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Podcast: Educational Local Government Partnerships at Indiana University

Posted on March 16, 2021


Educational Local Government Partnerships EPIC-N GovLove
barryjane
Barry Jeskewich
Former Parks & Recreation Director
City of Bedford, Indiana
Twitter | LinkedIn
Jane Rogan
Director of Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Indiana University
LinkedIn

Sustaining Hoosier Communities. Two guests join the podcast to talk about the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities – Network (EPIC-N). Jane Rogan, Director of Sustaining Hoosier Communities at Indiana University, and Barry Jeskewich, former Parks and Recreation Director at the City of Bedford, Indiana, discussed how the university and local government worked together to serve communities and how students at Indiana University used a local fish hatchery to enhance their learning. They also shared how other communities can get involved with EPIC-N.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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Keep Reading

Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities – Network (EPIC-N) Website

Information for Communities – The EPIC-N Model

EPIC-N and Indiana University Partnership

Hatchery closer to becoming park

Barry Jeskewich reflects on career at Bedford Parks Department

Center for Rural Engagement has risen to meet challenges of Hoosier communities in 2020


Episode Transcription

Kirsten Wyatt  00:00

Before we get into today’s episode, Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. Short term rentals or STRs, often found on sites like Airbnb, and VRBO are more than just party mansions in LA. Their numbers are growing at a staggering rate in 1000s of communities across North America. What does this mean for local government? It’s time to act. STRs can be a tremendous source of revenue for local governments, or a real community nuisance. It all depends on adopting the right Compliance and Enforcement strategy. To date over 350 communities have partnered with Granicus on our STR compliance programs for everything from addressing and host identification, to ordinance consulting and permitting tools. Interested in learning more about the STR market in your community and how Granicus can help? Visit granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information. Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is Gov love, a podcast about local government. Gov love is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network, we engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Kirsten Wyatt the ELGL co founder and executive director and today I’m joined by Barry Jeskewich, previously the director of Parks and Recreation at the city of Bedford, Indiana, now serving as an organizational development consultant, and Jane Rogan the Sustaining Hoosier Communities director at the Center for rural engagement at Indiana University. This episode is produced as part of ELGL’s partnership with EPIC-N, the educational partnerships for innovation and communities network. Barry, Jane, welcome to Gov Love.

Jane Rogan  02:05

Thanks a lot.

Barry Jeskewich  02:07

Thanks for having us.

Kirsten Wyatt  02:08

Today, we’re talking about Barry’s work transitioning a state Fish Hatchery to local management with a long term plan and how Jane’s work at Indiana University Bloomington connected him and other local government leaders to IU courses, students and faculty to address community identified needs and opportunities. And we’ll also learn more about the EPIC-N network and how your local government can tap into the incredible resources and knowledge on campuses near you. But first, let’s get started with a lightning round. And Barry, you can go first on this question. What is your most controversial non political opinion?

Barry Jeskewich  02:49

Well, I’d have to say that pineapple does belong on pizza, but it only needs, it must be accompanied by having bacon and banana peppers on there. If you combine those three together, you’re gonna have a flavorful explosion in your mouth that you’d loved.

Kirsten Wyatt  03:07

You know, that really is a hot topic in the ELGL Facebook group so so I’m glad you brought that up. And Jane, what about you, what is your most controversial non political opinion?

Jane Rogan  03:19

Mine is also related to food. tangentially I guess, but my most controversial non political opinion that is, is that if tea is worth drinking, it must be made in a teapot. There is no dunking of a tea bag in the mug of lukewarm water. It’s a kettle of boiling water, a tea bag in a tea pot and freshly boiled water poured on top. If it’s not that ain’t drinking, it’s not tea.

Kirsten Wyatt  03:48

Alright, I mean, very specific answers from both of you. So now, I think we know what to serve you if we ever meet you in person. All right, another food question here. What food do most people enjoy but you do not. Jane, you can go first on this one.

Jane Rogan  04:05

Oh my god, celery. It’s like the worst thing on the planet. It’s it to me it has the strongest, it has the strongest smell. It has the strongest taste. I literally can smell it from you know, two floors away. I had a co worker who was pregnant and craved celery all the time when I would walk in the building two floors down from our office and I would be able to smell the celery. So yeah, please don’t ever come at me with celery. It’s my kryptonite.

Kirsten Wyatt  04:35

Barry, what about you?

Barry Jeskewich  04:38

Oh, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and have a lot of haters for saying this, but it’s ketchup.

Kirsten Wyatt  04:45

No!

Barry Jeskewich  04:45

I know. I know. I know. I’m one of probably five on the planet that do not does not enjoy catch up. But yes. 

Kirsten Wyatt  04:54

Alright. That’s bold. Okay, one last lightning round question. Barry, you’re up first. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Barry Jeskewich  05:04

Oh, I want when I was 10 years old, I wanted to be just like my grandparents. I have a lot of admiration for my grandparents I always have. And when I was young, I thought they were the king, kings and queens and the bee’s knees. And I wanted to be just like them. And both of them were involved in civic service, gave a lot to the community, and we’re out and about helping better people’s lives and essentially that’s what I followed in their footsteps and a little bit different of a path that I am living the dream.

