Episode 26 | RFI Serviceship 2018

May 17, 2018

Show Notes:

In this episode, Chuck is joined by two RFI Student Serviceship interns to discuss their 2018 serviceship course. Keep up with coverage of #RFIServiceship on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Raghav Kidambi, a Human Resource Management student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, will be spending his summer in Seward, Neb., to develop a welcoming and engagement program for new permanent residents and temporary visitors. Hailing from Chennai, India, an urban city with a population of 4.647 million, Kidambi chose to pursue RFI’s Student Serviceship experience in rural Nebraska to experience a new culture and expand his worldview.

McCook, Neb., will be home to Tyan Boyer, an Exercise Science student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, who will be part of the first serviceship team to return to a community for a second year to further their project. Boyer’s serviceship team will be continuing their summer youth camps on health, exercise and aquaponics.

Quick Links:

Full Transcript:

[0:11] Welcome to the Rural Futures Institute [0:13] at the University of Nebraska. [0:15] I’m Chuck Schroeder, I’m Executive Director [0:17] of the Institute and this is our weekly engagement [0:20] with change makers in rural that we all [0:23] Catch Up with Chuck. [0:24] I’m joined today by two really outstanding [0:27] undergraduate students at the University of Nebraska [0:31] who are engaged in a great adventure [0:34] that we sponsor each year at the Rural Futures Institute [0:37] called our Rural Serviceship Program. [0:40] So, we’re excited to have them here. [0:42] We have Raghav Kidambi. [0:45] Kidambi. [0:46] Kidambi and Tyan Boyer. [0:49] And you’re gonna get to know them a little bit better [0:50] as well as their plans for the summer.

[0:53] So guys, before we get into the nuts and bolts [0:55] of the Rural Serviceship Program, [0:59] I want to give our audience an opportunity [1:01] to get to know each of you. [1:03] You come from very different backgrounds [1:05] to this mission you’re on this summer [1:08] and I think folks will like to know that. [1:10] So, Raghav, I’m gonna start with you, [1:12] I want you tell our folks a little bit about [1:15] your background, your upbringing, family, [1:18] any of those things that you’d like to talk about [1:20] that bring you to the University of Nebraska [1:24] and a little bit of that mission.

[1:26] Absolutely, firstly, thank you for having me here, [1:29] Chuck, it’s a pleasure to be here. [1:31] To start off with, I grew up in a city [1:35] of about seven million people. [1:37] Chennai is the city, it’s on [1:40] the south eastern coast of India. [1:42] A lot of coconut trees, we have the longest [1:44] coastline in the world, natural coastline. [1:47] But again, my parents were very different [1:50] people from the start. [1:51] My mom was from a rural town. [1:53] My dad was very much from the cities. [1:57] From when I was a child, I was able to experience [2:01] the differences between how they even interact [2:04] with each other and then how they interact with me. [2:06] Sure. [2:07] I’m like, wow, how are they so very different. [2:10] Of course, that had something to do [2:11] with their upbringing as well, right? [2:15] That and being able to travel along with them, [2:18] honestly, had exposed me to diverse opinions [2:22] and gave me a unique perspective of looking at the world. [2:27] Which, right now, that has probably [2:29] defined my life more than anything else. [2:31] Traveling, meeting new people, getting to know them better [2:36] and just trying to see how better I can [2:38] impact their life and how these new people [2:42] can impact, potentially, my life. [2:44] Sure. [2:45] That started off again, with my parents [2:47] and them being different and such of. [2:49] That foundation is gonna guide you your whole life, [2:52] I just will tell you, so. [2:53] Absolutely. [2:54] I think that’s important to know. [2:55] Absolutely.

[2:56] Tyan, you’re not new to the Rural Futures Institute [3:00] or the Rural Serviceship Program, [3:02] but you’re new to our audience [3:04] so I’m gonna ask you the same question [3:05] to let them know a little bit about your [3:08] background and upbringing and what [3:09] brought you to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. [3:12] Sure, yeah, thank you very much [3:13] for having me as well, Chuck. [3:15] I’m from Plainview, Nebraska, it’s a small town [3:17] of about 1,200 people in north east Nebraska. [3:20] I had two parents that both came from rural backgrounds. [3:23] Two of the hardest working people that I’ve met in my life. [3:26] I can’t thank them enough for everything [3:28] that they’ve given me in that aspect. [3:31] They’re the type of people who don’t, [3:33] I don’t know how they get everything [3:36] done in a day that they do. [3:38] So, that’s very inspiring for myself [3:40] to have two role models in my house like that. [3:43] That’s honestly, that’s kinda how I try to live my life [3:45] is just, nose to the grindstone, [3:47] very hard working, do what needs to be done [3:49] in the time that it needs to be done. [3:52] That rural aspect is what really lead me to UNK. [3:56] UNK is a small enough community [3:58] but that also provides those opportunities [4:00] that the big city can provide. [4:02] Wasn’t too big, wasn’t too small, [4:03] it was just the right fit for me. [4:05] Sure, well you’ve taken advantage of that. [4:06] Yeah. [4:07] And gotten involved in a variety of programs [4:09] including the Rural Serviceship Program.

