Internship in Burke County benefits student, community
Monisha Shrestha is in the middle of one of the greatest learning experiences of her life.
Shrestha, a graduate student in construction management at NDSU, is from Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, which has a population of about one million. She now lives in Bowbells, a town of 300 in western North Dakota.
Shrestha moved to rural North Dakota for an internship. She serves as the director for job development for Burke County. While she is learning the role, she is responsible for leading others in an effort to generate growth and sustainability for the community.
The master’s student came to NDSU following her sister and brother-in-law, who also attend the university. She didn’t anticipate living more than 300 miles away from them after she arrived, but the internship was too good to pass up.
She heard about the position when Kathy Coyle, community development specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was a guest speaker in her land development class.
Shrestha’s main role is to help shape ideas and serve as a medium between the people and funding options available to them. “For example, if they want a grocery store, then they would come to me and we would talk about the idea and how it can be implemented in that city or county,” she said.
Shrestha’s office is in the courthouse, shared by an auditor, tax director and NDSU Extension Service agent. She has been learning her role a lot on her own. “There is no one to tell me to do this or do that,” she said. “In a way, it’s a fun learning process.”
Working for Burke county, Shrestha helps with development in Flaxton, Powers Lake, Lignite, Portal and Columbus in addition to Bowbells, the county seat. She is the first full-time person to hold the position in a year.
Some of Shrestha’s duties include researching funding options, writing articles for the towns’ papers and organizing meetings. But her biggest undertaking thus far has been hosting a Burke County brainstorming session.
The session was held during the summer with the goal of letting people voice their concerns for their community and brainstorming to resolve those problems. Coyle facilitated the event. She helped the group identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in their cities and provided information on funding programs offered by the USDA Rural Development.
Shrestha was concerned about a small turnout, but she was happy when nearly 30 people walked through the door. “They really loved it. It went well,” Shrestha said. She hopes to organize a business conference at the end of November. “A community grows once you have those brainstorming sessions or public forums. My focus is to bring all people together to generate an idea to do something for the community,” she said.
Some recent developments have been a grocery store opening and a hotel that had been shut down for years reopening. The biggest issue by far is the housing shortage due to the influx of oil workers, Shrestha said. That and the lack of amenities will take time to change, but the welcoming people make up for it. “They’re very warm and they wave to me whenever I pass by,” she said. “They are very nice and helpful.”
Shrestha is not opposed to continuing her role there when her internship ends in December, but she is open to other opportunities and possibly pursuing a doctorate in a community-related field.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s been a challenge to meet different people and to work for a community, but I always wanted to work in this kind of field. I think it’s fun to deal with problems related to a community and to tackle them.”