Kirsten Wyatt  05:36

That’s wonderful. And Jane, what about you when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

Jane Rogan  05:41

Well, hold tight on this one. I wanted to be a backup singer. I really wanted to be a backup singer with maybe like three women all during the backup singing with like, the moods and the and the clicking and then, you know, the choreographed movements. Yeah, so I guess I maybe thought could maybe join the Jackson Five or six, but I’d have to change the name.

Kirsten Wyatt  06:11

Well, I mean, that’s kind of a public service because you’re providing backup to to the singer.

Jane Rogan  06:16

So sure, it’s a bit of a stretch, but I’ll go with that.

Kirsten Wyatt  06:22

Alright, before we begin the interview, I have some exciting news for our listeners. Tickets for ELGL pop ups are on sale now. ELGL pop ups are our approach to regional conferencing, and this year, are hosted virtually on May 21, 2021. These events are a great way to learn more about regional local government topics. Tickets are $10 for students, $40 per person, or $80 for an all access pass to attend any of the sessions on that day. We also have volume discounts if you want to sign up your whole team, please visit ELGLpopups.com to save your spot. Alright, let’s get started with today’s Gov Love podcast. Barry, tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are today?

Barry Jeskewich  07:08

Well, when I was a young child, my grandfather, one of my grandfather’s was a forester. So I spent a lot of time in the Hoosier National Forest, which is a large national forest in southern Indiana. And as a supervisor of that forest he took me out and we enjoyed just tromping through the woods and enjoyed outdoor recreation to the fullest. And then I ended up attending a camp called Camp Palawopec and also in southern Indiana. And between the two of those, I developed a fond appreciation for the outdoors. And along the way, I discovered adventure recreation and outdoor recreation. So in following my grandfather’s footsteps, I went to Purdue University for pre forestry. And after the two year program, I decided I I enjoyed the the recreation side of it a little bit more. So I got a Bachelor of Arts degree in parks recreation and leisure management from Purdue. And then I moved west, I left Indiana and went west. And I spent about six years in Yellowstone National Park, running the employee recreation program there, which is about 5000 employees. And my job was basically to provide activities for the, all of the employees during their time off. And then I ended up going to the Zion, or into the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and develop the new program there, worked there for about three years and then I got into private industry which was customer service sales and distribution for Decker’s Corporation, which was Teva, Sanuk, and Ugg footwear. And then from from there, I went to work on a private Ranch, and just outside of Zion National Park, the most pristine, beautiful property you could ever imagine, butted right up against Zion National Park, and it was a private ranch. And it actually ended up being bought by Paul Allen, the co founder of of Microsoft years later, it was 2066 acres. It was the first organic orchard in the state of Utah. And then from there I went east and to North Carolina, ran a surf camp and a sea turtle camp on the coast, and then went up to the mountains and was a guest service manager in at beech Mountain Resort and then ended up finding myself going back full circle to my hometown of Bedford, Indiana where I was the director of Parks and Recreation for six years, which is initially where I cut my teeth, weed eating and taking care of the softball fields when I was 14 years old. So I am deep rooted in outdoors, rec, outdoor recreation, customer service, hospitality, event planning, logistics, it’s my forte and that’s what I love to do, be able to provide people, places and activities to go to, to participate and for the health and wellness of the general public.

Kirsten Wyatt  09:55

That’s, that’s wonderful. Thank you. Jane, what about you, tell us about your career path.

Jane Rogan  10:01

So much as Barry is rooted in outdoor environments, I am rooted in higher education. So I’m if you can’t tell I’m not a Hoosier. I work for Indiana University. But I grew up in the north of England and I moved to Indiana many years ago and never left. And I have a earned a master’s degree in higher education from Indiana University in Bloomington and then started to work on campus. And majority of my work on our campus and for the university has been in undergraduate education. And prior to making the switch over to university community engagement, I had been the director of engaged learning on campus, which is all about finding students opportunities to leave their academic work to more substantial experiences, near and away from the campus. And that included piloting or Sustaining Hoosier Communities Program. So I’ve run a small academic program for honors level students, I was an academic advisor was my first my first professional role on campus, I worked in our student financial aid office when I was a graduate student. But everything I’ve done has really been around education, which is really ironic, because I was somebody who was convinced they were going to leave school at 16. I had some friends who did it and I watched him get terrible jobs and not enjoy their lives. And I thought, well, maybe I’ll stay on graduate from high school, that I didn’t think I was going to go to college, nobody in my family had. And I watched a friend of mine go to college and have a really great time. And I thought well give that a try. So ironically, that I’m the first person in my family, to graduate from college, the first person in my immediate family to get a graduate degree. And education just felt like home. To me, always. Working in a university was a very strange environment for me at first, but the importance of education and the transformational power that it has on those who participate in it and those who can benefit from its resources is really what led me to stay in higher education, and then also to really find an affinity for the work that I’m doing now, because we’re bringing the resources of universities to bear outside of the campus itself. So it’s, it feels like there’s a greater good that we’re serving with this work.

