UMN community partnership program to work with two counties

The University’s Resilient Communities Project will work with Ramsey County and Scott County during the 2018-19 academic year.

by Katrina Pross

The University of Minnesota’s Resilient Communities Project will partner with Ramsey County and Scott County next year, which will mark the first time the project has selected two partners in its six-year history.

The Resilient Communities Project is housed within the University’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. It selects a community partner each year through a competitive application process and then pairs projects with University graduate courses, where students spend a semester analyzing project options. 

The projects will be funded both by the counties and by the University, with each project costing about $5,000, said Brad Davis, planning manager for Scott County. 

So far, the two counties have proposed more than 30 projects. The Resilient Communities will work with the counties to decide on final project choices — though they aren’t sure what the final count will be — and pair the projects with graduate courses offered at the University during the 2018-19 academic year. Graduate students will present their findings and recommendations at the end of the year.

Since its launch, the Resilient Communities Project has partnered with 42 different departments within various colleges at the University, including the School of Public Health, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the College of Education and Human Development, said Mike Greco, the co-founder and director of the Resilient Communities Project.

“This partnership is an example of the University fulfilling its land grant mission to provide students with education and opportunities,” Greco said.

Ramsey County is a more urban area than Scott County, and has proposed projects on topics such as improving transportation, increasing voter participation and reducing food waste and food insecurity, said Elizabeth Tolzmann, the director of policy and planning for Ramsey County. The county decided to apply for the partnership to make improvements that align with its 2017 strategic plan, she said.

“Partnering with the University will bring a fresh perspective and the academic expertise of students,” Tolzmann said.

Scott County is a more rural and suburban county than Ramsey County, and has identified projects that include facilities like libraries that will be open 24/7, planting edible landscapes, improving early-childhood education and researching autonomous vehicles, Davis said.

Many elderly and young people do not have adequate transportation in Scott County, Greco said, which has made the county especially interested in improving transportation accessibility as one of its projects. 

These projects will help the county move toward completing its 2040 comprehensive plan, Davis said.

“This partnership will bring good energy and new perspectives while engaging students to explore new ideas and also bring the University’s credibility,” Davis said. 

Plus, partnering with the University will give the counties access to the University’s research tools and extensive technology, Davis said. 

Even though not every single project may be addressed, the partnership between the counties and the University will promote reform and help the communities prepare for further change in the future, he said.