CURA students survey U impact on surrounding area

The Neighborhood Impact Study gave grad students some hands-on experience.

by Joy Petersen

University graduate students from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs received some hands-on experience recently when they participated in a study about the impact of the University on surrounding neighborhoods.

The Neighborhood Impact Study, created in September 2006, was mandated by the state Legislature and run by the University’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.

CURA employs up to 50 undergraduate and graduate students, and has existed since 1966.

Kris Nelson, director of community and neighborhood programs at CURA, said neighborhoods commission urban and regional planning students to survey residents and carry out projects, including mapping occupancy trends.

University alumna Elissa Schloesser worked for CURA last school year while doing the Neighborhood Impact Study for a class.

Her membership in CURA, as well as the Humphrey Institute class, was an asset to her educational experience, she said.

“I learned so much working there,” she said. “Just even beyond things I could have got in class, about where different data sources are or where information is in general.”

However, Schloesser said since working on the stud, she hasn’t seen the results carried out to effect neighborhood improvements.

Students surveyed and interviewed members of neighborhood organizations, such as the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association and Southeast Como Improvement Association, to provide data the neighborhoods can take to local and state governments as supportive evidence for neighborhood improvement requests.

The graduate students, like Parker Cohen, worked directly with the community by interviewing neighborhood leaders.

“It helped because it was neighborhood-focused, so you learn a lot about the city if you learn a lot about the individual neighborhoods that make up the city,” he said. “You see the social fabric and how these things work together.”

Since the most recent study was completed in February, Cohen said he hasn’t been contacted by neighborhood organizations, so he doesn’t know what’s going on with the results.

Jan Morlock, campus director of community relations for the University, said the study was submitted to the state Legislature to create an alliance between the city, neighborhoods, the University and the state.

“The argument that it makes is that the University campus here in Minneapolis and the neighborhoods around it are really a very important asset for the state,” Morlock said. “In order for the campus to be healthy, the neighborhoods need to be healthy too.”

Morlock said the state legislature has already allocated $750,000 to the study to assemble the alliance and carry out some of the study’s goals.

Although money is available, Morlock said she thought the alliance wouldn’t be formed until January 2009.

After that, projects to improve housing, safety and transportation in the Marcy-Holmes, Southeast Como, Prospect Park and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods will begin, she said.

Susan Sloper, a University alumna who previously worked on the study, said the study illustrated a real-world issue.

“We had a real-world client that our work was really important to because this is an issue that was being discussed at the legislature,” she said, “so it had the potential to affect and impact and make change.”