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Curiosity and Communications

Curiosity and Communications

If there was a project available when Jodi Walker was a 4-H member, there is a good chance that she tried it out.

Walker grew up in Nezperce and was active in 4-H for 10 years through the University of Idaho Extension, Lewis County 4-H program. Walker’s family lived 17 miles outside of town on a dryland wheat and cattle farm. Her mother, Karen Richardson, decided to start a 4-H club when Walker was 8.

“I think my mom was looking for a way to get the kids out there on the edge of the ridge involved in something,” Walker said. “It’s a small town; there are only so many things that you can bring to the kids. Everyone did 4-H — the town kids, the country kids; everybody was involved.”

Richardson led a variety of projects in Walker’s 4-H club, everything from cooking to rocketry.

“She didn’t do sewing and she didn’t do livestock, but there were other leaders in other clubs that did, so I was involved in both of those as well,” Walker said. “If you wanted to do a project, she found a way to do it.”

Over the years, Walker participated in a variety of different 4-H projects. She showed rabbit and sheep. She modeled as part of the Making the Most of Me project. She participated in the pilot program for the Know Your Government Conference and traveled to Boise to meet then-Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus. One year, she was involved in nine different projects.

Walker also involved herself in club leadership, often serving as secretary.

“I was that kid that, growing up, I was always writing something,” Walker said. “I spent a lot of years as secretary. Our secretary books were always judged and I won that award a couple of times. I took great pride in being able to write and receive recognition for it.”

Walker’s interest in writing, combined with her natural curiosity, led to a bachelor’s degree in journalism followed by 15 years as a journalist.

“I think what I brought with me from 4-H was hugely impactful in being able to succeed in journalism,” Walker said. “I was able not only to write, but to communicate, to speak with others, to be comfortable interviewing people and be comfortable presenting the story.

“Being able to be curious and say, ‘Hey, look at this project. I’ve never experienced that, let’s try it.’ That’s the same thing you have as a journalist. You’re curious. Why are things the way they are? Let’s go investigate and experience something and then document that for other people.”

Walker is the director of communications for the University of Idaho. She is the principle UI spokesperson and manages the university’s day-to-day media operations and message development. She is also responsible for external communications to stakeholders and internal communications to UI staff across the state.

The skills she gained during her time in 4-H have been instrumental in her successful career.

“There was a lot that I learned that I took away from 4-H, public speaking being one of them,” Walker said. “Being able to carry on a conversation and do what I do now in my job; it all goes back to those things I learned in 4-H.”

Story by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

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