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.

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