Award-winning UO program and Medford launch partnership

EUGENE, Ore. -- (March 19, 2013) -- The University of Oregon and the city of Medford have begun an innovative, year-long partnership during which students and faculty will work with municipal officials to complete sustainability projects ranging from bicycle routes to industrial redevelopment proposals.

Following a statewide competition, the selection of Medford by the UO’s Sustainable City Year Program initiates the fourth year of a university commitment to strengthening the public component of public education. The program has worked with Gresham, Salem and Springfield, focusing the university’s most valuable assets – motivated students and experienced faculty – on community-based solutions to real-world problems.

Called by The New York Times perhaps the most comprehensive effort of its kind, the Sustainable City Year Program focuses academic courses on a partner’s sustainability projects. In a typical year, more than 400 students spend 60,000 hours on projects that enhance livability, conserve resources and generate economic development – all while reducing environmental impact.

Medford projects could include community engagement efforts, improving bike access between the Bear Creek Greenway and population centers, design proposals for civic buildings, ecological restoration and analyses for economic development and land use.

"We’re thrilled to match the passion of city officials for making Medford a more livable community with the fresh thinking and energy of students,” said Marc Schlossberg, co-director of the UO Sustainable Cities Initiative, which oversees the program. “For students, the ability to work on real projects – while facing all the real-world economic, political and social constraints – constitutes a powerful learning experience.”

“The UO program offers the city of Medford a unique opportunity to partner with a world-class university in a program that will allow the city to address areas of our strategic plan in our effort to make Medford a more livable community,” said Bill Hoke, deputy city manager. “We are excited that we are the first city chosen in southern Oregon. Not only will we be receiving the benefits of the program itself and the ability to work with students on real-world projects, we will also be able to showcase our city to a national and possibly worldwide audience.”

Elissa Kobrin, an undergraduate majoring in planning and public policy at the university, said she found “immeasurable value” in working with Springfield last year to redesign an intersection for alternative transportation.

“This is not a class where formulas or vocabulary are crammed into the brain for use on test day and then discarded,” she said. “The Sustainable City Year Program provides a curriculum that empowers students to make the world a better place while expanding our minds and challenging our assumptions.”

The four-year-old initiative isn’t limited to Oregon – it’s also fast developing a following across the country and beyond. Now known as “the Oregon model,” the Sustainable City Year Program has been adopted by universities in Minnesota, Iowa, Pennsylvania and California, and interest has been expressed by officials from as far away as Spain and France.

The UO program will host a national conference in April during which institutions will be trained in how to implement a similar community partnership.

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cooper, UO media relations, 541-346-8875, mattc@uoregon.edu

SOURCE: Marc Schlossberg, UO Sustainable Cities Initiative, 541-346-2046, schlossb@uoregon.edu

SOURCE: Bill Hoke, Medford deputy city manager, 541-774-2000, bill.hoke@cityofmedford.org

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Marc Schlossberg, co-director, Sustainable Cities Initiative