SCYP partners with City of Salem for 2023-24 school year

The University of Oregon's Sustainable City Year Program has elected to help Salem with sustainability issues throughout the 2023/24 school year.

Salem's beautiful state capitol building.

This article first appeared on the University of Oregon's Government and Community Relations blog on July 31st, 2023.

The City of Salem has been selected by the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) for the 2023-2024 academic year.  This year-long partnership helps communities solve the problems of today and lay the groundwork for a sustainable, livable future—all while helping students prepare for the workforce through applied learning. 

This SCYP and City of Salem partnership is possible, in part, with support from U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as former Congressman Peter DeFazio, who secured federal funding for SCYP through Congressionally Directed Spending and the US Department of Education. 

“As a proud U of O Law School grad, I’m always gratified when my alma mater extends its statewide reach with timely on-the-ground offerings like these in Salem focusing on the climate crisis and equity,” Sen. Wyden said. “I’m glad the teamwork with our delegation has produced this big win for Salem and the university combining their creativity to develop sustainable solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our state and country.”

University of Oregon students and professors will focus on up to 20 courses directed at high priority projects for City Council and our community.  SCYP courses will include journalism, architecture, geography, planning, and public administration with more disciplines added throughout the year as project and course matches are made. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for our community,” said Mayor Chris Hoy.  “Our goal is to move further faster than we could on our own.  The students’ capacity and faculty expertise bring more resources to Salem, accelerating our environmental and equity work.  We are fortunate to have been selected for this partnership.”   

“UO’s SCYP is a proven model of success, using the drive and expertise of students and faculty to discover solutions that move Oregon communities to a clean energy future faster,” Sen. Merkley said. “The entire Salem community will benefit from being an idea-sharing hub that will provide students with tangible, real-world learning opportunities to make the city more sustainable and resilient to climate chaos.” 

The partnership is already underway, beginning with a summer quarter course on potential safe uses of artificial intelligence for greater efficiency in local government.  While more options for Winter and Spring quarters are still being explored, SCYP will be in Salem to help with: 

  • Climate Action Plan Implementation with a Community-Engaged Architecture course to discover opportunities for resiliency hubs across Salem.
  • Equity in Operations Fee. As we implement new software, this Public Budgeting course can help us advance new ways of thinking about differentiation among customer classes, based on equity considerations.
  • Volunteerism and Community. A Journalism course and a nonprofit consultancy course will work to define what the next wave of volunteers look like and how the City may alter volunteer opportunities to retain Library, Parks, Center 50+, Neighborhood Associations, Board and Commissions, and other volunteers.
  • Digital Divide and Civic Engagement. An Engaged Journalism course will consider where people in Salem get their information, and what tools and methods Salem can apply to better connect with our younger population and members of our cultural communities.
  • Furthering 2022 Safety and Livability Bond Projects. Architecture courses will further our thinking about mixed use building designs for branch library and housing.  Another Architecture course may re-think Civic Center to integrate passive cooling into the seismic retrofit project.
  • Walkability and Mobility Policy and Design. A GIS course can help conduct a walkability assessment (and gaps) of pedestrian corridors and a mobility-centered planning course can help advance some topics in the Salem in Motion work to update Salem’s Transportation Systems Plan.

The City of Salem last worked with SCYP in the 2010-2011 academic year.  In all, 27 courses with more than 500 students contributed to Salem that year.  SCYP hosts the final reports and media from that year. 

Established in 2009, SCYP is now in its 14th year of partnerships with Oregon communities. SCYP partnerships connect University of Oregon students with local communities to implement real change. Students who enroll in SCYP classes engage in coursework that draws directly from community-identified issues. Through applied learning, SCYP is able harness the innovation of students and faculty to offer communities unique perspectives and ideas. Communities emerge from SCYP partnerships with increased outreach, expanded breadth of conversation, and cutting-edge solutions, while students emerge with “real world” experience, prepared to enter the public service-oriented workforce.

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  • Will Lober