Putting the "U" in Community

Article originally posted on Eye on Earth Jan 4, 2013

By Mary Hoff

Writing term papers, doing problem sets ... it's easy for college students to wonder whether what they do really matters. But members of 10 University of Minnesota classes last fall had no question at all about the relevance of their work. Inaugural participants in the University's new Resilient Communities Project, they spent their semester helping solve very real sustainability challenges for the city of Minnetonka.

The Resilient Communities Project was established last year with funding from Institute on the Environment and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs to simultaneously meet two needs: communities' call for help in meeting sustainability goals, and students' desire for real-world experience and relevance. Focusing on one community per year, RCP helps identify specific sustainability-boosting projects, then matches them with University classes that help carry them out. 

First up last fall was Minnetonka, a community of 50,000 residents just west of the Twin Cities. The city and RCP identified eight projects to tackle together, including stormwater management, a housing density study, and water and energy conservation initiatives. Then the students set to work. 

Student Maggie Sattler interviewing a Minnetonka resident

The photo at the beginning of this post shows architecture graduate students touring a redevelopment site for their work on stormwater mitigation for the Minnehaha Creek watershed.

At the right, graduate student Maggie Sattler interviews a Minnetonka resident for her research on creating stronger neighborhood identities in the city. All together, some 150 students from 10 courses representing some seven schools and colleges spent at least part of the semester helping make Minnetonka a healthier, more resilient community.

RCP staff are now meeting with communities interested In participating in the program in 2013–14. To learn more, go to rcp.umn.edu. 

Photo of graduate student Maggie Sattler interviewing a Minnetonka resident courtesy by Mike Greco. Photo of ARCH 8567 graduate students surveying Minnehaha Creek by Katie Thompson.

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