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Higher Education Partners With Municipalities To Teach Sustainability

By Sharon Chen
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Faculty and students from the University of Iowa’s Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communites (IISC) are working with municipal officials to increase sustainability in Mason City, Iowa. This partnership is noteworthy because University of Iowa faculty and students are working on issues identified by the community. Projects include creating a plan for more efficient waterways use and development, increasing bikeways, and developing a food waste analysis and action plan. Partnering with the University of Iowa is a cost-effective way for Mason City to increase sustainability, and university students also get valuable hands-on, real world experience through these projects.

This type of partnership is a great way for universities to provide multi-disciplinary learning that prepares them well for the job market. As environmental sustainability becomes more important, many municipalities and corporations will be looking for people who have the skills and experience to identify areas for environmental improvement, the knowledge to implement sustainability policies, and the ability to market and sell these changes. Higher education can meet this need by providing students with opportunities such as this.

Mason City to partner with University of Iowa on projects

Mary Pieper | Globe Gazette | March 13, 2016 

MASON CITY — Faculty and students from the University of Iowa will be working with Mason City officials on a number of projects designed to improve services and increase quality of life.

Those projects could include making Mason City a more bicycle-friendly community, collecting and analyzing city bus system data to better serve citizens, and enhancing downtown alleys and parking areas with murals and other artwork.

“It’s kind of exciting because we have an opportunity to do some innovative projects and do them very cost-effectively,” said Steven Van Steenhuyse, director of the Development Services Department for Mason City.

The university faculty will bring their expertise while the students will bring “enthusiasm and new ideas,” Van Steenhuyse said.

The partnership between Mason City and the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities at the University of Iowa for the 2016-17 academic year was announced last week.

The IISC works with faculty, students and staff across multiple colleges and departments at the university to facilitate community engagement projects, addressing issues and challenges identified by the community.

Mason City was one of two communities selected from a pool of applicants from western, central and eastern Iowa to partner with the university program. It is currently completing two-year partnerships in Decorah/Winneshiek County, Iowa City and Sioux City.

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