On Thursday, May 9, University of Minnesota faculty and students celebrated with public officials and staff from Scott and Ramsey Counties at the Resilient Communities Project’s 2019 End-of-Year Celebration, held in the Mississippi Room at the Coffman Memorial Student Union on the U of MN’s East Bank Campus in Minneapolis.
During the two-and-a half hour event, students presented nearly two dozen posters representing their work on 28 projects that were part of this year’s RCP partnerships with Scott County and Ramsey County. Posters highlighted the findings and recommendations from some of the more than 70 student teams from across 25 academic departments at the University of Minnesota that participated in the partnerships.
The year-long collaborations provided the two counties with a wealth of case studies, data analysis, concept plans, designs, and policy recommendations to build community resilience, and offered more than 280 students the opportunity to tackle real projects as part of their coursework, working directly with county staff, residents, and business owners.
RCP faculty liaison Carissa Slotterback and Associate Vice President for Public Engagement Andy Furco welcomed guests to the event, which marked the seventh year of the Resilient Communities Project program at the U of MN. Furco expressed appreciation to Scott and Ramsey Counties for “opening up your doors to allow members of the University to. . .work with you on issues that matter to your counties,” and praised RCP as “a shining example of what can happen when we. . .bring together the various resources within our communities and within the University to collaborate. . .and engage representatives from multiple perspectives, points of view, and sectors to think together about how to make a difference.”
Several staff from Ramsey County who were involved in the partnership spoke about the importance of the work that was accomplished this year. Elizabeth Tolzmann, Director of Policy and Planning in the County Manager’s Office at Ramsey County, remarked that the partnership had achieved all of the county’s goals for the collaboration with the University, and heralded the quality of the work that students, faculty, and staff produced. Rae Frank, Environmental Health Manager for the county, said that the partnership not only greatly benefitted the county and its residents, but gave her a “renewed sense of hope. . .in the future and hope in the next generation, and the ideas and creativity that are emerging.”
Barb Weckman Brekke, Chair of the Scott County Board of Commissioners, likewise expressed her appreciation to the University, saying that Scott County's “partnership with RCP has been an amazing gift” and thanking U of MN students, faculty, and administrators “for not just participating in our projects, but forming true partnerships and giving us results that are going to change the ways we do work and deliver services in the future.”
Brad Davis, RCP-Scott County Partnership Coordinator and Scott County Planning and Resources Management Director, spoke about the power of the community-university partnerships RCP makes possible. "The energy you feel in this room is the exact same energy I felt throughout the year--when I came to campus and went to different [student] presentations..., when I joined field trips around Scott County, when I just did some periodic check-ins. I could feel the energy. The students were asking such good questions--and new questions--and making us at the county think about things so much differently." Davis noted that although he knew working with the University through RCP would be valuable for the county and help them achieve important strategic goals, "What I didn't know going into this partnership is just the unique thing that happens when you match the energy here at the University of Minnesota with questions and ideas from our county staff. It was fun to see it come together in a room, and see the blending of ideas, new ways of looking at these issues. And I thought, 'Wow, this is really the magic of this program. It's bringing the resources here [at the U of MN and connecting them] with the ideas in the local communities, and thinking about things entirely differently."
Although all of the more than 280 students and 35 faculty who participated in this year’s collaborations contributed to the success of these partnerships, several individuals who made outstanding contributions were recognized at the event:
Outstanding Faculty Partner—Ramsey County
Faculty Member: Scott Abernathy (pictured above, left), Associate Professor, Department of Political Science (College of Liberal Arts)
Course: POL 1914: Generation Now: Young Adult Political Action, which included 19 first-year undergraduate students who partnered on Ramsey County’s “Empowering Citizens to Vote” project
(remarks by RCP Director Mike Greco, presenting the award)
Outstanding Faculty Partner—Scott County
Faculty Member: Fernando Burga (pictured above, left), Assistant Professor, Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program (Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs)
Course: PA 5211: Land Use Planning, which included 18 graduate students who collaborated on five Scott County projects on autonomous vehicles and shared mobility
(remarks by RCP Program Coordinator Sarah Tschida, presenting the award)
Best Student Poster—Ramsey County
Student Team: Isabella Wartzenluft, Sam Theiste, Victoria Nikonov, Ava Thompson, and Kelsey Weddig
Project: “Empowering Citizens to Vote” (increasing youth voter participation in Ramsey County)
Course: POL 1914: Generation Now: Young Adult Political Action (taught by Dr. Scott Abernathy, Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts)
Best Student Poster—Scott County
Student Team: Anna Harvatine and Mara Hitt
Project: “Increasing Landlord Participation in Rental-Assistance Programs”
Course: HSG 4461: Housing Development & Management (taught by Dr. Becky Yust, Housing Studies Program, College of Design)
Congratulations to the awardees, and thanks to all who contributed to this year’s outstanding partnerships with Scott and Ramsey Counties!