Husker students begin rural student serviceships
Hybrid between service learning, traditional internships aids Nebraska towns, cities
Six University of Nebraska-Lincoln students began “rural immersion” in four Nebraska communities the week of June 5.
North Platte, West Point and York are hosting pairs of students through Rural Futures Institute Student Serviceship. A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, serviceships provide Nebraska towns and cities with results on important self-defined projects and give students insight into rural opportunities.
Host teams include subject-matter experts and leadership mentors that help with students’ major projects, connect them with volunteering prospects and invite them to participate in events and activities. RFI provides support and guidance throughout the nine-week serviceship experience, which was made possible in partnership with the Heartland Center of Leadership Development.
Since 2013, 38 students across the University of Nebraska system have worked and served in 19 Nebraska towns and cities through the student serviceship. In addition, two students from out-of-state universities will have serviceships in Indiana this year.
“We have had many students go into communities through RFI Student Serviceship and make a positive, significant and ongoing impact,” said Chuck Schroeder, the institute’s executive director. “But, as importantly, the students gain real-world experience and build a network that influences them for a lifetime.
“It is our way of giving students a new or a first experience in a rural community, so they can be storytellers, champions and leaders for rural throughout their lives. And it gives communities specific results from the University of Nebraska.”
Interns completed a leadership training course hosted by the institute, where they got to know their partners, learned more about their communities, gained details about their projects and held online meetings with their host teams. Faculty and staff as well as community leaders as guest speakers, introducing the students to personal and professional development strategies as well as community development theories and practices. The students also explored Firth and Seward to hear from local leaders and entrepreneurs.
Agricultural economics major Syndi Lienemann and agricultural education major Trey Mogensen are helping North Platte connect the dots between workforce recruitment and workforce readiness. They will work hand-in-hand with North Platte Public School, the North Platte Chamber of Commerce and the business community to identify the community’s great career opportunities and develop a marketing plan for high school students, college students, community members and potential new residents.
West Point is taking an inventory of the community’s parks and recreation opportunities and, with the help of agribusiness major Amber Ross and environmental studies graduate Madeleine Schwinghammer, will develop a needs assessment that will dive into what the community can do to create a more robust lifestyle for those who live in Cuming County.
In York, political science major Emily Coffey and agricultural economics major Shelby Riggs will work with York County Economic Development, York Chamber of Commerce, City of York, Nebraska Extension and other community stakeholders to craft a plan to increase awareness of and enhance the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, which authorizes cities and villages, if approved by voters, to collect and direct taxes toward economic development.
“I knew this was going to be a great resume-building experience for me,” Ross, the agribusiness major, said. “What I didn’t realize is how much support I would have and how much of a professional network I would build. Just the training course was an incredible experience, so I obviously can’t wait to start my projects in West Point.”