OSI's Sustainable Communities Partnership

Dr. Maria Dahmus, OSI Assistant Director

‌‌‌‌The University of St. Thomas’ Office of Sustainability Initiatives launched the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) this spring 2016! Collaborating with our pilot partners, the City of Delano, the City of Elk River, and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), SCP linked 14 city-identified projects with 12 courses across 10 disciplines and programs, for an exciting pilot semester. From our first open house in November 2015 to our end of the semester celebration hosted by the MWMO this May 2016, we are so thankful for our pilot partners and faculty whose collaboration has enabled us to successfully launch our program and for the students whose hard work and creative ideas will help our partners move their sustainability goals forward.

What is SCP?  SCP develops partnerships with cities and government entities to collaborate on project development that fosters systems-level change towards sustainability in the Twin Cities area.  SCP provides curricular and logistical support to integrate these experiential and applied projects into existing courses.

Why SCP?  Cities often face limited time and financial resources to investigate and solve emerging sustainability issues. St. Thomas students seek real-world application of course content to prepare for the complexity of systems-level problem-solving to create change and advance the common good.  Faculty strive to integrate experiential learning into their courses to enrich their teaching.  Bring these pieces together—link projects with courses—and cities, students, and faculty have a win-win-win collaborative partnership!  

Through an SCP partnership, cities move forward with innovative approaches and solutions to a set of sustainability projects important to them. Students develop applied problem-solving skills and build relationships with leaders in the Twin Cities, learning first-hand what they can do with their field of study after they graduate.  And, SCP reduces barriers for faculty to integrate real-world projects into courses through our long-term relationships with our city partners and project scoping process, setting the stage for experiential learning that not only meets but enhances course objectives and student learning. 

In this issue, learn more about our pilot partners, Delano, Elk River, and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.  Take an in-depth look at our multi-disciplinary pilot projects.  Learn how a course can participate in SCP, and explore SCP’s student research opportunities


SCP is a founding member of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N), a group of universities pursuing municipality-university collaborations toward sustainability through innovations of the Sustainable City Year Program developed by the University of Oregon in 2009.  This exciting network of universities is growing as successful partnerships across the country demonstrate the benefits of this partnership model for cities, faculty, and students.