Recent college graduate? Need flexibility? Consider RARE AmeriCorps!

By Matthew Tsui

If you are a recent college graduate like me, you are likely 1.) looking for a job or 2.) considering graduate school or maybe 3.) want to travel or 4.) just something to pay off those darn school loans! Sound familiar?

However, how could you possibly do all these things? How could you even decide?

A month later after graduation, I received an email from my International Agriculture professor. The email advertised an AmeriCorps program called RARE, which is an acronym for Resource Assistance for Rural Environments.

I looked through their website and discovered that I could:

  1. Do a full-time 11-month term of service projects related to Community Planning, Community & Economic Development and/or Natural Resource Planning Food Systems
  2. Get a headstart with 9 graduate credits toward a Master of Community and Regional Planning
  3. Work and live in a rural community in Oregon
  4. Be awarded an education award to help pay off loans after the AmeriCorps service

One problem. I had accepted a 6-month research job in Arizona, which conflicted with upcoming term of service. My research job ended in October. The RARE AmeriCorps service starts in September. I thought there would be no way I would be accepted into the program or even get an interview.

Enter my savior and the RARE Program Coordinator, Titus Tomlinson!

Once I had been accepted into the program, Titus tirelessly coordinated with RARE staff and City of Umatilla (my host community) to customize the starting and ending dates of my term of service to fit my schedule. Titus and I communicated over phone where he listened to my endless concerns: moving to a new town, away from family, adjusting to a new culture, etc.

Titus’ help during my application process is evidence of a trend I feel every day during my RARE service:

Titus, the RARE Program Coordinator and the host community want to provide you with tools, assistance and their time to help you grow as a professional.

Are you Interested in RARE? Click HERE to learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program!

A little bit about Matthew Tsui:

  • Matthew Tsui is a recent Penn State University graduate. He is currently serving as the GIS coordinator/Recreation Planner with the City of Umatilla in Umatilla, Oregon.
  • People may be surprised that I am huge college football fan.
  • My most significant accomplishment, thus far, was growing vegetables at urban farm called Heritage Farm for Philadelphia families faced with the challenges of poverty

Does community development work interest you?  Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon?  Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website:

Exploring Northeast Oregon’s New Natural Resource Economy

By Aniko Drlik-Muehleck

In the lull before the finals week storm (or rather, in the midst of preparing for that storm), first year planning graduate students Aiden Forsi, Michael Graham, and Steph Nappa headed off on a whirlwind tour of Northeast Oregon. Their mission: to gain firsthand experience with the “New Natural Resource Economy.”

The new WHAT, you ask? Good question. PPPM Professor Emeritus Mike Hibbard and his research colleague Dr. Sue Lurie have been investigating what they call the new, or next, natural resource economy, aka NNRE, for many years. As part of a year-long project funded by Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Oregon Community Foundation, Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie are partnering with the CSC to engage graduate students in an applied economic development project centered on the NNRE in Eastern Oregon.

Students Steph Nappa, Michael Graham, and Aiden Forsi get a tour of Stein Distillery with Professor Mike Hibbard and Dan Stein.

But what is the new natural resource economy? For the long answer, we suggest you read Professor Hibbard’s and Dr. Lurie’s 2013 article in Society & Natural Resources. In brief, however, the NNRE is comprised of small businesses using natural resources in innovative ways that emphasize environmental stewardship. These businesses are contributing to new markets like sustainable farming, habitat restoration, and eco-tourism that complement –not necessarily replace –the traditional, extraction-based natural resource economy

It is perhaps easiest to illustrate with some examples from the students’ trip:

  • Upper Dry Creek Ranch is a vertically integrated, 100% grassfed beef and lamb ranch. The Cosner family has worked for decades to create a system of ranching that centers on the health of their animals and their land.
  • The Plantworks is a native plant nursery focused on habitat restoration. Sandy Roth and Dick Kenton collect seeds directly from habitat restoration sites, nurture these native plants through their initial stages of growth, then work to restore ecosystems using the plants.
  • Stein Distillery is a micro-distillery sourcing local grain from the family farm. Owner Dan Stein transformed a hobby into an award-winning business when he opened to the public in 2009. Spent grains from the distilling process are returned to the farm as fertilizer for the crop that will feed the next batch of handcrafted whiskey, bourbon, vodka, rum, and cordials.
  • Wilson Ranches Retreat is a bed and breakfast on a working, traditionally managed ranch. The Wilson family is committed to educating visitors about ranching practices that preserve and care for the delicate rangeland of North-central Oregon.

Natural resources and agriculture have always been the backbone of rural life, but the American economy is changing rapidly, shifting away from natural resources towards technology and services. This shift has left many rural communities behind. Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie believe that growth of the new natural resource economy may pave the way for rural revitalization in areas hard-hit by economic transition.

As the student team continues to investigate the NNRE in Eastern Oregon, stay tuned for ideas about how policymakers and economic developers can support this emerging sector.