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In times of uncertainty, the simple act of being listened to goes a long way. This fall, Assistant Professor of Public Administration Daniel Costie and the Rural Engagement and Vitality Center (REV Center) helped bring a voice to several rural Oregon communities.
REV partnered with Euvalcree, a nonprofit community support organization based out of Malheur County, to complete the group’s Needs Assessment Project. Euvalcree engages with and mobilizes underrepresented populations, such as the LatinX community, to develop social capital and leadership capacity in community members. The work included two surveys gauging the social and economic impact of COVID-19 on communities in Malheur, Morrow and Umatilla counties.
“One of the main reasons we have institutions [of higher education] in our communities is to solve local problems. I would argue that a university that does not partner and collaborate with organizations, public, private or nonprofit, is not really doing a service to their own communities,” Costie said.
Costie worked as the primary investigator, helping connect EOU student Vitor Pedrosa with Euvalcree to work as a research assistant and intern. He further watched and advised Pedrosa’s progress and ensured both the quality of the work and that Pedrosa was developing skills as part of the internship.
“Really what I try to do is, the student does as much work as I find them capable of doing, the work gets moved on to Euvalcree, and I am there for quality control to make sure it is up to a standard that EOU has to hold itself to,” Costie said.
Befitting of his role, Costie is a proponent of students building work and contact portfolios outside the classroom whenever possible.
“It’s a different type of learning that people get an opportunity to do. Through that fieldwork you get to see the real relevance of the work itself,” he said.
Pedrosa’s internship in particular fits this idea of fieldwork learning.
“With Euvlacree, the research assistant is going into the data, familiarizing themself with the data, amassing and interpreting the data and asking, ‘What are the big takeaways?’” Costie said. “They’re able to apply the context and say, for example, ‘What I’m reading is, the people of Ontario want a recreational site.’ Great, let’s put that in the report because that is you offering a suggestion based on the analysis of the data. They are getting real-world experience on giving real people real recommendations.”
The first surveys began in June 2021 and included 1,000 Euvalcree clients selected at random. A smaller batch of 300 clients responded to a second, more detailed survey. The majority of respondents were 25 to 45 years old and had lived in their current area for 10 to 20 years.
Each survey was split into two subtypes, a close-ended type with yes and no style questions, and an open-ended type where respondents could answer freely. Answers were categorized depending on the question type, “quality of life inquiries” and “crisis inquiries,” and the response type.
“We analyzed all the close-ended questions and open-ended questions and picked different themes for them. Then we summarized our findings to make sure that correlation implies causation, or it wasn’t just chance that happened. I worked on a little dashboard to visualize all the data,”
“We analyzed all the close-ended questions and open-ended questions and picked different themes for them. Then we summarized our findings to make sure that correlation implies causation, or it wasn’t just chance that happened. I worked on a little dashboard to visualize all the data,” Pedrosa said.
In addition to his work with Evalcree, Costie is an advocate for the participatory research model, with an emphasis on working with and directly involving clients and other stakeholders.
“Additional meaning is made by going to the people you’re trying to help and see if the results you got in your office resonate with the people you got those results from. If there’s a huge disconnect then you’ve got a problem. There are a variety of different stakeholders that would benefit from learning about these needs assessments,” he said.
The survey projects have concluded, but Costie is still working with the REV Center to coordinate new internship opportunities in Union and Morrow counties.
“The more opportunity there is to link our students with organizations, the more valuable the product we have here at the university. And REV acting as that intermediary is quite valuable,” Costie said.
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