BY MARIA WARDOKU
At RCP’s End-of-Year Celebration on May 13, held at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus, students presented 22 posters representing roughly half of the projects that were part of this year’s partnership with Carver County. The posters showcased the broad range of high-quality work created through the partnership, which included 30 projects that were matched with 50 U of MN courses spanning 22 academic departments. Over the course of the academic year, more than 350 students took part in an RCP project.
Although many students, faculty, and community partners participated in this year’s partnership, several outstanding individuals who went above and beyond the call to make the collaboration a success were recognized at the event:
Outstanding Faculty Lead: Catherine Twohig, Lecturer, Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development
RCP Director Mike Greco presented the award, noting that “The success of RCP depends on the dedication and commitment of faculty like Catherine Twohig… Catherine has worked with RCP every year of the program’s existence, accepting new challenges each time. This year was no exception. For her course on adult education, she agreed to make available to her students three different RCP projects. She made multiple trips to Carver County to meet with project leads months before her spring-semester class began to ensure that the projects—several of which were not natural fits for the course curriculum—would meet the needs of the community and her course. Although the task of managing projects typically falls to the project lead, Catherine intervened at several points during the semester to troubleshoot projects or alert RCP staff to issues that may have derailed the projects. More importantly, she used these opportunities as teachable moments to help her students learn that the theory they were studying in class didn’t always match up with the messiness of practice. And when a fourth project proved to not be a good fit for her class, Catherine reached out to a colleague in her department and encouraged her to include the project in a course she was teaching.
Outstanding Project Lead: Jackie Johnston, Eastern Carver County School District
Carver County Planner and RCP coordinator Nate Kabat presented this award, noting that “Jackie Johnston has served as project lead for projects related to serving Latino communities, assessing adult learner needs, and evaluating the District’s Intercultural Specialist Program…Jackie willingly made trips to the U of M, day and night, to work with students and infect them with her passions for community education, intercultural connections, and overall positive vibes. She has connected her staff to other projects, and out of this has made the school district’s cultural expertise more accessible to County programs in Parks and Public Health in particular. A key goal of RCP is building community connections—and Jackie embodies that idea.”
Outstanding Student Team Award: “Community Engagement in Parks and Recreation,” Joe Hartmann, Laurel Nightingale, Kaela Dickens, Kalli Perano, and Chuck Demler
RCP Program Assistant Maria Wardoku presented the award. She said that the team “demonstrated a high level of professionalism, excellent communication skills, flexibility, and dedication to producing a useful product for their client. The student team worked together on a capstone project focused on community engagement in parks and recreation. They had regular 8 am conference calls with their community partner, Carver County Parks and Recreation…They sent weekly updates and draft reports in advance of conference calls, and demonstrated flexibility in making sure the project was tailored to the local context and needs of their client. Their faculty advisor, Kathy Quick, told us she was impressed that ‘the students were able to take this project much further than originally imagined, and turn it into something more sustainable and transformational.’ She also noted that this was an interdisciplinary team, and that the students were able to successfully integrate what they learned from their coursework in urban planning, public health, public policy, and management studies into a holistic approach.”
Outstanding Individual Student Project Award: “Mobile Home Community Health Needs Assessment,” Samantha Rosner, School of Public Health
RCP Program Assistant Bridget Roby presented the award, noting that “Sam Rosner’s masters project to conduct a needs assessment of the mobile home communities in Carver County changed and evolved throughout the year due to factors outside of her control, but she never once complained. Instead, she evolved right along with it. When focus group recruitment wasn’t going the way she and her project lead had planned, she tried new strategies and spent hours driving to Carver County just on the chance that someone was interested in participating in an interview. One Saturday she spent 6 hours waiting in a community center for focus group participants. And her hard work and persistence paid off—she was able to gain some meaningful feedback from residents of the two largest mobile home communities in Carver County and relay their viewpoints to her community partners at the Public Health Department. Throughout the year, Sam epitomized the flexibility that is required in real world projects.”
At the event, attendees also text-voted on the best student poster. Jonathan Cowgill and Laurena Schlottach-Ratcliff were recognized for their poster, “Wayfinding Plan for the City of Victoria.”
Congratulations to the awardees, and thanks to all who contributed to this year’s partnership with Carver County!
Maria Wardoku is a Master of Urban and Regional Planning student at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs