Forward with NACCE

Exploring Rural Community Multidisciplinary Storytelling with Natalie Hodge of Rudy's Girl Media

April 19, 2023 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
Forward with NACCE
Exploring Rural Community Multidisciplinary Storytelling with Natalie Hodge of Rudy's Girl Media
Show Notes Transcript

This week, Dr. Corbin is talking with Natalie Hodge, founder and owner of Rudy's Girl Media, a multimedia content development company. Natalie talks about her journey in the multimedia field and how her passion for working behind the camera grew while she was living in Los Angeles and working in independent film and television production. She later landed back in her hometown, Martinsville, V.A., and was able to bring some of the things she learned in larger markets to her rural community. Natalie also shares how she has been able to employ people who have come through Patrick and Henry Community College and have an interest in media production.

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Becky: Welcome to this episode of Forward with NACCE. my name is Rebecca Corbin, president and CEO of NACCE We're excited to celebrate community college month, all month long, and we've got a number of special guests. The other thing we're doing is really leaning into exploring the arts and, and media and creativity. So it is my, pleasure. to welcome Natalie Hodge, to our program today.

So how are you doing, Natalie? You look great. Your background looks great. So why don't you begin by just introducing yourself to our audience, and perhaps you can let us know the RGM in the background. For those who are viewing the video. What does, what does that stand?

Natalie: So thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm Natalie Hodge. I'm the founder and owner of Rudy's Girl Media. So the RGM is Rudy's Girl Media. It's based in Martinsville, Virginia, and we are a multimedia content development company and specialize in unique storytelling across a variety of platforms, film, television, web. I have some literary projects as well, and we are super excited to bring multimedia content development to this rural c.

Becky: Yeah. And for those who've not been to Martinsville, it is a very rural community, very beautiful community. And, when I, Is a visit there years ago it was to visit, Patrick and Henry Community College, which was, one of the smallest community colleges actually in in the system, but doing such amazing, impactful work.

And so when I have gotten to know you a little bit, Natalie, you truly are, an entrepreneur. You've got multiple things going on, so we're gonna get into those. But tell us a little bit about, how did you get interested in this multimedia field? where did you go to school? What were some of the early experiences that you had that you now employ working in this, very rural community?

Natalie: So I grew up in this community and left for college. I went to undergrad at Guilford College and I majored in African American Studies and Justice and Policy Studies, and then I went on to Cornell University to get a master's degree in African American studies. I worked in a variety of fields across the country, primarily higher education.

But when I landed in New York City, I was working at Columbia University and decided to take up background acting just as a hobby, and that opened my eyes to the world of film and television, and I absolutely loved it. For a stent I thought acting was going to be it, but that wasn't the passion. I discovered that along the way that working behind the camera was really where my heart was. 

I lived in Los Angeles and worked in, independent film and television production. Of course, I did that while I was in New York as well. And then landed back here in my hometown and have been so honored to bring, some of the things that I've learned in those larger markets here.

And speaking of community colleges, I have been able to employ people who have come through Patrick and Henry Community College. Who had an interest in media production and went off to four-year schools. One is actually an intern here and he's applying to media production programs. 

So that has been really cool to have that pipeline of people who are homegrown, who have that foundational experience at, Patrick and Henry. And then we're able to, foster kind of their interest in media production through Rudy's Girl.

Becky: That's great and I love your branding and, and your story and really I think thinking about your life experience in major media markets and how you can tap into sort of these hidden gems, these students who are very hardworking in rural areas, and that's one of the things that we celebrate all month long in April is really the impact of community colleges. 

And so, you know, a bit about storytelling and, and, and branding and, and I had one question before I get into that. What is a background actor? Cuz I, I never had heard that term before. So enlighten us please, Natalie.

Natalie: Oh yes. So this is a very important role. When you're watching a film or, you're watching a TV show and there's a person at the coffee shop who doesn't say anything, but they're just there, or someone who's walking down the street that is a background actor. 

And so I always thought that they were just people who happened to be on the set when filming started, but it is a highly choreographed and planned process. When you sign up to be a background actor, you have to wear certain attire and color schemes and, and you have, direction that you have to take in order to make the scene work. So it's a little known, a little celebrated role, but an important one.

Becky: Yeah. And it, thank you for, for sharing that and. It just kind of reminds me there are so many careers out there that are people had no idea, you know? Oh, that's a, that's an option, for people. And it, it kind of gets me into also some of the work that you have done, through workforce development boards because in the work that I do, At NACCE, workforce is the name of the game.

Everybody is trying to figure out how to solve this, and, and community colleges are sort of uniquely adept at putting together certificate programs, but also, what some struggle with, quite frankly, is really how do you meet the needs of the employers. So how do you take the community college.

So, Tell us a little bit about some of the things that you're doing with the workforce board and maybe some ideas or some initiatives that you have, whether they're through grants that you've, worked on to really try to solve this challenging problem.

Natalie: So in my other world of workforce development, I came into the community in 2017 and started as the project director of workforce development for the West Piedmont area, which covers Patrick and Henry and Danville Community College. So those are the two community college programs in this region.

