Episode 17 | Creating Rural Opportunities

Mar. 8, 2018

Show Notes:

In this episode, Chuck is joined by University of Nebraska student Shelby Riggs. Shelby is a junior from Mitchell, South Dakota, and a RFI Student Serviceship alumn. She is also a student in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program.

Chuck talks with Shelby about her dreams for using agri-tourism, eco-tourism and other rural-based adventures to create economic opportunities in rural places.

Quick Links:

Full Transcript:

[0:10] Welcome back to Catch Up With Chuck, [0:11] from the Rural Futures Institute [0:13] at the University of Nebraska, [0:15] I’m Chuck Schroeder. [0:16] I’m the founding Executive Director [0:17] of the Rural Future Institute. [0:19] We’re broadcasting today on International Women’s Day. [0:23] And it’s a privilege for us to have a young woman [0:26] that we’ve gotten to know, that I really admire, [0:29] and certainly brings the kind of leadership talent [0:32] that we hope for. [0:34] Ms. Shelby Riggs. [0:35] Shelby is a junior at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, [0:38] who comes to us from rural Mitchell, South Dakota. [0:42] So she’s an immigrant, so to speak. [0:46] (laughter) [0:47] And we’re proud of that. [0:48] But Shelby’s been very active in a lot of different [0:51] endeavors as a student, including being one of our [0:55] student interns in the Rural Serviceship programs. [0:58] So, Shelby, welcome. [0:59] Glad to have you here. [1:00] Thank you for having me. [1:01] Sure.

[1:02] It’s exciting. [1:03] Listen, I remember, specifically, [1:05] the night when you and I met. [1:07] Yes. (laughs) [1:07] I had given a speech to the [1:09] South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry. [1:12] And after that program, [1:15] people were lined up to meet and visit. [1:17] And here was this young woman, standing in line. [1:20] This was February 2016, when you were just finishing [1:24] as a high school student. [1:26] And you let me know that you were planning [1:29] to come to the University of Nebraska [1:32] to be a part of the [1:34] Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program. [1:37] Yes sir. [1:37] I came back and told my colleagues [1:41] there’s really a bright young woman from South Dakota [1:43] coming down here that we ought to keep our eye on. [1:46] And certainly, you’ve not disappointed [1:48] in your career thus far. [1:50] Well, thank you. (laughs) [1:51] So, listen, I want you to… [1:52] We know that we’ve got moms and dads out there [1:55] that are thinking about where their [1:58] young one might go to school. [2:01] I want you to share a little bit about your background, [2:04] your upbringing, your family, your community, [2:07] and then [2:09] why Nebraska. [2:11] Awesome.

[2:12] I get this question all the time. [2:13] So I’m from rural Mitchell, South Dakota. [2:16] I grew up… [2:17] My mom was from Mitchell, [2:18] which is a town of approximately 15 thousand. [2:21] And then my dad was from Ethan, [2:23] which is a town of approximately 300. [2:25] So they met in the middle, [2:28] right smack dab between the two towns. [2:31] And I grew up in a rural area, [2:34] surrounded by agricultural influences from my dad’s side. [2:38] And being really invested in the local community in Mitchell [2:43] more so through my mom. [2:46] She and her brothers operate a moving company in Mitchell [2:51] that my grandfather purchased and built up. [2:54] And so they’re really, really invested in [2:57] the local community there. [2:58] And so I did a lot of service through that. [3:02] And then I also had some [3:04] really great experience with the arts. [3:08] I did dance all throughout my entire life, really. [3:13] And then our high school, despite being in a rural place, [3:18] had a nationally acclaimed show choir program. [3:21] Wow. [3:22] Yeah, it was really awesome. [3:23] So I really got the best of both worlds in a rural place. [3:26] You know that ag. background, but, [3:28] yet, still got to experience some really neat things. [3:31] Sure. [3:32] And then, when it came time to decide where I would go [3:35] to pursue my education, [3:37] academics were also something [3:39] that were very important to me. [3:41] And we had some really great schools where I’m from. [3:47] And I really loved the schools in South Dakota, [3:49] but I was also really interested in getting [3:51] experience somewhere else, and taking that back. [3:56] So when I was going and visiting schools, [4:00] a lot of them were really great, [4:02] but no school had the type of personalization as Nebraska. [4:08] And I was really attracted to that. [4:10] And also, I think my heart kinda skipped a beat [4:12] when I saw the indoor arena (laughter) [4:14] at the Animal Science Complex. [4:16] Good. [4:17] So, that’s really what drew me to Nebraska. [4:20] That and some scholarships. [4:22] RB Warren, my old rodeo and livestock judging coach, [4:26] for whom its named, would… [4:27] I’m sure he’s jumping in heaven right now [4:30] to hear you say that. [4:32] Yeah. [4:33] Well listen, in 2017, you and Emily Coffey, [4:37] who has also interned with the Rural Futures Institute, [4:40] and has been a guest on this show, [4:42] you were Rural Serviceship interns in York. [4:46] Helped them with a community marketing project, [4:49] preparing for an LB840 election. [4:52] Emily’s told us some about that project. [4:56] And you can add anything that you would like. [4:58] But I’m interested, Shelby, [5:02] in your feelings about that experience, [5:04] and perhaps some of the things that you didn’t expect. [5:08] That you encountered, had to overcome, [5:10] that you learned in that experience. [5:12] Tell us about them a little bit.

