Minnesota Daily: U works with Rosemount to tackle urban issues

The Resilient Communities Project worked with more than 50 University classes to combat urban issues

By Brian Edwards, The Minnesota Daily, June 24, 2015

Some metro cities and nearby counties are short on resources, and they’re turning to University of Minnesota students and professors for creative solutions.

The University’s Resilient Communities Project recently wrapped up its 2014-15 partnership with the city of Rosemount. The program worked with more than 50 University classes focusing on topics like urban agriculture and climate policy that culminated in students submitting plans to solve the city’s problems.

The program was created in part to give students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to real problems, said Mike Greco, Resilient Communities Project program manager.

Cities also benefit from the partnership. “The idea behind the program is that in a short time [a city] can find many different solutions” to issues or problems, he said 

Cities or counties that apply to the annual program send the University an application and a list of desired projects. After the top applicant is chosen in the spring, Greco works with professors and the city to match the projects with classes that can tackle those issues.

Greco said the goals of projects with Rosemount ranged from evaluating the benefits of artificial turf on sports fields to creating more effective drug education programs in high schools.

Kim Lindquist, Rosemount’s community development director, said the city had wanted to begin work on its list of projects for years, but it was unable to do so due to a lack of funding.

The students brought a fresh perspective, she said, which allowed Rosemount to find solutions to problems that had stumped city officials.

Rosemount Parks and Recreation Director Dan Schultz said the city is updating its parks master plan in 2016, adding that it will have the opportunity to implement many of the projects in the coming years.

The city plans on creating a nature-oriented playground that Schultz said would help teach children about the outdoors.

Many of the projects’ recommendations will be used as soon as possible, he said. For example, suggestions for public engagement policy will likely be implemented next time the city wants to meet with residents.

“The whole program is a benefit to the city, and the process is invigorating to the citizens, especially those in the government,” Lindquist said.

The city is working on a summary of each project to present to citizens and the city council, she said. 

Rosemount is still processing the sometimes lengthy submissions from both fall and spring classes, Lindquist said, adding that officials want to put them to use as soon as possible, but it’s a slow process that could take months.

Even after the projects end, cities may contact the program for suggestions or with questions, Greco said. 

Carver County has already been selected for next year’s partnership, and the program will focus on the cities of Watertown, Chaska and Victoria, ISD 112, the Carver County CDA, and SouthWest Transit, he said.