Community Connectors: Jason Cervenec
Community Connectors is a monthly series highlighting Ohio State staff members who have shown leadership in partnering with our communities to make an impact. Note: Photo was taken pre-pandemic.
Education & Outreach Director
Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center
Jason Cervenec wears a few different hats at the Byrd Center, all of which involving engaging with communities. He shares the center's cutting edge science with the general public, helps decision makers understand climate change and its impacts, and educates youth and families about the geosciences and polar regions.
Why is engaging the community important to you and your work?
My most exciting initiatives and most relevant work are a result of community engagements that have evolved over time. It's important to be present and listen closely as you never know what will ultimately emerge from a simple conversation.
What lessons have you learned from the community that have helped you as a university staff member?
Take yourself out of your comfort zone periodically. Attend a few seminars, programs, and community events outside of your discipline and area of expertise each semester. You will meet new people, gain different perspectives, and have novel ideas that can offer energy on occasions when your work is stuck in a rut.
What has been your favorite moment from your community-engagement work?
There really are too many to count, but a highlight for me is still giving tours of the Byrd Center. We have a team that gives these tours, I so don't run all of them, but the discussions and questions during tours often give me new ideas and help me hone how I communicate. I also enjoy seeing the excitement in youth when they walk into our Polar Rock Repository or Ice Core Facility for the first time.
What advice do you have for other staff members who are interested in getting involved in community engagement?
First, find a small group of individuals at the university who can serve as a support network and sounding board. These can be individuals within your department or across campus who are willing to brainstorm, offer feedback, and introduce you to collaborators. Second, have the humility to accept that you aren't an expert in everything and give yourself permission to acknowledge that you dont need to be. The collaborators and communities you are going to work with don't want you to arrive with finalized solutions, but would prefer to cogenerate them with you.