[5:14] So I was really interested in joining the [5:17] Rural Futures Institute, and doing that Serviceship program, [5:21] just to serve a community and get involved [5:24] in a new rural space and see the opportunities. [5:28] But I didn’t anticipate the type of [5:31] personal and professional growth that we experienced [5:34] throughout the summer through the challenges [5:36] of navigating the six different projects that we had. [5:40] So, if I had to sum up our experience. [5:44] The two major challenges that we faced were [5:46] one, in communication. [5:49] So we were working with two different entities in York. [5:52] There was the York County Development Corporation [5:55] and then the Chamber of Commerce. [5:57] Sure. [5:57] And we had projects for each of those, [6:00] with different deadlines. [6:02] And so it became a challenge to communicate [6:06] with both of those organizations, [6:07] and let them know that we were making strides [6:10] towards both progress, or projects, [6:13] even if we were focusing on one more than the other [6:16] at one point in time. [6:19] So my communication skills [6:21] I think were improved through that. [6:23] And then also, just working, we had a lot of [6:26] steering committees that we were working with. [6:28] Which were comprised of community leaders [6:31] and people with really strong opinions. [6:34] And we had to- [6:35] And not always alike. [6:36] No. (laughter) [6:37] And we had to really work with them, [6:39] and get all of the opinions in the room [6:41] to kind of work together and be heard [6:43] to reach the best possible solutions. [6:47] Sure.

[6:47] And boy, experiences that will serve you when your 65 [6:52] (Shelby laughs) [6:53] as well as right now. [6:55] That’s cool. [6:56] You’ve talked a lot about experience. [6:59] And the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program [7:02] really has a growing reputation for the unique experience [7:07] that it creates for its students. [7:08] In fact its known informally as the Engler Experience. [7:12] You and I have talked about your experience [7:16] with Dr. Tom Field‘s Family Business Management class, [7:21] the innovation studio, the Engler rallies. [7:25] Talk a little bit about what you’ve done [7:28] to create Shelby’s personal experience [7:31] through the Engler program and related activities. [7:36] Shelby’s personal Engler Experience is really awesome. [7:41] I love it.

[7:42] So, I’ve become really involved in Innovation Studio, [7:46] which is a place on campus where you go, [7:48] and there’s all of these machines and types of equipment [7:52] that professional wood makers [7:55] or professional sign makers would have. [7:59] And so I’ve learned how to use a laser cutter. [8:02] And engraved glass and wood, [8:04] and made a lot of really unique gifts for family members, [8:07] and might start to market. [8:09] And I’ve also really benefited from the classes [8:13] and all the types of rallies and networking events we have. [8:16] It’s really awesome to get into those classes, [8:20] and to meet all the different entrepreneurs [8:22] in the Lincoln area. [8:24] And just really get your ideas flowing, [8:26] and realize that these are just regular people [8:29] that are starting really unique businesses. [8:31] And have the courage to go and apply those tools [8:36] that you learn in the classroom, [8:37] and build your own business. [8:40] Yeah, it’s not only the entrepreneurs in the community [8:45] that are working, but the ones that are sitting [8:47] next to you in those classes. [8:49] It’s really a delight for me to see the friendships [8:53] and the relationships that are built [8:54] among really creative people like yourself that again, [8:59] I know decades from now, [9:01] you’re probably still going to be hanging out together… [9:03] Probably. [9:05] And what do you think about this, sort of conversations.