[4:11] So I wanna have our audience understand [4:14] a little bit about what you’re doing. [4:16] So, for this summer, the two of you [4:18] will be going with a teammate, teams of two [4:21] Teams of three in your case. [4:23] That’s right. (laughing) [4:23] You’re changing all kinds of things. [4:25] But, going into a rural community to solve a problem, [4:29] address an issue that has been identified [4:32] by that community as a high priority. [4:34] So, indeed you’re going to be working with [4:37] leaders and mentors in those communities. [4:41] But the truth is, you’re expected to a solve a problem, [4:45] to address an issue, create a result, [4:49] based upon your own resources and creativity [4:52] and figuring that out. [4:54] So, this week, we’ve had these guy involved [4:57] along with their colleagues that are going [5:00] to a number of communities, involved in [5:02] some very intense training in preparation [5:05] for this experience. [5:07] Because it is not a typical internship [5:11] where you’re simply going out to get some experience [5:15] in a chosen field, you’re actually [5:18] going out to build leadership skills, [5:21] build human relationship skills, [5:23] problem solving skill, conflict resolution skills, [5:27] community building capacity, [5:29] all in a real world environment. [5:32] Over the last five years, the Rural Futures Institute [5:35] has placed 38 students in 19 communities, [5:39] we’ve seen phenomenal outcomes, [5:42] not only for those communities [5:44] where real issues have been addressed, [5:46] but also for the students that have been [5:48] involved in that project. [5:51] Tyan, I’m gonna start with you, [5:54] you and your partner, partners, [5:56] actually are the first in history [5:59] to go back a second year into a community [6:02] and carry the project you started in 2017 [6:06] to a new level, so I want you to talk [6:08] a little bit about the project [6:11] and your expectations for McCook.

[6:13] Sure, so, one of the things that, [6:15] the reason why we were brought here is really [6:19] McCook has an issue right now that we’re trying [6:22] to help solve in regards to childhood obesity. [6:24] As do many, many communities, right. [6:27] Correct, correct, both rural and urban. [6:29] Right. [6:30] So, what we developed, along with our professors, [6:32] was a camp that kind of incorporated [6:34] health and wellness but also sustainability. [6:37] The camps acronym is THETA, which stand for [6:39] teaching health, exercise, technology and aquaponics. [6:42] Which is where the sustainability factor comes in. [6:44] Right. [6:45] The health and exercises portion, [6:47] very obvious with childhood obesity, [6:49] trying to get these kids out and moving. [6:52] Educating them in regards to nutrition [6:55] and just how much they can do as far as exercise goes. [6:58] Then, technology, just the way that the world’s changing, [7:01] I mean, we are constantly being pushed [7:03] with more and more technology. [7:05] So these kids need to be able to adapt to that. [7:07] And aquaponics, I know it’s kinda scary to say this, [7:09] but we do have a food shortage [7:11] and we have a continuously growing population [7:14] and they’re expected, I believe, it’s 2050 [7:16] to actually run out of food for this population. [7:19] So, what are the kind of things that we can do [7:21] to help shape this younger generation [7:24] so that we can prepare for these problems [7:26] that are very real.

[7:27] Now, I know one of the things [7:28] I’ve heard you say about the project [7:30] this year is that you’re gonna incorporate parents. [7:32] That’s right. [7:33] At least one day a week into the program [7:36] so we’re kinda building a family connection [7:39] into these principles. [7:41] Yes, that’s right, once a week [7:42] we’re gonna be bringing in the parents [7:44] to teach them the same material [7:45] that we’re teaching their kids. [7:47] If you only have your child come home [7:49] and your family’s not really leading [7:51] by the same example, their not gonna follow that principle. [7:53] If we can really get with the parents and the children, [7:55] start to formulate these families [7:58] and start to shape them with this mindset, [8:01] this futuristic mindset of how important health is, [8:06] how important exercise is, how important [8:07] what we put into our bodies is day to day, [8:10] we can really start to change family by family, [8:12] community by community and eventually [8:14] grow this across the state.

