A RARE Opportunity

By Ian Sisson

I had the privilege of working a great entry level job, in one of the greatest cities in the world (Chicago), in exactly the part of the industry I wanted to be in. I loved my office, the people I worked with, the projects I got to put my hands on, and the variety of work that came across my desk. There was a honeymoon phase with that job, my first out of college, and after about a year and a half that waned and I began to feel exhausted.

Working in the field of architecture and planning requires the ability (and more importantly the will) to balance multiple projects, meet concurrent deadlines, and work long hours. It can feel like projects are never really done; there is always something that can be tweaked, modified, refined. As I went through architecture school and into my first years of work experience I, as many people do, developed a love-hate IMG_4737relationship with my work.

While I’m passionate about the work and feel that it can contribute to meaningful and powerful positive change (socially, economically, and environmentally), I realized that I needed to have more ownership of my work to stay motivated and energized. I decided that I needed to put myself in a position where I was managing projects. Easier said than done when you’re a year or two out of undergrad…

When I came across the RARE AmeriCorps program, I was excited right away by the opportunity to lead a project, do work with an objective focus on making positive community change, and live in a part of the country I’ve always dreamed of. I was fortunate enough to pass through the application and interview process and receive a placement in the program. Almost four months in, RARE has lived up to my hopes and expectations, and then some. Here’s why:

  • Fast track to project management:
    • Many placements are made in communities that desperately need assistance on critical projects, but are limited by financial or time constraints that preclude and/or don’t require the hiring of a permanent employee. This puts RARE participants in a position to lead the charge on their projects from day one, often because no one else can. This has enabled me to quickly develop experience and skills that many people don’t get until later in their careers.
  • Trial by fire:
    • Time and again, I have had the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. From moving across the country to rural Oregon, to facilitating meetings with my project advisory committee, appearing on talk radio, and presenting project findings to advisory boards and city council. These opportunities have led to significant professional growth and confidence in my abilities.
  • Connection to a top-notch professional network:
    • RARE is a national network of talented and flat-out cool people. There are countless opportunities for professional development, mentoring, and networking.
  • Oregon as a back yard, and friends in every corner of the state:
    • I was excited about moving to Oregon for the opportunity to take advantage of its natural beauty and recreation opportunities, but didn’t consider the fact that I’d have 20+ friends spread out all over the state to share it with. Connecting with the RARE family has enriched the experience more than anything else. The RARE program is truly a rare opportunity, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads next.

Ian SissonIMG_4693

Ian received his bachelor’s degree in Architecture with a specialization in Urban Design and Planning from the Illinois Institute of Technology. After attaining his bachelor’s degree, Ian worked as an Associate with the Lakota Group, working with a broad range of comprehensive plans, feasibility studies, transit-oriented development projects and historic preservation projects. Ian hopes to spend his year with RARE AmeriCorps – Resource Assistance for Rural Environments working on focusing his professional vision, moving toward a career that is focused on fostering social and ecological well-being. Ian sees himself leaving his year with the RARE program with an extraordinary sense of fulfillment and gratitude that will propel him toward the next milestone in his life, whether it be a graduate degree, work in the public or private sector, or another service program.

What we learned from our trip to the Olympia Farmers Market

By Sadie DiNatale

This last weekend, our CPW project team headed north to Olympia, WA to gain insight on how an existing public market operates.  For context, a public market is a permanent facility, often serving as a small business incubator, which provides an opportunity for vendors to sell local goods such as produce, prepared food and beverages, and DIY crafts and art.  OurOlympia1 CPW project involves the development of a feasibility assessment for a permanent public market in downtown Eugene.  As such, this trip was a critical component to enhance our team’s understanding of how a public market functions in real time. This trip also provided us with an opportunity to participate in in-person interviews with a market representative and a variety of vendors.

Upon arrival at the Olympia Farmers Market we partook in a self-guided tour.  We assessed the number and types of vendors, looking at who sold what and how different vending booths or businesses complimented each other.  We wondered if there was competition or contentious feelings between vendors selling similar products. We quickly learned from interviewing Mary (the market representative) that this was not the case as market comradery and vendor pride mitigated these feelings.

Olympia3While on our tour we also used a keen eye to assess the design elements of the facility and its spatial context.  The facility was impressive with wide aisles (10’ to 12’) and open walls allowing air and patrons to flow to and fro. The ceilings were high which further mitigated feelings of claustrophobia. We learned from Mary that these high ceilings serve a dual purpose which was not only to provide an open atmosphere but also to allow for phased expansion in the future.

While interviewing vendors, our team gained additional insight into the various attitudes and opinions of vendors both new and senior.  When discussion governance, vendors enjoyed that the market was vendor-managed and that there was both a community member on the board of directors as well as a member with business expertise.  Vendors loved that there was an assortment of products sold and that it brought a diversity of people to the market.  They loved that the market was an enclosed space which allowed them to skip the hassle of setting up tents daily.  Most especially, they loved the community spirit that rang throughout the market regularly. Olympia2

Just as important, we learned about the challenges that vendors faced. For instance, they stressed the necessity of having all vendors follow an organized process during set up and take down of their booth displays. They discussed concerns over fee structures for different categories of vendors and of parking constraints that intensified when other City events fell on market days.

All in all, our team had a great time as the carnival-like atmosphere of the market made our work an incredibly joyous occasion.  Assessing how our prior knowledge (gained from case study research and Olympia4surveying) measured up to the operations, concerns, and strengths of an existing public market was thought-provoking. On the ride back to Eugene we discussed how this new knowledge would translate into our feasibility report.

Ultimately, we left with a renewed sense of appreciation for successful, functional public markets—not just for the benefits offered to patrons and vendors but for the community and economic development potential for the city as a whole.  Although planning and development of a public market is still in the very early stages for Eugene, our team hopes to convey these new insights in our report in hopes that Eugene may one day soon reap the benefits of a public market.





Sadie DiNatale

Sadie is currently a candidate of the Masters of Community and Regional Planning program.  Her professional and academic interests include neighborhood and community development.