2017-18 Civic Fellow Jessica Holdnak reflects on her service year thus far.

I have been working with the Mathews Center for over two years as an undergraduate and graduate intern, so when the Center announced the job posting for the Civic Fellow position the shift seemed natural. Since August I’ve made the little desk on the second floor of our offices my home away from home. On the corner of my desk I have a small stack of books pertaining to deliberation, rural America, and my project on the Creek War of 1813.

The most exciting part of the job has been seeing my fellow Alabamians participating in their communities.


The Creek War Issue Guide has been in the works for more than a year now and is starting to wrap up. Researching and writing the guide, aimed at Alabama fourth graders, has allowed me to put my Bachelor’s in History to good use. And, with the help of our tech whiz Justin Lutz, I’ve learned some new skills when it comes to design work and videography.

The most exciting part of the job has been seeing my fellow Alabamians participating in their communities. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved the DMC ‘s Alabama Issues program program since the beginning of my time at the Center. I have listened to folks across the state voice their opinions and work toward solutions for sticky, difficult and often contentious issues facing the region. Some of these voices can be underrepresented in State and National discourse, local forums allow citizens to have a more direct impact on the direction of their own community, issues, policies, and environments.

In the new year I hope to further my understanding and familiarity with rural Alabama. Alongside Civic Fellow Martha Grace Mize, I hope to delve deep into community resiliency and decision making in small-town Alabama. The project is still in its planning stages and will likely include and oral history component. It is also very important to me that the project services the communities involved, through better informing local and regional leaders about their constituents, and finding better ways to work with communities through their local and informal decision making processes.


– Jessica Holdnak