[8:15] Sure, okay Raghav, this is gonna be a whole new world, [8:18] you’re gonna be a new guy in town. [8:20] Yeah. [8:20] In Seward, you had the opportunity this week [8:23] to meet, via Zoom at least, Johnathan Jank [8:26] who’s been a great ally to the Rural Futures Institute [8:30] through a variety of activities. [8:33] Tell a little bit about the community you’re going to [8:35] and what your projects are gonna be. [8:37] Absolutely, so I will be in Seward, Nebraska [8:41] and at least from what Jonathon [8:43] had communicated with me, I was able to realize that, [8:47] that the community by itself needs [8:50] or requires a fresh outlook. [8:53] Although there are people moving into Seward, [8:56] faster now than anytime in the past, I’d say, decade. [9:01] It still seems like there are some gaps [9:04] that need to be bridge when it comes to [9:06] folks moving in and the just stuff like, [9:10] oh, where are we gonna live, [9:12] are there, how are we gonna, are gonna buy a house, [9:15] are we gonna rent a house, are there landlords around? [9:18] How do we find these people, how do we find a job, [9:22] how are employers, is there a connected web of employers [9:27] that can potentially help us out here and to be employed? [9:31] So, for those who move into the community, [9:34] what are those first things, what are those things [9:36] that are most important that we can set up [9:39] to kind of streamline the processes involved [9:42] with a person moving to a new community. [9:47] A lot of the times, I mean not just in Seward, [9:49] but anywhere, wherever you go, [9:51] you might run into problems where you’re like, [9:54] oh, how do I set up my utilities, [9:56] how do I, where do I go for this particular thing? [9:59] Because there isn’t necessarily a set up job board site [10:06] or stuff that are, like websites that can show you, [10:11] hey, you can work here within Seward, Nebraska. [10:13] Or, you can find a house or rent [10:16] out here in Seward, Nebraska. [10:18] Just places that, things that people need [10:21] in order to even move to a community. [10:22] So we are trying to market the community [10:25] and also try to bring together stake holders, [10:28] much like, again, employers, landlords, [10:30] business owners, and even the community folks [10:35] who want to make a change within community. [10:36] Right. [10:37] Bring those people together, see how we can [10:40] eventually help each other out in an effective, [10:43] strategically planned manner. [10:45] So, without having luck play a role, [10:47] plan it out and try and get this to work together.

[10:51] Doctor Lindsey Hastings just spoke to you guys [10:54] this morning, who is a Seward resident [10:56] and talked about the importance of community engagement [11:01] as a key toward community development. [11:03] So I know one of the objectives that Johnathan [11:07] and other community leaders in Seward have [11:10] is creating what they call that stickiness. [11:12] Absolutely. [11:13] So when a young family moves there, [11:16] they don’t feel they’re just planted [11:18] on the face of the earth somewhere, [11:20] they actually feel they’ve become part of the community [11:23] and have a role to play in that flow toward [11:27] development of the community. [11:29] I know you’re gonna have an interesting time. [11:31] Seward is one of our poster child communities [11:34] for a successful rural community [11:37] that’s thriving but does it on purpose. [11:41] They’ve worked for generations [11:43] to make sure that their the kind of community [11:46] where people want to live. [11:47] I know you’re gonna enjoy that engagement, Raghav. [11:50] Yeah, looking forward to it, Chuck.

[11:51] Yeah, yeah, well listen, guys, [11:52] we have always said that this is not a program for everyone. [11:58] It has some pretty big challenges. [12:02] It takes genuine courage to go into a community, [12:06] where you haven’t lived, and work with people [12:10] you’ve never met or don’t know very well at least. [12:13] Work on a project that wasn’t your choosing [12:16] and be challenged to come up with a solution [12:20] that is not found in a text book. [12:23] Challenges your creativity, your courage, [12:25] your leadership and we thing that’s pretty cool. [12:28] There are lots of adults, quite honestly, [12:30] that would pass on that kind of challenge. [12:33] So, I’m just so proud of you for [12:36] being willing to take that on. [12:38] I’d like to hear from you as to [12:41] how you think this experience plays into [12:45] your own life ambitions and goals.

