Getting to “press release”

Jen Davison of UW's Livable City Year

“Just start,” they said, “you’ll be amazed!”

Marc Schlossberg and Nico Larco, the passionate and convincing co-directors of University of Oregon’s Sustainable Cities Initiative and Sustainable City Year Program, seem to say this to anyone curious about launching an efforts similar to theirs, which has been running for about 7 years and has been the model for dozens of other programs across the country. When I first met Marc and heard about SCYP in early March 2016, I was unsure about the prospect of creating such a robust initiative, connecting city and faculty for a whole year’s worth of collaborations, at University of Washington.

Branden Born (the co-director of UW’s new Livable City Year, and professor in UW’s Department of Urban Design and Planning) and I were lucky: at the 2016 Sustainable City Year Conference we met Jenna Leonard (Climate and Sustainability Practice Leader with the City of Auburn’s CDPW-Environmental Services Division), who knew the SCYP model and was looking to develop a partnership with a Washington university. Although I had heard about this model only 10 days before, Branden and Jenna were fully briefed and raring to get started. Throughout the content-rich conference (highly recommended BTW), as I was getting my head around what exactly this program does and why it matters, we three also continually squirreled away to discuss how it might play out at UW with Auburn as its first partner.

Six months later, Branden and myself, as well as Jen Otten with UW's School of Public Health and collaborators at Urban@UW and UW Sustainability just published our press release. And what Marc and Nico said has been absolutely true:

  • Faculty are really excited about this opportunity to connect their courses with city projects.
  • The partner city provided exciting and diverse projects—and funding to support the partnership.
  • The model that the EPIC-Network uses is accessible and appealing to administrators and students alike—as is the video!

It has been a lot of work so far to “just start,” and we’ve learned quite a bit already:

  • Use the EPIC-N materials and network; they save soooo much time when you’re developing procedures and scoping out timelines for the partnership and the program.
  • Connect with your community partner often. In our case, Jenna has been fantastic to work with, committed and effective in helping us navigate city requirements.
  • You never know where support will come from! During our pilot year we are shouldering part of the cost. By its field-tested effectiveness and win-win ethos, this model has inspired monetary support from our College of Built Environments, the Department of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, and Urban@UW, as well as invaluable conversations and support from across campus as well as the Association of Washington Cities and the EPA.

We’re now immersed in connecting faculty to projects and planning our fall kickoff, and I expect a lot more learning will happen as we move forward. And I expect it will be amazing!

Check Out Our New Logo!

Jessica Barlow of SDSU's Sage Project

The EPIC Network now has a logo! In the spirit of the EPIC-N Model, we recruited the creativity of students to generate this design. Students from Gary Benzel's ART 545 Design Studio class at San Diego State University met with EPIC-N members at the Sustainable City Year Conference in San Diego in March 2016 to learn about EPIC-N, our audience, our goals, and our image. Following that, each student developed a logo that attempted to depict our focus on community engagement, sustainability, and education. We selected Michael Gonzalez's design as the best reflection of who we are as a Network. For any EPIC-N programs looking to develop a brand for their program, this is a great way to get a variety of creative designs by students eager to get real-world experience!

Western Wisconsin Workshop May 20th

In a month, several universities, colleges, and community partners from Western Wisconsin will meet in Eau Claire for a day-long workshop on the EPIC model. 

Jason Vargo of UW-Madison's UniverCity Year

The national conferences have been some of the most productive events for introducing and promoting the EPIC Model. New schools and cities get to attend together and learn about the model while they discuss the adaptations they think will lead to a successful partnership. Several programs, including the one we've started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison started like this. In April 2014 I attended the SCYP Conference in Minneapolis and retuned to Madison where I identified a pilot partner within a month or two. This Fall we'll kick off a year-long partnership with the City of Monona and match over a dozen classes to their projects. 

Many other programs started even more quickly. Several attended a SCYP/EPIC Conference in the spring and were up and running by the fall. Still, attending a national conference can be a big investment of time and money for a small school or city.  last year, a state conference was organized and held in San Francisco for California Schools. The day-and-a-half long workshop was sponsored with the help of EPA Region 9 and was tacked onto another conference with the theme sustainability and Higher Ed. The workshop had over 80 attendees and at least 5 programs started as a result of it. 

