One of the University of St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) partners, the city of Elk River, Minnesota, received the 2017 Outstanding City Partner Award from the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) Network. This national award recognizes “one exemplary community partner” from among the local government partners that have worked with EPIC Network programs across the United States during the last five years.

SCP partners with cities and government entities to integrate city-identified sustainability projects into existing St. Thomas courses across disciplines, engaging students in real-world, applied research and innovative problem-solving.

In nominating the City of Elk River for the award, Dr. Maria Dahmus, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives and SCP program director, highlighted the City of Elk River’s exceptional partnership in integrating city sustainability efforts with applied student learning at the University of St. Thomas.

“The City of Elk River has been integral to the successful creation and establishment of our program through extremely efficient and collaborative multi-disciplinary project scoping to integrate 17 projects into 16 courses across 10 different disciplines (biology, business, economics, engineering, environmental science, geography, German, history, psychology, and theology) during SCP’s pilot,” Dahmus wrote.

She also noted that for several courses, the projects with Elk River provided a way for students to apply what they are learning to real sustainability issues for the first time. SCP’s Elk River partnership stimulated many multi-disciplinary hours of applied student research and innovative, real-world student problem-solving to advance Elk River’s sustainability goals.

Kristin Mroz, the city of Elk River’s environmental technician and SCP partnership liaison, accepted the award. Mroz described the mutually beneficial nature of the partnership for the city and for students.

“Elk River was excited to partner with the University of St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership because classes have helped us achieve some initiatives that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish ourselves for years, if ever,” Mroz said. “Not only does the city gain valuable data and practical applications, but we also get to aid the next generation of university students in gaining real-world expertise. It’s a win-win, and we couldn’t be more honored for the opportunity.”

For more information about projects with the City of Elk River and the Sustainable Communities Partnership, or to learn how to be involved, visit SCP’s website.

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