportunities and develop a marketing plan for high school students, college students, community members and potential new residents.

West Point, Neb., is taking an inventory of the community’s parks and recreation opportunities and, with the help of Ross and UNL environmental studies graduate Madeleine Schwinghammer, will develop a needs assessment that will dive into what the community can do to create a more robust lifestyle for those who live in Cuming County.

In York, Neb., UNL political science major Emily Coffey and UNL agricultural economics major Shelby Riggs will work with York County Economic Development, York Chamber of Commerce, City of York, Nebraska Extension and other community stakeholders to craft a plan to increase awareness and propel LB840 forward.

 

Since 2013, 38 NU students have worked and served in 19 Nebraska communities through RFI Student Serviceship. This year is the first year out-of-state students also completed training. Through the Jasper Foundation, Courtney Feagans of Taylor University and Riley Hickman of Depauw University will serve in Jasper and Newton counties in Indiana. RFI Student Serviceship developed from a 2013 RFI Competitive Awards teaching and engagement project led by Dr. Tom Field and Dr. Lindsay Hastings of UNL.

For more details, including community host team members, visit ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/serviceship. Coverage of the students’ experiences will be shared throughout the summer on RFI’s Facebook (ruralfutures) and Twitter (rural_futures).