Kirsten Wyatt  12:32

Well, it’s a pleasure having both of you here today. So let’s talk more about the work you’re specifically doing right now. Jane, tell us more about the Center for rural engagement and the work that you do with that organization.

Jane Rogan  12:45

Great. So the Center for rural engagement started three years ago, we were the recipients of a large grant from the Lilly Foundation, which is a large philanthropic organization based in Indiana. And the the principle behind the Center for rural engagement is to really do what we can to help improve Hoosier lives and to do that in any way that is feasible. We work across Southwest Central Indiana, and primarily rural communities. We, we work in health and wellness, we work in resilience, which includes outdoor recreation, environmental concerns, and then also in quality of place, which for us links together the built environment, and also traditions, arts and cultures. So we have all kinds of research projects with our faculty are in all of those areas. But we also undertake to engage the university with our faculty and our students. And so we do have an opportunity to get students who are in the classroom, connected out to our, to our local communities, and to embed projects that have been decided on in the community to embed those into courses that faculty are teaching. And so that’s how we that’s how we that’s how Barry and I got to know one another because the projects that that he he and I coordinated and collaborated on was through our program that’s housed in the center for rural engagement, that’s called Sustaining Hoosier Communities. So the Center for rural engagement os, a large clearinghouse of a lot of different things, and I run Sustaining Hoosier Communities, which is in and of itself, the sort of teaching focused arm of the university community engagement work that we conduct.

Kirsten Wyatt  14:32

And Barry, tell us more about how you first connected with Jane and some of the projects that you are proud of or kind of illustrated your your connection back to the university. 

Barry Jeskewich  14:45

Well, initially whenever I came back to the city of Bedford and began working for Mayor Shawna Girgis and was appointed the director of Parks and Recreation, one of the first tasks she asked me to, to tackle was the Avoca fish hatchery, which is a fish hatchery located about three miles from the city limits as a crow flies from the city of Bedford. So technically it was not in the city of Bedford. But the property itself is a beautiful, beautiful, historic bit of property. And that property was being decommissioned as a fish hatchery as an active Fish Hatchery, the Department of Natural Resources was going to decommission it. And what the mayor wanted to do was explore the different possibilities of being able to acquire that land or have some sort of subsidiary acquire that land so it could remain green space for the general public as opposed to going to a public auction. So the state first vetted the property with other state departments, as well as educational institutions. And then it came down to the municipalities in the region. And what we tried to do is find an entity to accept this property itself. And I worked on this project for a couple of years, trying to negotiate with the county to develop a county parks and Parks and Recreation board in order to receive this property and the county and the county for whatever reason they weren’t as interested as we were in trying to protect that land. So what we did was, we explored different options, we ended up partnering with the Marshall Township, which is where Avoca  Fish Hatchery resides. And in the interim, we were contacted by Jane and her staff at Indiana University for what I believe was the first year of the sustaining Hoosier communities endeavor. And so we talked, we got together both the local government there in Bedford, Indiana, and Jane and her crew up at Indiana University got together and started brainstorming over different topics and how we might be able to partner and engage together. One of those topics that came to fruition, I believe there were probably over 50 different projects that we discussed. One of those that really rose to the surface was the Avoca fish hatchery. So working with Jane and her crew, and then also partnering with Professor James Farmer there at Indiana University, we were able to develop, Dr. Farmer was able to put together two different classes, undergraduate classes, to explore and help us with trying to justify keeping the property so Dr. Farmer and his students came up with a myriad of different ideas, concepts, and really dove into the project completely. They did timber, timber harvest counts, they looked at the properties themselves and explored all sorts of different ways the property can be used, everything from creating it into a for profit, soccer, soccer pavilion soccer complex to just keeping the property, maintained and green. So what we did was over the course of those two semesters, we explored different options, worked closely together, having different meetings and brainstorming even more boots on the ground and took tours of the property. And the Avoca fish hatchery was a very near and dear to a lot of local residents there. And what we ended up coming up with was discovering that we could partner together with the local township there that they could add a subsidized income, which was pennies and pennies on the dollar to the tax draw that would allow the property to be able to sustain itself financially. And then the next step was to turn over to the DNR and make sure that we can do this legally. And I’m I’m happy to report as of August of 2020, the Department of Natural Resources with the state of Indiana officially turned the property over to the Marshall township, well the Marshall park board which consists of only one person, but nonetheless there is an entity that that now runs that property and the property, it has remained as open green space for the general public, which was our objective and our goal, we didn’t want to see it fall into the hands of Bass Pro Shop or anything like that. So we achieved our goal. And and by working with Jane and her group up there also, we were put in touch with regional, regional opportunities. Initiative, when we received a grant from them for $125,000 to be able to build up the infrastructure and kind of get it up to par as well do some marketing and branding for it. And at the same time, we were able to create Lawrence, Lawrence County Park Foundation. So a lot of this would not have been possible without the collaboration between the university and the educational institution of Indiana University and Jane’s group, as well as us as a municipal government and the residents of that region. So at the end of the day, we have achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve locally. But it took six years of hard work and a lot of input and a lot of dedication. But the the reward has been spectacular.

