The Student Side of “Serviceship”



By Emily Coffey, 2017 RFI Serviceship Intern & Current Serviceship Ambassador

In August, RFI wrapped up its fifth year of summer RFI Student Serviceship. This year’s interns lived in McCook, North Platte, West Point and York, working on major projects spanning economic development, workforce recruitment and retention, environmental impact and healthcare. Senior political science major Emily Coffey was placed in York, Nebraska. Below she shares some of her perspectives on the Serviceship experience.

My Serviceship partner and I were able to impact the sustainability and vitality of our rural community by gathering a variety of data that was pertinent to the economic development bill we were working to form and promote. We listened to the ideas and concerns of community leaders, applied critical analysis to their comments and the data we collected and spoke with state experts to determine legal, marketing and implementation strategies. We are confident that the service we provided to our community will help to strengthen their economic development, and we are optimistic that the bill will be successful in the upcoming election.

Beyond the scope of the projects we were assigned, we made a conscious effort to immerse ourselves in the culture of our community. We attended York’s Young Professionals events and played on their sand volleyball team. We also visited the weekly farmer’s markets and worked out at the community wellness center. We shopped locally, attended plays at the Yorkshire Playhouse and even lived with a York resident for the entirety of the summer. By becoming members of the community we were able to gain a better understanding of how our projects would affect it.


What connections were you able to make?

Our host team members were not only invested in the projects they gave us, but in our personal and professional development as well. They encouraged us to attend community and professional events and connected us with individuals and businesses within the community that were relevant to our future goals. As someone who aspires to go to law school, I was very appreciative of the opportunity to meet and network with a number of people in legal professions and reach a better understanding of their roles in a rural community. My favorite experience was an afternoon spent shadowing the County Attorney, attending hearings and discussing the rewards and challenges of his position.

Emily Coffey and partner Shelby Riggs checking out the York Community with some Red Beard’s Coffee.

How did your Serviceship impact you?

Through the course of my serviceship, I learned to advocate for myself and my ideas. In other internships, I’ve been assigned duties and projects with minimal autonomy or room for innovation. This experience allowed me to think critically about the projects I was assigned, identify the people I needed to connect with, determine the necessary steps in reaching solutions and take ownership of the project to make it my own. At one point, I faced the challenge of facilitating a discussion with a group of community leaders on a very controversial topic. The advice and support of my RFI mentors and host team empowered me to lead the conversation with confidence. This experience has given me a firm foundation for navigating similar situations in the future.

Furthermore, I really appreciate the “service” component of the serviceship experience. Volunteering in York gave me an additional level of investment in the community and helped me to become more in-tune with their way of life; I became more acutely aware of the importance and impact of active community members who give their time and efforts and are dedicated to the happiness and success of their community. On college campuses there are opportunities to get involved and volunteer everywhere you look; but when you have a full-time job and are new to an area, you have to be much more intentional about service.



Emily Coffey

Serviceship Ambassador | Rural Futures Institute

Emily Coffey is a senior Political Science student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with minors in Business, Psychology, Communication Studies, and Global Studies. Following graduation, she plans to attend law school and hopes to stay in Nebraska long-term.




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