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Bringing the UW to Your City

lcy-classTwenty eight miles south of Seattle is the City of Auburn. Native land of the Muckleshoot people and home to 70,000 residents, 28 parks, and a durable central business district, Auburn is the first partner for the University of Washington’s new Livable City Year (LCY) program.

The LCY program dedicates one year to a regional city, and directs multiple undergraduate and graduate classes from around campus to tackle the city’s self-identified needs, assessment projects, and opportunity analyses.

In just the first quarter, students are taking on issues like housing stock, homelessness assessment, business to business collaborations, storm utility efficiency, and cultural mapping. Dedicating thousands of hours to on the city’s projects they will produce their findings and reports to city departments and leaders in an effort to help guide big decisions for their community’s future.

“Our model is based on projects having interdisciplinary and experiential learning components. While working with community partners is nothing new to CBE or UW, we have more than two dozen projects partnered with various city departments, meaning we can respond to a myriad of interconnected community issues, and that reach is new.” Born said.

Beyond the opportunity for the city, both students and faculty from all sides of campus are connecting in ways they never have before. Born also says he and his co-director, Assistant Professor Jenn Otten from the School of Public Health, are seeing Foster School (Business) classes make connections with students from the College of the Environment and School of Social Work, realizing how much their work has in common and sharing knowledge.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with other LCY faculty that have changed the way we both teach,” Born said. “LCY represents many of the great synergies the university stands for—a commitment to high academic standards in teaching and learning and an interest in meaningful community engagement and public service.”

And another benefit for students—professional experience. Born explains that students are working with professionals on real world issues, working in teams and making conclusions that have tangible impact.

Along with leading the LCY initiative, Born is co-teaching with Assistant Professor Rachel Berney an undergraduate course in the Department’s Community, Environment and Planning program. The course, Planning in Context, has student teams working on two LCY projects: one examining the concept of place-making and finding ways to increase residences’ sense of place and community identity, and another developing parts of a draft element of the Auburn Comprehensive Plan that deals with physical, social, and economic connectivity across the city’s neighborhoods.

Currently, there are 11 projects being run through five colleges or schools across UW. In the coming year, Born and Otten are looking forward to welcoming more units into the LCY program, including the Law School and the Evans School for Public Policy and Governance, and seeing what kind of impact the collective group can have on the community. He also acknowledges the wide support he and Otten received when they first pitched the idea to campus leaders and said that he’s proud to see the university living out its values on interdisciplinary collaborations, students learning outside the classroom, and community impact.

Learn more about the Livable City Year program and see a list of classes on their website. We’ll be sharing the outcomes of each quarter throughout the year. Read about Branden Born’s planning research on urban food systems and how decisions are made – who wins and who loses and who is missing from the decision making table.

In addition to the College of Built Environments and the School of Public Health, the LCY program collaborates with UW Sustainability and Urban@UW, and received foundational support from the College of Built Environments and Undergraduate Academic Affairs. The program is also working with non-profit organization Association of Washington Cities. Livable City Year is based on the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program and is a member of the Educational Partners for Innovation in Communities Network.