Kirsten Wyatt  20:10

Jane, talk to us about the on campus element of developing the courses and getting students involved. How does that play out, and maybe specifically talk about the Avoca fish hatchery, but maybe also in general of how you use these community focus projects, to engage and educate about about the different issues.

Jane Rogan  20:36

I’m delighted to talk about it, it does sort of feel a little bit like the Wizard of Oz, we do a lot of work with the community. We do asset mapping with them, we work a lot on project ideation. And every project that we work on is something that has come from the community itself. And then there’s this moment in time where I sort of disappear from the community. And I go back to campus, and I start to sort of pitch all of these different ideas to faculty, one of the principles that we operate on that is an EPIC-N principle is that courses that are already on the books are the courses into which we’re going to place projects from communities. And the reason for that is that it’s quite a heavy lift for a faculty member to add a community engaged project into their syllabus. And so we don’t want some faculty members to feel like they have to like design a new course, what we want to make sure is that we can find a really good project with great project leads, someone like Barry who’s very invested, and who’s open to working with students and faculty on on their projects. So once we’ve sort of got a potential match, then there’s a scope of work document that gets created. And what this does is it allows the community to say very explicitly, this is what I’m looking for out of this engagement. These are the kinds of deliverables I’d like to see for the faculty member to then, you know, either counter that or to make some amendments to that, based on what’s possible and plausible, for students have a specific, you know, a specific progression in their, in their academic careers. Maybe an undergraduate student couldn’t perhaps do the deliverable that the community is looking for. But we work all this out with a scope of work document, everybody agrees to it. And then, you know, the 16 week semester that we have at the university, we know we’ve got the 16th week is finals, and the first week is, you know, is everybody kind of getting their feet wet. So we’re really kind of getting the work done with our communities in something like a 14, 12 to 14 week time frame. So we work through that scope of work document with our project lead in the community and with our faculty leads. And then we introduce the project to students in the class at the beginning of the semester, we rely very heavily on the community lead. So Barry was instrumental in talking with students in showing up at classes and welcoming students into the community and to take them around, in this case, take them around the fish hatchery, but we really need the community members expertise, to really introduce us to the context of the particular project that the students will be working on. The students have a lot of experience with the theoretical frameworks that they might be using, whether that’s in something like, you know, the fish hatchery and outdoor education, or you know, we’ve got great projects that are involved in nursing students and social work students in the field. But what we’re really giving them the opportunity to do is to work with a real life client, and to bring sort of bring alive the academic theoretical experiences that they’re used to having in the classroom. One of the really engaging pieces of this is that, you know, faculty members really like to be in the classroom with students, but they also really like to get out of the classroom with their students. So Professor James Farmer, he’s a great example, he loved this experience he loved, you know, strolling around to the woods, he got so many opportunities to teach students, so many different things, as Barry said, you know, doing tree inventories for timber, you know, that wasn’t something he would have ordinarily done in this class. But this provided him an opportunity to do that. And then the other piece of it too, is that, you know, we have a lot of students in Indiana University who come from rural communities, and equally have we have a lot of students who come from large cities. And so, you know, when we when we are in this, in this classroom experience that’s in a rural community, our students who come from rural communities feel like they’re a little bit more expert and able to speak on on the topics at hand. Equally, we have always had students who are from the local community who are participating in classes in their own community. And Barry’s experience was was certainly no, no different in that we had a young student Sarah Murphy, who, who worked on the Avoca fish hatchery project and currently is employed by the state park that is in Bedford, in the county and in Lawrence County just outside of Bedford, some three years after her graduation. So we have this great opportunity to demonstrate to students what rural life is all about. For students for whom that might be a novel experience, and really to give them a brand new context into which to bring to life their theoretical frameworks and their academic experiences.

Kirsten Wyatt  25:27

We’ll be right back to today’s episode. Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. Short term rentals or STRs, often found on sites like Airbnb and VRBO are more than just party mansions in LA. Their numbers are growing at a staggering rate in 1000s of communities in North America. So what does this mean for local government? It’s time to act. STRs can be a tremendous source of revenue for local governments, or a real community nuisance. It all depends on adopting the right Compliance and Enforcement strategy. To date, over 350 communities have partnered with Granicus on their STR compliance programs for everything from address and host identification, to ordinance consulting and permitting tools. Interested in learning more about the STR market in your community and how Granicus can help? Visit granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information. Now, let’s get back to the show. I’d like to talk about the scope of these partnerships and projects. And for our listeners, when I first heard about the EPIC-N network, I wasn’t quite sure if these were just kind of one off, you know, students maybe learning about something and writing a paper. And the thing that’s amazing is the depth and the complexity of these problems and and projects that you’re working on. So tell us more about some of the different projects that you’ve worked on. And then maybe specifically in that partnership with Lawrence County, some of the different ways and the number of people that got involved with the projects that you did.

