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Catalyzing Livable Communities

CEP 460 students gather outside of Auburn City Hall.

In one year dozens of UW faculty and hundreds of students are working together to catalyze livability. The Livable City Year program (LCY) was co-launched by Associate Professor Branden Born with the help of CEP Seniors during Fall quarter of 2016. This year LCY links students with the City of Auburn to help reach sustainability and livability goals. CEP students were able to learn through real-life problem solving and address the specific goals of connectivity and community place-making. By the end of the quarter, students were able to create a Comprehensive Plan on how to physically, socially, culturally, and economically connect Auburn along with strategies for the city to increase local sense of place and Auburn-wide community identity. A variety of UW classes and faculty will continue to work with the City of Auburn during the 2016-2017 academic year and build on these projects.

CEP Senior, Caroline Beightol, is creating a video to document LCY for her senior project. “I am further exploring the potential benefits of experiential learning and university-community partnerships that come from having a program like Livable City Year in place. I am working on putting together a video that will highlight the breadth of work done in Auburn by students across multiple disciplines throughout the year. My hope is that it will get students and faculty excited about getting involved in future Livable City Year partnerships, because I feel the concept of LCY to be a really powerful one. City governments often lack the resources that universities have the capacity to provide while giving students a meaningful and hands-on learning experience. It’s a win-win.”

Caroline also participated in the project herself. She said her favorite part of working with the City of Auburn was getting to hear from engaged community members. She said, “It was refreshing to hear from so many people that cared so much about their neighborhood. Having the opportunity to serve as a liaison between them and the city and voice their opinions where they may not otherwise be heard was really cool.”

Allan Vann, another CEP senior who worked on the project, said his favorite part of the project was working independently and having free range over the project. He said, “Our scope of work was simple: define placemaking contextual to the City of Auburn and find suggestions for placemaking strategies. We were not confined by a single definition of placemaking, which allowed us to suggest a variety of strategies based on our own research and findings.” Allan said one of the most challenging parts of the project was the time frame they were working with. Students only had one academic quarter to do a variety of tasks including: conducting research on the history of Auburn, creating a survey, strategically implementing the survey, analyzing the results, extracting suggestions, and creating a full report.

Next year, UW will be partnering with a different city. Keep an eye out for the Livable City Year video and updates, and course offerings next Fall. Caroline said, “It’s hugely rewarding and cities really appreciate the help.”