The University of Oregon's Sustainable City Year program has concluded its 14th year of service after partnering with the city of Sisters.
This article first appeared on the UO School of Public Planning, Policy and Management news site on June 14, 2023
The Sustainable Cities Institute’s Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) is celebrating another successful yearlong partnership, this year with the city of Sisters. Connecting classes with priority city projects since 2010, the 2022-23 partnership wrapped in early June with a celebration at the FivePine Event Center. University of Oregon (UO) students from sophomores to seniors to master's students, all from the College of Design, proudly displayed their work for the Sisters community members, city council members, and state and federal representatives who attended the festivities.
SCYP offers a unique experiential educational opportunity that prepares students to enter the workforce. The program runs for a full year, giving students an opportunity to gain crucial experience in a classroom setting while providing the program's partner resources and solutions they might not otherwise be able to access. Projects between the UO and the city of Sisters focused on how to make the city more sustainable through improving bike infrastructure; how affordable housing might be funded; how the area’s new tourism nonprofit can be successful, and an array of visions for the Sisters' existing elementary school building. Throughout the year, students visited Sisters and learned about the town’s values and culture. Students walked and biked around the city to see its assets and opportunities.
"It is the transformational idea of partnership and how to move forward with communities," said Marc Schlossberg, professor of PPPM and transportation classes. "The essence of the program is to match the community's goals with courses offered at the UO."
"This program allows us to think outside of the box in how we approach projects and potential for a community," said Megan Banks, SCYP Program Director. "The UO offers unique opportunities for experiential education to ensure we are preparing the next generation to enter the workforce. SCYP is proud to bring students together across disciplines to help communities such as Sisters."
For example, graduate Community and Regional Planning students developed ideas for the existing elementary school building and site, all based on city needs such as teacher/workforce housing, outdoor recreation, and community center, and an age-friendly neighborhood.
Architecture students drew from the planning students’ broader site ideas and reimagined the site and school buildings to address housing needs in the area. Both sets of students worked closely with the community while developing these ideas, ensuring collaboration with the community.
"These types of projects and collaborations are important, and they impact people and are hugely important for the city," explained Sisters Mayor Michael Preedin at the FivePine celebration.
The celebration at FivePine focused on spring term final presentations centered on improving bike infrastructure, showcasing ideas and research to improve the city's "bikeability." Ideas included adding a bike-share program, city-owned rental bikes, or adding more bike-friendly designs to the newly approved East Portal Transportation Hub. The presenting students enjoyed the chance to use their knowledge and describe firsthand what their ideas offer the community.
"We used everything the city had already put in place and created more options for bikeability," explained UO student, Ravi Cullop. "[Celebrating] Sisters [as] the premier place for biking."
Student concepts and recommendations should be available in project reports for the public and city staff by the end of the summer.
Next year’s SCYP partner, funded in part with Congressionally Directed Spending secured by former Representative Peter DeFazio and Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, will be announced in early July.