Looking Ahead with the Center for Small Towns

One of the great things about Minnesota is that we have definite and well defined seasons.  The fall is our time to harvest and give thanks for all we’ve gained and achieved over the year and it leads us into to winter, a time for stories and learning and figuring out the path forward.

Right now the Center for Small Towns is in that time of change and moving into the time of stories and strategizing.  Long time staffer Kelly Asche has moved on to take a position with the Center for Rural Policy and Development.  Congratulations to Kelly!

Here at the Center, I’ve had the good fortune to join the staff as the new Community Program Administrator.  I’d like to take a few moments to introduce myself and to share a little about where CST is at right now and where we’re going.

My name is Amy Mondloch.  I’m grew up on a farm in southeastern Wisconsin in a community where my family had lived since the probably about the mid 1800’s and where much of my family still lives today.  Rural living and growing up on a farm defined me.  It led me to becoming a community organizer.  I bring more than 25 years of experience working in community organizing and leadership development working on issues of environmental and social justice to CST.  I’ve worked in rural and urban communities in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Minnesota bringing together people of diverse backgrounds to work on shared issues.

I’ve been in my new role at CST for a month now and I love it! We’ve got a great crew of students this semester working on a wonderful array of community projects.  Right now our students are working on a dozen different projects.  Karyssa is working with the folks at the Cayuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce getting people engaged with local businesses.  Max, Audrey, and Margaret are doing a video project for the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission.  Ruth and Jubair are helping the people in Starbuck take a great museum and move it up to the next level, making it an even better community attraction.  These are just a few of the projects that our students are taking on right now.  Community projects are an amazing way for student to learn outside the classroom, build their career skills, and make a few dollars to pay their rent while their in school.  Community projects are also a wonderful plus for the communities that we work with.  They help volunteer run and small staffed organizations access the tools of the university and take on the big ideas and make them reality.

Right now through November 10th, we’re accepting community proposals for spring 2018 projects.  Is there something special that you’re community would like to take on that needs a set of skills that you just don’t have in your staff or volunteer crew?  Students can typically work up to 10 hours a week during the semester and up to full time during breaks.  Submit your application today or just give us a call to find out more.

Our community projects are the heart of what the Center for Small Towns does.  This year we’ll building around that heart by deepening our student development work.  Our students have let us know that they want to know more about rural Minnesota and what it means to be a part of community.  So, we’re hosting student suppers talking about just these kinds of topics and inviting our community partners to be a part.  We’re also encouraging our students to take part in larger discussions like the upcoming IAS panel on food systems.  We hope you’ll join in too.  On October 26th at 3:30 in HFA 45 CST will be co-hosting From Farm to Store: Challenges Facing Rural Food Systems.

Right now, CST doesn’t have as many staff as we did a few years ago, but we’re not letting that stop us.  We’re building back up the number of projects that we’re doing in communities around the region.  We’re talking about “who is rural Minnesota?” and looking at who we’re serving and how well we’re doing.  We’re working with our partners here at UMM to improve the ways that we serve the whole community on campus and off.  It’s going to be a great year.  Looking forward to working with you!



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