[12:48] Tyan, do you want to start? [12:49] Yeah, sure, absolutely. [12:51] I don’t really have place that I have in mind, [12:53] necessarily as far as a community goes [12:55] to where I want to settle down in, in the future. [12:57] Sure. [12:58] So, this is going to be a great experience for me, [13:00] great opportunity to go and really [13:02] give myself that experience without out [13:04] actually have to settle down there, right? [13:06] Right. [13:07] So I get to go into a community, [13:08] where I’m not from, where nobody knows me [13:10] and just really just do it my own way, [13:13] without anybody really having preconceived notions [13:16] about me or anything like that and that’s great. [13:18] I mean, that’s gonna be how it’s gonna be in the future [13:20] when my family and I decide to settle down [13:22] wherever that may be. [13:23] If it’s in Chicago, it’ll be the same. (laughing) [13:25] Right, exactly, right, I’m gonna have to meet people [13:27] and I’m gonna have to know the heavy hitters, [13:29] I’m gonna have to know the players in the community, [13:31] things like that, if I want to get things done. [13:33] Then, as far as a career goes, I’m looking [13:35] to go into physical therapy. [13:37] The direct problem solving application [13:39] is absolutely right there, there’s a problem, [13:41] we have to set up a plan of action [13:44] and we have to go step-by-step to hopefully [13:46] relieve the pain, so to speak, of the community. [13:49] And that will be a direct application [13:50] with my future patients. [13:52] Sure, well I, as I talked about Seward, [13:54] I have to say the same about McCook. [13:56] Absolutely. [13:57] I grew up with really McCook as really our trade center [14:03] and so through the course of my life [14:04] I watched those leaders in McCook [14:06] through difficult times and prosperous times, [14:10] always looking to make their community a special place. [14:13] I know they’ve appreciated you guys [14:16] coming out there and the project you started last summer. [14:19] So, I’m just proud of what you’ve done.

[14:21] Raghav, tell us how it fits for you. [14:23] For me, very much like what Tyan said, [14:25] this is again a novel experience. [14:28] I’m going in to solve a problem. [14:32] For me, solving problems is something [14:34] that I get intrinsically motivated for, [14:37] like it motivates me to want to get things done. [14:41] That, again, fulfills [14:44] my need for happiness [14:47] or whatever you’d like to call fulfillment [14:49] for lack of a better word. [14:51] So, I want to go in there, get things done, [14:54] shun stereotypes, I want to help people, [14:58] I guess, develop the community into something [15:01] that they have been wanting it to be for a while. [15:05] And I want to be, again, that catalyst that [15:07] can make things happen. [15:10] Those might be big words but this is truly [15:14] what I want to do, that I want to pretty much [15:18] make sure that our goals are reached [15:22] by the time that we’re done with this serviceship program. [15:26] That I can leave Seward feeling satisfied [15:29] both intrinsically and extrinsically. [15:31] And say hey, Johnathon, here’s something, [15:34] here’s some great work that we’ve done [15:36] and I’m proud of what we’ve done working together. [15:38] Working together along with stake holders [15:41] within the community, be it Johnathan [15:43] or anybody else that we are introduced to [15:46] is also gonna be a great, different experience [15:48] for a student like myself, so looking forward to it. [15:51] Well, it is those big ambitions [15:53] that make life worth while and that will [15:56] define the difference between [16:00] you guys as leaders in communities [16:02] and folks that are just along for the ride. [16:05] I just have to tell you, we at the Rural Futures Institute [16:09] think you’re a special cut of humanity [16:12] that’s will to go into a community [16:15] and try to drive change. [16:17] And, by the way, when you improve those communities, [16:19] you make life better for all of us on the planet.

[16:22] So, we’re very proud of what you’re doing, [16:24] we’ll be intrigued to stay in touch with you, [16:27] not only this summer but throughout [16:28] the course of your careers, we think you’re special. [16:30] Anything you’d like to add? [16:32] I just like to thank, RFI for allowing me [16:34] to do this Serviceship again. [16:36] It was a tremendous experience last year [16:37] and I thank you guys for having me back [16:38] and thank you for having us here today, Chuck. [16:40] Delighted. [16:41] Yeah, pretty much the same, [16:42] I’m very delighted to have this experience. [16:45] To move on forward, see what’s next [16:48] in store for me through RFI. [16:50] Good deal, well listen, [16:52] we want to invite you to stay in touch [16:54] with the Rural Futures Institute [16:56] through our website, through Facebook, [16:58] Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and all of those tools [17:02] that you might choose to follow. [17:04] We’ll be back next week looking at real people [17:07] and real places that demonstrate [17:10] thriving rural communities are a [17:12] worthwhile choice for good living. [17:14] Thank you so much for joining us.


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Episode 27 | Rural Opportunities for the Creative Class