Jane Rogan  27:12

For sure. It’s really important to point out that our first our first ever Sustaining Hoosier Communities partnership was with Lawrence County. So Lawrence County and Barry Barry was one of our guinea pigs. They were they were a pilot program. And we had absolutely no clue when we were starting out with a pilot program, how much interest there would be in the community, how much interest there would be on campus with our faculty would they would faculty wants to take on these projects. And at the time, my boss kept telling me, you know, just just go with like six classes go with six classes, you get to six, it’ll be enough. Well, we ended up with 20 classes, and they tackle 14 projects. And there were about 550 students involved, which for for a pilot year was a little bigger than we had anticipated. But there was such tremendous interest. And very, there was a tremendous interest and motivation. But who would be going to, who are we going to say no to? That was really my difficulty. So we worked like the dickens and we got all of that that whole year put together. And the projects that we that we took on were really, really diverse. So the fish hatchery is a great was a great example. But we have projects in art, architecture and design. The city had some some money from that I think was part of our state grants. And then we had art students design new city gateway markers. Bedford, Indiana is known for its limestone. So one of the things we wanted to do is to use limestone in a novel way to put markers on on the highways, as you get towards Bedford to designate that not only is this Bedford but it’s, you know, one of the limestone capitals of the world. We had, we had a great project with our informatics program. So students who are in informatics, Computing and Engineering worked on trying to figure out whether in the part of the Hoosier national forest that is within Lawrence County, whether there are any spaces in that forest that could apply for the dark sky designation. So that’s the kind of it’s dark enough that you could see the Milky Way at night. And they built sensors that they actually designed and built sensors themselves, they took them out and they left them out into in the Hoosier National Forest. Now one of the critical things to think about with this is what you’re trying to measure to see if you’ve got a dark sky site is that there should be no light pollution. So you’re expecting that your light sensor measures no light in the perfect scenario. But of course in the perfect scenario. Measuring the light could also mean that your sensor is broken. Where there was a lot of testing and retesting of these sensors that students had built, just to make sure that they hadn’t built a bum sensor that actually was just not working at all. We had, within the town itself, there was some great projects that were were completed by students in our public and Environmental Affairs program, they actually looked at finishing up a complete streets initiative that the city of Bedford had been working on. And there was one or two final, there were one or two final pieces of complete streets that needed a little bit more feedback and interaction with the community. There was there was some opposition to some some parts of the complete streets initiative by folks who perhaps didn’t quite know enough about it, or maybe thought that what was going on with streetscaping was, you know, a waste of money. And so having our students be able to go and hold meetings and to educate the community about what the projects were all about was a powerful experience for the students but also for the community. Because what we what we find with our communities when we working with them. And back to your your question, Kirsten, we are not just with these communities for a short period of time, we teach for an academic year in these communities. But we’ve already done maybe 8, 9, 10 months of work ahead of time, preparing the communities and seeking their input before the students even set foot in a community with a faculty member. So there’s a lot of free work that goes on ahead of time. And this, you know, one of the things that’s really powerful about this is this, we work with our communities to look at asset mapping and to sort of really find the things that that are important and essential to the success of these communities, the things that we really want to build on. When we’re working in community, we really help communities to sort of rediscover sometimes a feeling of pride about the things that they have, that they that they love. And the fish hatchery was a great example of that. Everybody knew it was there, and lots of people go and visit it. We’ve got all kinds of stories of people, you know, have been having their proposals at the fish hatchery are taking their high school graduation photos there. But it’s sort of was one of those things where folks were just like, Oh, yeah, it’s just that fish hatchery that we don’t use anymore. And then all of a sudden, as we started to talk about at least fond memories come out. Oh, this is something that’s important to my family, this is something that you know, we will go picnic there, and the intrigue of a class full of students or asking questions about that one thing, really, I think, for a community, elevates the importance of that asset, brings it into sharp focus. And then people start to develop momentum within the community around that thing. And so we were fortunate with Barry’s example that he’d already been working on it, he’d elevated the assets, you know, within the community, but having 25 students turn up on the property, and all write papers about what they think you should do with that just generates a lot of chatter and momentum. And then I think that momentum helps carry projects forward. And you know, Barry’s experience of continuing the relationship with the university and working with the eppley center on campus to look at, you know, some some that one of the focuses that they have is is understanding how to set up Parks and Rec boards and how to govern Park spaces. And, you know, continuing that relationship with them, even though we were done with the formal teaching arrangements in the community, a continued support from university, I think really helped out in the long run in being able to prepare the community for that grants application. And ultimately, they were successful in getting that, which is a, you know, a huge feather in everybody’s cap. So I think it talks a lot, Kirsten, and I’m not sure if I actually answered your question, but the diversity of experiences is really is really huge. And you know, I think there is another project I’d love to tell you about, but I’m not sure if we have to time.

