Tag: University of Oregon

Community Impact

By Emily Bradley, Lower Umpqua Destination Development and Marketing Coordinator, City of Reedsport

Making a lasting impact in the community is the entire goal of the RARE Program, from the furthest corners of Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon to the western-most point in the continental U.S., which just so happens to be on Oregon’s Coast. On the largest and smallest of scales, within each organization, city, county, region, the entire state, the purpose of the program is the same.

Group of five enthusiastic young individuals
Group of second year RAREs at the Year 26 Orientation in September 2019

Community Impact

We hear this phrase “community impact” so much as RARE participants that by the time it’s four months into the term of service, the phrase almost loses its meaning. (And here I am four months into my second term of service.) This blog post feels like a good time to reflect and remember that the phrase “community impact” is anything but meaningless, especially as my time with the RARE Program is going to come to a close sooner than later. The biggest thing I was reminded of when diving back into this phrase “community impact” and what it means for this chapter of my life is that it went beyond just my placement in the RARE Program and the work I’ve been doing in the community I’ve been living and serving in for the past year and a half. RARE Program had an impact on my personal community I’ve been able to cultivate in the state of Oregon, and that is what I’ll be leaving with then I walk away from RARE on July 31.

There’s nobody who knows what you’re experiencing in your placement quite like the other 30+ people in the cohort diving into the same overwhelming storm that is drinking from a community development firehouse. There have been major highs – like my placement organization getting awarded a grant I wrote for $165,000 as part of a $200,000 project – and some surprising lows – like my supervisor leaving less than halfway through my second term of service. Through all of the highs and lows, nobody supported me and cheered me on more than the people in the RARE cohort. I met one of the best friends I’ve ever had through RARE, who ended up in a placement just 25 miles from mine. We’ve talked easily every day since our terms started in September of 2018 and it’s strange when we see each other less than twice per week. She’s brought me home to her family in Seattle for holidays as well as for not holidays, we do Sunday dinner together every week, she’s the first person I call when something great happens or when I’m about to have a meltdown. I’ve said it before and I can still confidently say that I would not have done a second year of RARE if she had not also done a second year. I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience and resume boosters in my time in RARE, but none of that compares to the relationships I’ll be walking away with. Community is vital when having any kind of community impact, and RARE solidified that for me.

Author standing with award with award giver in downtown Reedsport
The Oregon Main Street Network awarded Reedsport Main Street Program with an Excellence in Downtown Award for the best downtown image campaign at the annual Oregon Main Street Conference. Pictured is Emily Bradley with the award and Sheri Stuart, the State coordinator for Oregon Main Street from the State Historic Preservation Office. Photo courtesy of Reedsport Main Street Program.

Photo of author smiling and standing in front of a conifer on a sunny dayAbout the author, Emily Bradley: Emily is originally from Michigan’s Metro-Detroit area and moved to Oregon in 2018 to serve in the RARE Program with the City of Reedsport. Currently in her second year with the RARE Program, Emily first served as the coordinator for the Reedsport Main Street Program and now is serving both the City of Reedsport and the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce. Emily has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Information Science from the University of Alabama where she studied Public Relations, Communication Studies, Spanish, and Global Studies. In the future, Emily plans to earn her Master’s and PhD to conduct research and teach as a professor.

Rural Oregon needs you now more than ever. 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.

Research in the “Real World”

By Alexandra Corvello, Rural Community & Economic Development Specialist, Lane County Community & Economic Development Department

People typically say gathering data and researching is boring. They like the results that come from it—the cost benefit analysis, the decisions made based on actual facts, and the pretty, oh so pretty, maps and graphs. The process of it though, is just not something people like to talk about. When I think about the researching process… and I’m guessing what most people think about is—

  • the endless lists and excel spreadsheets,
  • vortex of internet search dark holes,
  • the frustrating tangents that cause halting work or redoing of previous research,
  • and dark, massive library basement stacks

The last one is something I have never had to deal with, due to growing up in the 90’s, but has caused so many infamous stories that it has become part of our cultural memory. In short, the process would be labeled tedious and the farthest thing from “sexy” you could get.

The first few months of my AmeriCorps RARE term has made me start to change my tune about researching. My post-grade-driven university research for my placement has been surprisingly seductive.

To give some context, I work on a regional level, which means I am trying to be available to help many different rural communities instead of just one. A major project for my term is to help map the assets of these rural communities around economic development and broadband internet access. While asset mapping sounds sophisticated—maybe even “sexy”–, it really is just putting all of your research and reams upon reams of notes into one decently summarized document. This process is vital to figuring out gaps in services, informing where regional resources should be directed, and maintain our regional institutional knowledge. A fun side benefit is that it also helps to break down the information silos that form around department boundaries, city/county lines, and organizational bubbles—which mean you get to learn a lot about a place.

As part of the research, we have been meeting with the rural communities and hearing from them about: what is new; their thoughts on economic development and broadband access in their communities; and how much I got wrong with my pre-meeting research. The last one always causes anxiety on my side and mostly amusement from the communities’ perspective. It’s not close to being done, but the information and interactions I have gotten from this research has been eye-opening and fascinating.

It has been fun to research information around these communities, from finding their physical and cultural assets to getting a breakdown of their economy. For me though, the best part of it has been going to these communities to see their downtowns in person and talk with some of the people that live and work there. Our region has such a unique and beautiful diversity of communities that are located relatively close to each other. While going to the University of Oregon I got sucked into the college campus life and missed all of these cool communities that have a lot of great local businesses, festivals, and intricate economies.

I have gained a whole new appreciation for the region. Plus I am able to contribute to the region by collecting this important information and turning it into something that can be used for local and statewide policymakers and organizations. The research process will never be blatantly “sexy”, but through my first few months with AmeriCorps I have gleaned that its process does have fun and surprising moments that lead to a subtlety seductive view of your surrounding world.

Photo of the author standing in front of brilliant fall foliage wearing a red shirtAbout the author, Alexandra Corvello: Alexandra majored in Economics and Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and got her Masters in Community and Regional Planning at the University of Oregon. Originally from the California Bay Area, Alexandra wants to help communities become more resilient to unexpected changes from disruptive events, including natural hazards, economic downturns, etc. She looks forward to using the knowledge gained in school to the benefit of the rural communities in Lane County.

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: https://rare.uoregon.edu/application-process/member-application-process