Next month a small 1-day workshop will be held in Eau Claire, WI for schools and communities in the area. The Event is being hosted by the UW-Eau Claire, with the help of the Wisconsin Chapter of Campus Compact. Trainers from UW-Madison,  the University of Minnesota, and St. Thomas University will all be there to introduce the EPIC Model and help folks start their own program on campus. Communities are , of course, encouraged to attend as well. 

With more programs up and running, there are more qualified people on the academic/programatic side than ever to lead these trainings. and with year after year of partnerships and projects, there are continuously more community voices to help describe the value of the work for improving the places we live. 

2016 EPIC-N Outstanding Community Partner

Congratulations to Carver County, MN!

 original posting by Maria Wardoku for the Resilient Communities Project

RCP’s current community partner, Carver County, has received the 2016 Outstanding Community Partner Award from the Educational Partnership for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) Network. The award, which recognizes “one exemplary community partner” from among the local government partners that have worked with EPIC Network programs during the last five years, was presented at the 5th Annual Sustainable City Year Conference, held in San Diego, CA, March 13-16. Nate Kabat, a planner at Carver County and the program coordinator for the County’s current partnership with RCP, accepted the award.

Carver County Board of Commissioners accepting the inaugural Outstanding Community Partner Award for this year’s partnership with the U of MN’s Resilient Communities Project. From left to right: Commissioner Randy Maluchnik, Commissioner and Chair James Ische, Commissioner Tim Lynch, Carver County Planner Nate Kabat, Commissioner Tom Workman, and Commissioner Gayle Degler.

Carver County Board of Commissioners accepting the inaugural Outstanding Community Partner Award for this year’s partnership with the U of MN’s Resilient Communities Project. From left to right: Commissioner Randy Maluchnik, Commissioner and Chair James Ische, Commissioner Tim Lynch, Carver County Planner Nate Kabat, Commissioner Tom Workman, and Commissioner Gayle Degler.

“The Resilient Communities Project partnership has been extremely valuable to Carver County and its partners. The success of this project stands on the shoulders of all the dedicated staff, faculty, students, and officials who have teamed up throughout the school year.”
— Nate Kabat, Carver County, MN

In nominating Carver County for the award, RCP Director Mike Greco highlighted Carver County’s exceptional effort to assemble, coordinate, and manage the year-long community-university partnership, which involves 34 projects and more than 20 staff leads from eight different organizations, including four departments at Carver County (Administrative Services, Planning and Water Management, Public Health, and Social Services), SouthWest Transit, Eastern Carver County Independent School District 112, the Carver County Community Development Agency, the Carver County Historical Society, and the Cities of Victoria, Chaska, and Watertown. He also noted how Carver County projects have stimulated new graduate student research opportunities through course work and individual masters thesis projects, as well as the extraordinary responsiveness of staff to the hundreds of students working on projects and the County’s commitment to providing opportunities for students to gain professional experience beyond their classroom work through presentations to community organizations and governing bodies.


Recognizing Faculty

Providing a simple letter of appreciation goes a long way in recognizing faculty efforts

Jessica Barlow, Director, The Sage Project at San Diego State University

The success of Sustainable City Year (SCY) programs is due in large part to the willingness of faculty to participate in the program and to ensure that the students in their participating courses are able to deliver quality work. And though the SCY model is set up to make it easier for faculty to participate than not, some faculty still may find that they are putting in more effort through participation. Giving them recognition, and making sure that their chairs and deans are aware of their efforts, can go a long way in keeping them on board year after year. 

One simple way to provide them with this recognition is to send them a short letter of appreciation at the end of the semester or academic year in which they participated, and copying the letter to the administrators within their academic unit. These letters can in turn be used as evidence of teaching excellence in their tenure and promotion files. It’s especially effective to make the letter formal, signed, and on official letterhead! 

Here’s a template of what such a letter could look like: 

Dear ____:
I would like to thank you for your participation in the [SCY PROGRAM] for the [SEMESTER/ACADEMIC YEAR]. The outstanding work that you and your [COURSE NUMBER] students have done for the City of [CITY NAME] surrounding their efforts to address [PROJECT] has been critical to the success of the [SCY PROGRAM]. I note that [ADD 1 SENTENCE DESCRIBING ANY OTHER NOTEWORTHY DETAILS, LIKE INTERNSHIPS, JOBS, NEWS ITEMS, INTERESTING ANECDOTES THAT CAME ABOUT]. 
It has been a pleasure working with you this past year, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to collaborate in the future.
Best wishes,
cc:     [CHAIR]