Kirsten Wyatt  34:09

Well, I do want to hear from Barry about working, you know, kind of from the local government side. I’d love to hear Barry, your experience. And and you know what some of the the highlights or best parts of the partnership was?

Barry Jeskewich  34:26

Well, the one thing I can tell you for sure is that, you know, after spending a couple of years working on the project, we kind of hit a wall we were we were kind of stuck in a rut, if you will. Where do we go? What do we do from here? And just by timing and coincidence and serendipity, the Sustaining Hoosier Communities opportunity came knocking at our door and we embraced that fully. And I’m so happy that we did because once we did that, it reenergized us. Not that we had lost hope, but we had kind of lost a direction. And what it allowed us to do was to be able to partner with the educational institution of Indiana University change group, as well as Dr. Farmer’s group, and really start to feel energized again. And then once we were able to get the students to buy into it, you know, it took them a little bit of time to to understand exactly what kind of program this was, as Jane said, this was the very first program of its kind through Indiana University. So we were all finding our way in the dark, if you will. But once we got this, once we got the students involved, and we started talking and collaborating, you know, just around the table and over the phone, we kind of started to understand exactly where what we’re going to do, where we’re going to go with this. So, you know, having the students involved, what that did, it was multifold. One, it brought a diversity of different opinions and backgrounds and history to it. So everybody comes from somewhere, right? So you can cherry pick a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each person’s experience and what their thoughts and knowledge is. And in addition to that, students, most of them at least, are very eager. They want to, they’re they’re in a university to learn and to apply what they’re learning. So it gave them, gave the students the opportunity, they, I could tell they were, they were green, but they were eager with excitement and energy to be able to, to have a voice if you will, and have an opinion. So they were able to take some of their youth youthful, fresh perspectives, and actually put pen to paper with these ideas. And to be able to get out there in the field and see what they could create. So their minds, it was like a blank canvas, basically what we were able to do as a local government to say, Okay, here’s a blank canvas Canvas, if you will, it’s a fish hatchery, it’s got a couple structures on it. But of the 43 acres out there, a lot of it’s wooded, and what is not wooded is simply ponds that can be filled in or repurposed in whatever way so it looks like a blank canvas canvas this the municipal government was giving, the state government was giving as well, to these artists that had brushes and paints and colors. And they were able to come up with some of the most brilliant ideas. So collectively, it just energized both parties, I felt that we were really, really engaged. And the partnership and the civic engagement that we had, it was just spectacular. So whenever we had public relations, call out meetings, we had a lot of people attend those because they were invested in it, because one, it was their own backyard, and they wanted to know what was going on with it. But two, they were able to provide some input and and, and thought into what was going to happen as well. So whenever you could couple both the outside, if you will they outside students and their their concepts and theories and enthusiasm and energy and education and recent pulse with what’s going on in the world, with the local residents that have a vested interest, if you will, and ownership for that property. And whenever I saw the two of them can work together in harmony, it was the most beautiful thing. So I cannot speak highly enough of what this project did, and how it bolstered I think a number of students in Dr. farmer’s classes, as well as the residents in the community, it was just a win win. It was a spectacular, spectacular project.

Jane Rogan  38:37

And I just like to confirm that Barry has not been paid for this endorsement.

Kirsten Wyatt  38:45

Well, it is a wonderful endorsement. And what I love the most is it’s a reminder, especially for students, that you can pick any career path, you can pick any major and you can still work in public service or in service to others. And you know, that’s definitely something that all of us here at ELGL are trying to do more of and remind people that it’s not just your students in political science that can go into, you know, public service, that anybody can find a job, make a difference, work in their community, based on what, what they’re working on in school. And, and so I’d love to hear more about the transferable skills and lessons that that you’ve seen students take away so maybe Jane can speak to students. And then Barry, you know, same question, but maybe for community members. And I guess that long term impact that these projects have on on that skill building and that experience.