And we were able to partner up to launch some really incredible programs to pipeline people into the community college system. It is an incredible training ground for people. It creates this level of accessibility for community members to upscale, to transition into new spaces, to really get ideas on maybe a career path that they hadn't considered before. And so I've loved that work in our community. 

Some of the programs that I feel have been really marquee for, for the work that I've done is to increase the number of work experiences for people who've gone through our training programs at the community colleges. And so the work experience program is, is funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and it allows for people to dip their toe on the waters, if you will, a real job opportunity.

That employer does not have to take on the cost of paying that employee while that individual is learning the business or, or learning the industry. so it's a great space to support employer's goals of kind of testing individuals who might be a fit for the position. And it's also a great opportunity for community members because it allows for them to again, explore that field, figure out some things.

And so we partner with the community colleges as people are exiting a training program so they might have been in a certified nursing assistant program, we can get them a local employer to actually give them hands-on experiences so they get into the field with, I think a, a more well-rounded kind of background.

So that's been a great opportunity to really advance the work we've done with that partnership.

Becky: That is a, a great opportunity. Kind of a win-win, right? For the person. I think especially, one of the things I've, I've learned over the years that I've worked with community colleges and worked for community college at one time. You know, if we want sort of equity, we need to have on-ramps for people that might be first generation students, they have not had that experience of, you know, knowing what it's like to, you know, show up for a job and have to, you know, show up in appropriate attire and, and sort of this nuance things that maybe people that have more of a middle-class upbringing or, or don't, you know, have some of those barriers. 

So I think that's an example of a program that can really make a, a big impact. And in your area of, of Martinsville, Virginia, what are some of the, the jobs or some of the industries you mentioned? It's very rural. Like what do you see as, as opportunities? Obviously you mentioned healthcare, CNAs and so forth, but what are some of the other paths that people might choose to take and, and maybe they would take, take advantage of one of those programs to get some experience?

Natalie: So right now in our communities, it's really, a buyer's market, if you will, because there are more job openings than people who are searching for jobs. So folks who may not have been considered in a more competitive job market can now walk in and Maybe not have as challenging a process to get a foot in the door.

So we have a lot of great opportunities that have come to the table now. So Caesars is opening a casino in Danville and they have tons of job opportunities from dealers to people who might work on the machines on site. Tysons is also opening a facility in Danville. In Martinsville specifically, we have, Crown Holdings. They're a manufacturing space.

So there, there are a multitude of opportunities, in advanced manufacturing in technical spaces. So again, people who may be mechanically inclined, there are lots of doors open for those folks. Healthcare, of course, across the country is something that's a hot market and it, it's here as well.

So, I love that people can have, a diverse range of interests and find something that, that maybe connects with their, their career goals.

Becky: That's, that's great, and it sounds like you do a really good job in helping people make that connection because we all. Family members and friends that quite frankly are not happy in their jobs. And I guess the two of us are lucky because we were in a place where we get a lot of joy and a lot of satisfaction from our jobs.

But you know, there's also those folks that maybe they need a change or you know, maybe they've been downsized as we've seen from the tech industry in certain places. So what I hear you saying, and the work that I see you doing is really being sort of that, that bridge to opportunity. So you're telling the stories, you're helping guide people, you're helping people that might think, I don't have resources, I don't have the skills. You're working through community colleges.

So I just really wanna thank you, Natalie, for the work that you're doing. It, it's really important. you mentioned, in your academic, when you were going to school, you were, you were studying, African American studies. You know, I think we're all students of, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. I, I don't know anybody that, feels that they figured it out, but I'm always proud to tell people, the vision for NACCE, the organization, that I work for is equity and prosperity for all. And, and I think the, the work that you do really advances, that effort.

So I wanna ask you, if people want to find you, find out about your work, plug in, to you, in some way, how do they, how do they do that?

Natalie: So, the website for Rudy's Girl Media is, and we're pretty much on all social platforms at Rudy's Girl Media. So you can find us there. Definitely check out our new series called Hometown Hustle. On the Rudy's Girl Media YouTube channel, and it is an amazing show about small businesses and small towns that make a big impact.

And this season we cover a footprint of 11 different communities in Southern Virginia. 20 small business owners and we have 10 amazing episodes that are about 22 minutes long that share these stories of awesome entrepreneurs who are making it happen in their various fields. So it's funny, it's heartwarming. It's a super positive show and I'm so excited for people to check that out.

Becky: That is great. Hometown Hustle, and you know, we'd also be happy to share that out with our members all over the country. About 60% of the 1100 community colleges around the country serve rural communities. And so I think that is, is really something that a lot of people would have a lot of interest in.

So, check that out. Natalie, again, thank you for the work that you do and we really appreciate you kind of helping move things forward, for all of us through your entrepreneurial spirit and the, the business and leadership roles that you have.

Natalie: Well, thank you. I appreciate you so much, and let's just keep sharing great things about the work that's happening in our communities and our community colleges.