Reflecting on Impacts of Urban/Rural Divide Myth

By Erica Mooney, Community Engagement Coordinator, Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District

Author wearing RARE shirt, accompanied by two alumni - all smiling!
Erica Mooney with RARE alumni Anya Moucha (Year 22) and Kyle Kearns (Year 22)

I believe and feel that the greatest impact I had is intangible. I created an energy and practice of connectivity between and across organizations, as well as inspired collaborative mindset and practice. The single tangible accomplishment that feels the most rewarding to me is building relationship with some of the young leaders in the area, including connecting a high school student to the Rural Organizing Project’s fellowship, for which she was accepted and is engaged in currently. I also continued the thread of discussing and naming toxic historical feuds and assumptions, specifically related to the false narrative of the ‘hippie and redneck divide’ by calling out and debunking said myth in many varied settings.

While working long hours and being responsible for finding and applying for the funding and developing the job description for the future of my position, I was amidst applying to a Portland-based foundation. I realized that the way that Portland (urban, college educated norm) views and discusses equity, diversity, and inclusion is a far cry from what is needed to meet people where they are at, on the ground, specific to my experience in Illinois Valley, but upon discussion with friends and peers, relevant to the rural/urban divide myth across the state. I realized that if funders really want to move the needle on acceptance and dismantling white supremacy and classist norms, a lot more deep listening to organizers and community leaders who are not in cities needs to happen. This unfolded through lots of stressed phone calls and long conversations with other RAREs, friends and allies across the nation, and my fellow IV Stream Team staff. This realization allowed me to accept that we were not a fit for the vision that the foundation has of DEI and how to invest in it, as of Spring 2020. The dialog that I began with their staff, I hope and believe, was validated and is now being further recognized due to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impacts of the pandemic, which have both showed that racism and toxic norms are alive and thriving within virtually all major institutions built on the illusion that this is a free nation, without the acknowledgement that this is broadly stolen land and realignment is only possible through deep changes to the culture that paved over said stolen land.

Photo of the author standing in front of a red flowing currantAbout the author, Erica Mooney: Erica served as the Community Engagement Coordinator for both the Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District and the Illinois Valley Watershed Council. Erica increased community presence by collaborating with partners to bring the public educational, outreach, and service projects. They engaged board members in developing their skills and leadership, and communicate with the community via social media, flyering, attending events, and other methods. They planned and facilitated volunteer projects and events, and documented and evaluated program components. As the Community Engagement Coordinator, Erica worked in an office and the outdoors, gaining valuable experience in conservation and rural community engagement.

A new era for IPRE

By Bob Parker

After 20 years, I step down today as Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Engagement. I’m delighted to hand the reigns over to Dr. Rebecca Lewis and Dr. Ben Clark who will take over as co-directors and lead the organization into its third generation. Josh Bruce will serve as Associate Director of Applied Research and will take on a lot of the program development and administrative functions that I previously had. Titus Tomlinson will lead RARE into year 27 and beyond. Michael Howard, Aniko Drlik-Muehleck, and Victoria Binning will keep the programs going and Julie Foster will continue to serve as the glue that holds the entire operation together.Bob Parker

I could not have asked for a more capable team to lead the organization into the future. IPRE/CSC has been my life’s work up to now—continuing the legacy is a gift to me from the entire IPRE team. What we built is unique in higher education and stands at the intersection of the three pillars of UO’s mission: education, research, and engagement. Our work is important and impacts students, organizations, and communities throughout Oregon and beyond while making significant contributions to basic research.

It has been a privilege to lead the Institute and to be part of the larger PPPM community. While there are way more people than I have the time to thank here, I want to specifically thank Rich Margerum head of PPPM for his support and insight. Working with the dedicated faculty and staff of PPPM has been a pleasure. Interaction with elected and appointed officials and community members is in education in itself and has kept me sharp all these years. Working with the hundreds of students has been a joy.

Alas, the adventure is not yet over. Circumstances have convinced me that a phased retirement is necessary—which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Starting tomorrow, I’ll take on a new role as Director of Strategy and Technical Solutions for IPRE.  A big part of my focus for the next two years will be on community and economic recovery from COVID-19. It’s going to be a long road to recovery and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and continue to contribute to the overall effort. Moreover, I’ll continue my work with ECONorthwest.

I’ll close with a big thanks to all my colleagues in the fields of planning and public administration. The work we do is important and underappreciated. The people who do it are dedicated, courteous, knowledgeable, and fun. I look forward to continuing the journey.