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Minnetonka, University of Minnesota partner to educate students and boost community resilience

September 14, 2012

Minnetonka elected officials, city staff and residents joined University of Minnesota academic leaders today to launch the Resilient Communities Project, an initiative that will bring the expertise of hundreds of graduate students and the University to sustainability-related projects identified by Minnetonka.

“The Resilient Communities Project is an excellent opportunity to partner with the University of Minnesota in completing some of the many projects that city council and staff have identified as important to maintaining Minnetonka’s quality of life now and into the future,” said Geralyn Barone, Minnetonka city manager. “We look forward to seeing the results of the project, and hope it will provide students with a valuable learning experience.”

RCP faculty director and Humphrey School of Public Affairs associate professor Carissa Schively Slotterback noted, “We are excited to advance an innovative and collaborative model of sustainability education that can build long-term capacity in the partner community, create new opportunities for engaged teaching for faculty, and train the next generation of students to address the challenges of building sustainable and resilient communities.”

This fall, students and faculty from 11 University courses, including architecture, law, urban planning, public policy, natural resources science and management, and bioproducts and biosystems engineering, will work in Minnetonka. Affiliated faculty come from seven colleges across the University. Projects will include stormwater management and illicit discharge regulation and training, a study of density and housing options, water and energy conservation, surface water projection, an evaluation of post-development project impacts, a prioritization plan for water resources, an evaluation of conservation development standards, life cycle analysis of street designs, and a study of approaches to enhancing neighborhood identities.

The partnership is the first of many anticipated in the years to come. Each academic year, RCP will choose a city partner through a competitive request-for-proposal process, help identify potential projects based on community-identified sustainability issues and needs, and match the city’s project needs with University courses. At the conclusion of the partnership, RCP will help the city create a strategy to evaluate and monitor ongoing sustainability efforts.

RCP provides communities with access to hundreds of students and faculty across a range of academic disciplines―from architecture, planning and engineering to business, environmental sciences and the humanities. Expertise is available in all aspects of sustainability, including analysis, planning, design, implementation and evaluation. At the same time, the program offers students real-world opportunities to apply their knowledge and training, as well as to engage with students in other programs and fields of study.

RCP is an initiative of the Sustainability Faculty Network at the University of Minnesota, with funding and administrative support provided by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and the Institute on the Environment (IonE). The program is modeled on the Sustainable Cities Year Program at the University of Oregon, a highly successful cross-disciplinary program that supports one-year partnerships between a selected city and the university. To learn more, visit rcp.umn.edu.

About the Institute on the Environment: The University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment discovers solutions to Earth’s most pressing environmental problems by conducting transformative research, developing the next generation of global leaders and building world-changing partnerships. Learn more online at www.environment.umn.edu.

About the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs: The University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) connects the resources of the University of Minnesota with the interests and needs of urban communities and the region. CURA pursues its urban and regional mission by facilitating and supporting connections between state and local governments, neighborhoods, and nonprofit organizations, and relevant resources at the University, including faculty and students from appropriate campuses, colleges, centers or departments. Learn more online at www.cura.umn.edu.

About the city of Minnetonka: Located in Hennepin County just eight miles west of Minneapolis, Minnetonka is a fully developed suburban community of 49,374 residents (2010 Census), making it the 17th largest city in Minnesota. Minnetonka is proud of its reputation as a city that preserves its natural resources and is also a thriving center of commerce, with the headquarters of several international companies located within Minnetonka. Visit www.eminnetonka.com for more information.

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