Jane Rogan  39:46

Yeah, it’s amazing to see to see students grow through this project. I think, you know, they are given pretty broad permission. I think as Barry described to kind of play in the arena of the project that they, that they’re working on. The students all seem to develop the kinds of soft skills that you would hope that students would come out of school with. And but they all we survey every student, every community member and every faculty member at the end of every engagement, and at the close of every project to sort of really figure out like, what did they gain from from this and from the students, they really understand the the development of their soft skills, because they understand that their professional development, working with a client, working in community, the communication skills, that that means that they need to listen more than they talk. Those are all absolutely, you know, recognized by students and by the faculty as areas that the students grow in. But they’re, I think, also the they change their minds about what’s important, perhaps. And I think for a lot of our students, they recognize that the community engagement piece is a way for them to apply their knowledge, but it’s also something that they then become interested in, they think about the fact that they’re much more motivated to think about community engagement as a future career path. So the idea that working closely with a community is something that they could see themselves doing in the future. And of course, that’s what this kind of engaged learning experience, you know, from the student side is supposed to be about, it’s supposed to be a little laboratory learning session about, you know, a potential career path for students. And it is something that they do see as a way of moving forward. And for us, you know, we focus on rural communities. And again, I think we’re exposing students to environments that they’re not necessarily aware of, or comfortable in. And we’re really allowing them to, to try on that role as as a person working in a rural community. And again, we have a lot of students that who say that they had not considered that prior to their experience, but they would consider it after the fact. And for the, for our rural communities, it’s incredibly important, the issue of brain drain is very important is a significant one in our rural communities. And, you know, being able to do something that would go towards, you know, limiting that brain drain is kind of significant.

Kirsten Wyatt  42:31

I love that. And Barry, tell us some of the skills that you saw community members or even fellow government employees learning and taking away from this partnership project?

Barry Jeskewich  42:44

Well, I think one of the one of the biggest outcomes that I saw was the community taking pride in what was what had been kind of overlooked and taken for granted for years as a fish hatchery. So by bringing this to fruition and allowing us to work with an outside agency, it also really solidified the fact that this was not Bedford Indiana’s agenda, it was not our agenda, as the administration for the city of Bedford to make this property become, you know, to stay in the hands of the public. That was not necessarily our agenda. And a lot of people think it was politically driven, that Bedford Indiana wants to try to maintain and take over property, that doesn’t even reside within the city limits. So what this did, is it allowed for a third party, if you will, to come in and validate everything we had been trying to say, but had maybe been lost on deaf ears, because they just thought it was a political bully puppet kind of speech, if you will. So it gave the community pride and re, reassessed the pride in that property itself. And then, you know, the, the, the, the other aspect that I want to touch upon is it brought to the surface, again, it brought to the surface, what a gem of a property this is, as there is so much growth around the world where green spaces being scooped up all the time. And as we all know, you know, you paved paradise and put up a parking lot. I mean, that song goes back What did 50 years, and it’s still just as important now as it ever has been to maintain public green space. I mean, there’s a reason Central Park is Central Park in the middle of all those buildings and the property value of that could be astronomical, but the green space that we all take for granted. We need to really take inventory of that. So I think one thing it did with the community is it brought, it resurfaced that heritage and pride that historical preservation because this property dated back to 1818. It was originally a mill run by the hammer brothers. And it was the first post office in the town, the first general, or not in the town in the county, it has the first post office, the first general store in the entire community. And what that did is it brought to light where our roots actually are, they’re not in the City of Bedford in City Hall, they are actually out in Avoca Fish Hatchery at this property. So I think what it did for a lot of old timers, if you will, longtime residents, is it gave them a great sense of pride that somebody wants to continue keeping this property open to the public. And not everybody is out to demolish it or put up a mall or create some sort of concrete pad for play. And I think that that was one of the greatest things I saw was the pride in it, because this word got out there and people started hearing more about it, you started seeing and people coming from all around the county to voice their opinion to learn more about it. And then the next thing, you know, a week later, they they’re out there with their their family, helping volunteer to mow part of the property to keep up with it. And I think that’s probably the most tangible is just reigniting that energy for the historical preservation of that property, and then continue to work towards allowing it to be green space for future generations to come. I think those are the most tangible.

Jane Rogan  46:34

I it was really important too, the involvement that we had across the, across the county. And also, there are two there two towns within within the county city of Bedford and also the city of Mitchell, Indiana. And, you know, we had both mayors involved in our work we had the parks and rec director, Barry, we had the the city planner was involved in some work, we involves a couple of the judges in our work. You know, so we had representatives from across a pretty broad swath of, of city and county government. And in addition to that, a lot of folks just sort of your very dedicated what we like to refer to as the STP, the same ten people, the ones who really keep the keep the place running behind the scenes. So we have lots of Resident support as well. And you know, and I think it’s really important that the cities were involved, but it’s also important that we have those sort of on the ground, grassroots community support as well.

Kirsten Wyatt  47:42

I can, I can tell that our listeners are probably at this point, clamoring to find out how their local government or their local university can get involved with a similar initiative. So tell us more about how how someone might approach and develop a project similar to the great work you’ve done.

Jane Rogan  48:05

So the EPIC network EPIC-N is our is our guiding organization for all of this work. And I would very much encourage folks to visit the website at www.epicn.org. And to sort of look and see, are there universities in your region who are members of the EPIC network? And would you like to maybe get hooked up with them? And if there are, if they aren’t members, do you know people at the university or local university with whom you could engage in a partnership with, together with EPIC-N and EPIC-N is available to give guidance and make suggestions and to really increase the number of partnerships like the one we’ve been talking about here today. So yeah, I would have folks look at the EPIC-N website, see if there are any partner universities nearby. And if not, let’s let’s talk about how to make those conversations happen.