[9:07] Well listen, you and I have also spoken a bit about [9:10] your dreams for using agritourism, ecotourism, [9:15] other rural-based adventures, if you will, [9:18] as economic development tools for rural areas. [9:22] I want you to talk a little bit about some of those ideas. [9:26] And tell us about your plans [9:29] to build a career in a rural community, if you could.

[9:32] So I come from Mitchell, South Dakota, [9:35] which is known for the Corn Palace. [9:36] The Corn Palace, absolutely. [9:38] It is bushels of fun [9:39] to talk about the amazing Corn Palace. [9:42] (laughter) [9:44] Those are puns. (laughs) [9:46] But, it’s not only a tourist destination, [9:49] but we use it as a multi-purpose space in our community. [9:52] So in the summer time, primarily, [9:55] we get tourists in to view the Corn Palace [9:57] and learn about agriculture. [9:59] And it brings in outside revenue to really supplement [10:03] and support our community. [10:06] But throughout the year, then, [10:08] we use it as a multi-purpose space. [10:09] So I have had every dance recital in my life there. [10:13] We’ve had concerts there. [10:14] I’ve had track practice there. [10:16] And we had prom and graduation there. [10:18] And it’s a really unique place [10:20] that we might not have if it weren’t for that tourism. [10:26] And additionally, I have uncles who lead hunts. [10:32] South Dakota is really known for pheasant hunting. [10:35] And so we have hunters from all across the United States, [10:38] and some from internationally, [10:41] come in and go on pheasant hunts. [10:43] And that’s another really great way to show people [10:47] our way of life, let them get immersed in our culture, [10:51] and really, everyone loves it. [10:54] And so I think it’s… [10:56] We have a great opportunity, going forward, [10:58] to really share these experiences [11:02] and the culture with other people. [11:05] And so, I think that in itself, [11:08] that idea could be used to develop rural areas. [11:12] And get them the type of multi-purposes spaces [11:15] like the Corn Palace, [11:16] and those amenities that come with tourism. [11:19] If we are able to capture [11:21] the essence of our rural communities, [11:22] what makes us special, why do we stay here, [11:25] and then share it with other people. [11:29] And so, I do plan on building my career in a rural area, [11:33] because I don’t think that I would make it very long [11:37] in a city where there’s no wide open spaces [11:39] and no place to keep my horse. [11:41] (laughter) There you go. [11:42] So, I definitely want to go back and live in a rural area. [11:44] Sure. [11:45] I think you could make it anywhere, just so we say that. [11:47] (Shelby laughs)

[11:48] But anyway, I understand what you’re saying. [11:51] But that’s so important. [11:53] We in the the Great Plains [11:55] have told ourselves for generations, [11:56] well if we don’t have mountains or an ocean, [11:58] we don’t have anything to market. [12:00] And the truth is we have a lot. [12:01] Oh, we do. [12:02] We aren’t born with the notion of, well, [12:05] here’s how we package and market that. [12:06] So that’s where I think your innovation and your talents [12:09] are gonna be so important going forward. [12:12] Well, listen. [12:14] We know that our audience is made up heavily [12:18] of moms and dads, who are thinking about, [12:22] who are interested in rural, [12:25] who are thinking about where their kids might go to school. [12:27] Now, listen. [12:28] I happen to know that Shelby Riggs does not spend [12:31] all of her time going to class, [12:34] or having coffee down at The Mill. [12:37] You’ve been involved in a lot of other things, [12:39] including, I don’t want you to be too modest to say, [12:42] you are now the… [12:44] You are now Rodeo Queen. [12:47] We’re proud of that. [12:48] Talk a little bit about the rest of Shelby [12:51] and the way your personality comes to play [12:54] in getting involved in other activities on campus. [12:57] And how they’ve been a growth opportunity for you. [12:59] Yeah.

