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A Dad’s Life

This small-town guy is a research professor, world-renowned Drought expert and a really great dad.


He’s a research professor at the National Drought Mitigation Center, within the School of Natural Resources, having traveled to North Africa, the Middle East and Europe tackling an issue vital to survival – water.

Cody Knutson and his team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln develop plans to help people – farmers, ranchers, cities, states, tribes, leaders of countries – develop and implement measures to reduce societal vulnerability to drought, stressing preparedness and risk management rather than crisis management.

Five years ago, he and his wife Laura, the Chief of Education for VA Black Hills Healthcare System, made the decision to move to Rapid City from Nebraska. Cody was raised on a ranch northwest of Philip, so relocating to Rapid City was like coming home, and also a turning point.

Cody was allowed to work from home and curtail his busy travel schedule from about half of his work time to a quarter. Working from home came with opportunities and challenges.

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After five years, Cody has successfully managed his work from home and has kept his family focus directly on his wife of 13 years and his children – Jack (10) and Charlie (7) – and together they aim to enjoy family activities.

Even though Cody has reduced the time he spends away from home traveling for work, his family is still busy with activities and events, so for the time they do have to spend together they make it quality time. “We make it an adventure, go out and find something new,” he said.

Nights and weekends may be spent at the family cabin in Silver City – hiking, fishing in the Hills’s streams and lakes, as well as going to events and concerts at the Civic Center or being active at Calvary Lutheran Church. They embrace the Black Hills, visiting the typical tourist attractions but also finding the less-traveled sites and trails that make the area unique. “It’s a great place to raise two active boys,” Cody said.

Charlie and Jack are busy with their own activities, which their parents encourage, including: soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming, cub scouts, plays, piano and signing lessons and football.

To meet the challenges active children bring to the family, as is typical for many families, Cody has chosen to limit his own activities for a while so he can take advantage of time with his sons. Although he has lost a few strokes off his golf game and spends less of his time with “the guys,” it has been a positive experience for Cody. “The tradeoff is well worth it,” he said.

To avoid simply shuttling their children from event to event, the Knutsons limit the activities Jack and Charlie can be in at any one time. And to spend more quality time with their sons, Cody and Laura get involved in the activities – teaching Sunday school at Calvary Lutheran, constructing and racing Pinewood Derby cars and coaching soccer.

“I’ll always do my best to make time for them. Family time comes first whenever possible,” Cody said. “I’m not always at every game or activity but I’m still there for them and proud of them; they’re loved even if we’re not always together.”

During his work at the Drought Mitigation Center, Cody has traveled the world and seen the best that people and governments have to offer, and he has seen the struggles many people face. He tries to share what he has learned with his sons including environmental stewardship, being thankful for clean water and good schools.

“We try to instill in them to appreciate how blessed we are to live in such a great place and not to take all of these benefits we have for granted,” he said, “but really to be thankful for what we have.”

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Cody and Laura’s family tips & strategies:

  • Evaluate your priorities: Cody and Laura made the decision five years ago to return to South Dakota to be in the Black Hills and near their family.
  • Learn to say no at work: Cody’s work involves both national and international travel that takes time from family. “For several years I was gone about 50 percent of the time,” he said. Today he travels maximum one week a month.
  • Limit the kids’ activities: “They can’t be involved in everything. We want them to try new things but only a couple of things at a time,” Cody explained.
  • Make quality time: “When we do have some time, we try to go out and do things; to make some memories,” Cody said.
  • Have a support network: A spouse, family members, churches and local organizations all help the Knutson’s manage their family’s busy schedules.
  • Remove distractions for quality time: Electronics are a distraction; so, when school is out, the electronics are off limits. “Let’s go outside. Let’s go fishing. Let’s do something,” Laura said.

 

By Jerry Steinley  •  Main photo by Chris Valencia

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