Students walk through Hidden Falls Park.

Sustainable Communities Partnership Wins EPIC-N 2020 Outstanding Program Award

Sustainable Communities Partnership program at University of St. Thomas is the 2020 EPIC-N Outstanding Program winner.

Every year, EPIC-N celebrates outstanding contributions by university programs and community partners through the 2020 EPIC-N awards.

The Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) in the Office of Sustainability Initiatives develops multiyear partnerships with cities and government agencies to integrate community-identified sustainability projects into St. Thomas courses.

Projects engage undergraduate students in real-world, applied research and innovative problem-solving while advancing partners’ interconnected economic, social and ecological sustainability goals. Since spring 2016, SCP has collaborated with communities on over 120 projects with courses across 25 different disciplines to improve the quality of life in the Twin Cities area.

“The city of Elk River was excited to partner with the University of St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership because classes have helped achieve initiatives that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish ourselves for years, if ever. 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.” – Kristin Mroz, city of Elk River environmental technician

Inspired by the transformative impacts of collaborative efforts that bridge art and sustainability, SCP created SCP Arts to engage residents of partner communities with sustainability goals. Local artists work with students during class to translate their SCP project findings into artwork. SCP collaborates with partners to share this artwork in their communities and beyond through public art installations and exhibits. From Pollinator Pathways to the Metro Transit Earth Week light rail train wrap and more, SCP Arts brings to life community sustainability goals for people of all ages.

SCP’s partners also value the intentional flexibility built into the partnership structure to propose a diverse range of projects at various scopes and scales to achieve their sustainability goals.

The research and work put in by the students on these projects are of immense value to Metro Transit. As a public entity, we have limited resources. The students and faculty have helped us bridge that resource gap in innovative ways.” – Kelly Morrell, Metro Transit commuter programs specialist

SCP received an Honorable Mention for the Commuter Choice Award, which “recognizes programs and projects that improve commuter mobility in the Twin Cities.”

SCP’s partners also welcome the opportunity to work with college students and the perspectives they bring to the questions of sustainability.

College students offer fresh insight into our growing understanding of and need for sustainable practices and planning for resilience … and are well positioned to communicate the needs of future generations to elected officials and other regional stakeholders.” – Eric Wojchik, Metropolitan Council senior planner