[13:00] So, I see activities as areas in which you can supplement [13:05] your education and put it to use. [13:07] So when I came to campus, I immediately saw the [13:10] opportunities in student government. [13:12] So I was involved in the committee for Fees and Allocations. [13:15] Which we actually evaluate the budgets [13:19] for all the fee users on campus, [13:21] which turns out to be about 27 million dollars. [13:25] And then allocate that to fee users. [13:27] That’s helped me grow in the financial aspect. [13:30] And then I also, for more of my enjoyment, [13:34] I’m involved in the UNL Rodeo Association. [13:36] Which I absolutely love. [13:39] And in that, I have become a co-education chair [13:44] for the Rodeo Association and the UNL Rodeo Queen. [13:46] And I can use those roles, and partner those roles, [13:51] because my involvement in Rodeo Queening really [13:55] stems from my belief that agricultural education [13:59] is extremely important. [14:01] And we want to encourage children, [14:06] or youth, or people of all ages really to really want [14:10] to be involved in agriculture. [14:12] And, you know, you eat three times a day. [14:15] Or maybe more, depending on who you are. [14:17] (laughter) [14:19] And it’s just really important to know [14:21] where your food comes from, and also [14:23] it’s a way in which you can impact someone else’s life. [14:27] By growing or producing the type of food [14:31] that other people eat. [14:33] You’re directly impacting their life. [14:35] So I think it’s really awesome to get people [14:38] excited about agriculture. [14:40] And I really love that aspect of it. [14:42] I also, just for fun, go to Pla Mor all the time, [14:47] which is a country dance hall a few miles out of Lincoln. [14:50] Or take fitness classes at the Rec to de-stress.

[14:53] Good for you. [14:54] Yeah, yeah. [14:55] So anyway, communicating. [14:56] You’re learning more and more and more about communication [14:58] and using that talent to reach audiences [15:01] that might not otherwise be reached. [15:03] Well, listen. [15:04] One of our core beliefs at the Rural Futures Institute, [15:07] is in people’s capacity to create their own future. [15:10] And Shelby, you really seem to me to be a young leader, [15:14] who is already demonstrating that capacity to make choices [15:18] about who you’re gonna be, where you’re gonna go, [15:20] and the kind of future you’re gonna create not only for you, [15:22] but for your community. [15:23] Thank you. [15:24] And we’re really proud to have you as one of those [15:26] students that the Rural Futures Institute has been [15:29] able to invest in, and perhaps help you build that capacity. [15:33] So, anything else you want to add today?

[15:34] I do want to add one thing for those parents out there [15:39] whose students may have an interest in going to an [15:42] out-of-state school. [15:44] I have gotten the question, all the time, why Nebraska? [15:48] Or, why did you go out-of-state? [15:49] Was there something about South Dakota that you didn’t like? [15:52] Don’t you like your state? [15:53] And that’s not it at all. [15:55] I absolutely love South Dakota. [15:57] I have grown in my appreciation for my home state [16:01] and for where I was raised [16:03] through going to an out-of-state school. [16:07] And so, instead of discouraging students [16:12] from pursuing those opportunities, [16:14] I would heavily encourage your students to grow, [16:18] and let them explore. [16:20] And most likely they will want to return [16:23] and reinvest in their community [16:24] with those lessons that they learned elsewhere, [16:29] that they can then bring back in, [16:30] like improve their community. [16:32] Sure. [16:33] It’s a great lesson about life. [16:35] And it’s your presence next to [16:38] somebody from Palisade, Nebraska, [16:41] is helpful to them too. [16:43] (Shelby laughs) So anyway. [16:44] Well, listen. [16:45] We’re out of time. [16:46] I just want to encourage you to join us again next week [16:51] for Catch Up With Chuck, where we’re gonna be talking [16:53] with real people about real places. [16:55] And demonstrating that thriving rural communities [16:58] are a legitimate best choice for worthwhile living. [17:01] Thanks for joining us.


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