Kirsten Wyatt  49:07

And a reminder to our listeners that this is the first of a series of Gov Love episodes we’ll be doing with EPIC-N to showcase and tell the stories about these partnerships and these programs. And so, if you’re not quite sure, or if you’re on the fence, you know, please know that we’re going to have some episodes coming up this year so you can learn more. And then again, we’ll include in the show notes, links to the EPIC-N website and contact information. Anything else that you’d like to share about your work in partnership on the fish hatchery project?

Jane Rogan  49:44

I loved it. I have to say I love getting to meet Barry I get I love going into our communities. I love the students doing the work. Our faculty member was so excited about the project. I have to tell you Barry doesn’t even know this. I went with three faculty members to the Avoca Fish Hatchery, we arrived pretty late one one afternoon when the fish hatchery was already closed, and the faculty member got out and he kissed the gate post and he claimed the project. He got, he ran out of the car before we even put it into park. Because he saw that he saw the fish hatchery and he wanted to clean the project ahead of the other two. So you kissed the gate post of the Avoca Fish Hatchery sign and and claimed the project as his own. The enthusiasm that students bring to this kind of work is is phenomenal. But I I love that part of my work. But equally, I think the relationships that we build that with communities that are long term is a long standing relationships. And I think for your listeners, that’s something that really wants to stress, we do not encourage EPIC-N folks to have sort of wanting time relationships, we’re trying to build long term sustainable relationships that can endure over time that we can keep revisiting the needs of the communities and the needs of students to really make things happen, you know, make progress with communities, and that we can become dependable partners, to governmental agencies, in our communities. So, you know, I think being able to see the benefits that communities derive from our work is huge. And I love personally making the friendships that have also endured over time. And I have a special fondness for Lawrence County, and the towns of Bedford and Mitchell because they were our first our first foray into doing this work. And they were as patient as anything, as we were fumbling our way through this pilot.

Kirsten Wyatt  51:38

It’s wonderful, Barry, anything else to add? 

Barry Jeskewich  51:41

Yeah, I would second which Jane is saying too, I think the the networking, the connections, to collaborate to nature of this project is spectacular. And I think that’s just going to feed upon itself to it’s going to continue to grow and grow and grow, the connections that we’ve made, you can you can take some of that and you can transfer it into another topic, another connection. I know, from having a couple of the students that were in Dr. Farmer’s class, they continued to reach out to me after the project was done, to pick my brain to ask me suggestions and kind of almost as an internship about how to get into Parks and Recreation. So I saw some, some outcomes from that, that aren’t necessarily tangible, which the tangible ones are equally as important because now we have this property that is dedicated to green space for the, for not just the the residents of Marshall township or Lawrence County. But all visitors all around and it’s it’s a, it’s a gem, I encourage you if you’re ever in southern Indiana and visiting Jane in Indiana University, take a drive down there, see what it what kind of land it is and what it has to offer. It’s a beautiful thing. So the outcome of it has been spectacular, much beyond what I anticipated whenever I was the position to take on this project under the authority of Mayor Shawna Girgis back in 2014. I never thought we would get to where we are we far surpassed my expectations in a glorious way.

Kirsten Wyatt  53:17

That’s wonderful. And thanks to both of you for coming on and sharing your perspectives on the project. I think it really showcases how important these partnerships are. And it really brings together great people doing great work that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have met. So thank you both for being here. But I do have one last question for each of you. If you could be the Gov Love DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?

Jane Rogan  53:50

Well, I certainly have one in mind. Go ahead, Barry. You go first.

Barry Jeskewich  53:55

No, no, Jane, please.

Jane Rogan  53:57

Okay. All right. Well, I have to I have two that I’m thinking of. One, because I get my vaccination tomorrow for COVID, I have been playing on heavy repeat in my brain, the song from Hamilton, not throwing away my shot. So I’m going to make sure that I get my get to my destination on time tomorrow. But the one thing that was the song that that keeps coming to mind for me, and it’s by a songwriter, Tim Easton, and encourage everybody to look him up on Spotify. He does a great song called peace of mind. And it to me sort of exemplifies everything we’ve been talking about. The refrain of the song as it closes out is I want you to have the same peace of mind that I wish for myself. And that’s what we try to instill in our students that this work is about getting everybody everything that they want for themselves. So you know that would probably be my my choice Tim Easton’s Peace of Mind.

Barry Jeskewich  54:58

I would be hard Press to say that I don’t initially draw from say a Jackson Browne or a Neil Young song because politically activated and what they have to say, but I think to keep up with the the upbeat of the nature of this podcast. I’ll, I’ll go with Say Hey by Michael Franti

Kirsten Wyatt  55:18

Oh good. Okay perfect. That is upbeat. And again, thank you both for being here. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Gov Love listeners. This ends our episode for the day. Gov Love is produced by a rotating cast of ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network and you can reach us at ELGL.org or on Twitter @GovLovePodcast. Thank you for listening, this has been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.


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