Never Say No

By Norah Owings

Talent is a small city 20 miles from the California border tucked between Ashland and Medford in the Rogue Valley. It often doesn’t stand out from the large city of Medford that boasts most of the infrastructure and needs of the valley or the niche market of the Shakespearean Ashland. However, if you happen to take exit 21 off I5 you just might fall in love with this dedicated and passionate community just like I did.

Adjusting to a new community is hard, especially when you’re in an area you’ve never been before. You need to learn the culture of the area, any important people who can help you, as well as figuring out where the best grocery store is. It may take you a week to get your bearings, or you could be like me and not full adjust until month 4. Although you might not feel fully comfortable and not know exactly what you’re doing, the best thing I learned during my time in Talent was to never say no to any opportunity you’re invited to. Whether that is city council every other Wednesday at 6:45 or the small community group that meets in the town hall to discuss zero waste or weed abatement. It may feel awkward and weird at first, but it will help you in the long run understand your community and see who the key players are.

One of the first things I agreed to was to have a booth at the annual Harvest Festival, which was less than a month into my project. It was one those situations where you really don’t want to, you don’t even know what the Harvest Fest is and you don’t even know what you’re exactly supposed to have at this booth. But in the end you throw something together show up an hour early to set up and have an amazing day. I got to talk to citizens, volunteers, council members, and staff all within a 6-hour period in a place that I never would have if I hadn’t agreed to have a booth.

The first city committee meeting I went to was the complete opposite of my Harvest Festival experience. It was HEATED. I was also the only person in there who wasn’t part of their group. Within the first 10 minutes I was like what did I get myself into?! There were arguments about things I had no idea about and deep discussions about plans they had been working on for months. However, I learned that some of these people I would be working alongside with for my entire program. A group of dedicated volunteers wanting to make their community the best town in Jackson County.

No matter the occasion or whether you think you should be there if you’re invited to something or you see an event that you’re interested go! This is your time to make the contacts and learn about your community. The individuals in those first meetings I see now on a weekly basis and have become great colleagues and friends. It has made me one of the passionate dedicated volunteers working to create a better Talent.

A little bit about Norah Owings:

  • B.S. in Environmental Economics and Policy and a Minor in Natural Resources – Oregon State University
  • People may be surprised when they learn that I appeared in Time Magazine
  • One of my most significant accomplishment was my internship at the Corvallis Environmental Center. I was hired to intern for community outreach and event planning for the annual Cooped Up in Corvallis where people got to tour local chicken coops.


Fostering Positive Change

By Gilly Garber-Yonts

College is a space where curiosity is cultivated into passion. I found this to be true during my freshman year at the University of Oregon. I came to school with a firm understanding of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to make a positive change in my community. Unfortunately, “Positive Change” is not a major here at the University of Oregon, or anywhere else to my knowledge. After a couple of terms of deliberation, I landed on Public Policy, Planning and Management (PPPM) as the major that I believed would allow me to actively influence progressive change in my community.

My choice of major was quickly affirmed when I followed my advisor’s recommendation to take the PPPM Real World Eugene class. In Real World Eugene, I learned how to interact effectively with professionals in the planning field. I learned to draft technical documents, write a scope of work, hold stakeholder meetings and present report findings. Finally, I had participated in the planning process. I had produced professional quality work, expanded my network, and received professional advice along the way.

During the Winter term of 2017, I was directed to the Community Service Center (CSC) here at the University of Oregon. The Community Service Center allows students to work as consulting researchers on real projects happening in Eugene. The CSC is made up of predominately Graduate Student workers, but they are considering expanding the opportunities for undergrads. As an undergrad I was signed to work on the “Eugene Made” project. Over the last three months I have met with our client for a professional meeting, conducted case studies, conducted informational interviews, designed and launched a survey, and managed stakeholder communication. I have been paired with another undergrad and together we have been the main driving force behind the project. The CSC also presents itself as primarily an educational entity. As a result, I have always felt free to ask questions and express my inexperience when necessary. It has been an incredible learning experience.

The CSC has allowed me to develop a set of applicable hard skills that will help me in the work place. One of my professors aptly related education to riding a bike. Reading books about biking theory, or the history of U.S. bike production might help you become a better, or more well-rounded cyclist, but that is not how you learn to ride a bike. You learn to ride a bike by trying it. This analogy resonated with me. The CSC has allowed me to ride the bike. I have tried and failed and tried again, all in a safe and manageable environment. My experience with the CSC has done wonders for my professional development and I have nothing but praise for the staff. This is the kind of educational experience that makes college a worthwhile investment.



My name is Gilly Garber-Yonts and I am a junior PPPM major here at the University of Oregon. I am studying city planning with an emphasis in sustainable transportation planning. When I graduate, I am looking to do consulting work and be at the cutting edge of active transportation planning.