Students projects to aid Clinton

With fall registration around the corner, Augustana students will have the opportunity to choose from five updated courses that advance out of classroom involvement by partnering with a local Iowa town.
This year the college’s Upper Mississippi Center, headed by Michael Reisner, environmental studies assistant professor, announced its yearlong partnership with the city of Clinton, Iowa in what is called the Sustainable Working Landscapes Initiative. The initiative was created to help Augustana students engage with different communities.
“In a nutshell, what it will do is pair a collection of existing courses at Augustana next academic year with about a dozen or so sustainability projects the city of Clinton has identified,” said Reisner. “And, through those courses, the students led by faculty will help the city tackle those individual
projects.”
Clinton was chosen because of their existing projects, according to Reisner.
“For this year they had a proposed groups of projects that seemed to be a nice match with the courses we have offered,” said Reisner. “There were some great proposals from other cities, but this one seemed to be the best match, and from our perspective, the city had the best opportunity for students to participate in applied, integrated teaching.”
Reisner says he hopes the project will be of an interdisciplinary nature, which means the individual projects will span a wide variety of classes and majors. Some of the majors include: accounting, communication studies, environmental studies, geography and history.
“This project is getting students out of class and taking what they’ve learned, whether it’s in that particular class or their major, and trying to apply it to a new problem,” said Reisner.
Unlike some classes at Augustana, all students enrolled in courses partaking in Clinton’s partnership will have the chance to visit  the town, instead of straight classroom-based learning throughout the 10 weeks.
“All classes participating will be doing at least one joint site visit, which means all the students from all the classes in the term will get on a school bus and will go up together as a group,” said Reisner. “They will get introduced to the city and spend the day working on their projects.”
All of the classes’ projects have been decided and preliminarily planned, with two being taught by Christopher Strunk, assistant professor of geography.
Strunk’s classes include Geography 325 and 374. In particular, Geography 325, or more formally known as Urban Design and Sustainable Cities, is a course that explores the relationship between the urban built environment and everyday lives in cities and suburbs.
“We learn about how cities have developed over time, some of the problems with suburban sprawl and how local officials, planners and residents have tried to create healthier and more attractive cities through walk-able neighborhoods, alternative transportation systems and adaptive re-use of existing buildings,” said Strunk.
Because Geography 325’s core values consist of learning about alternative transportation systems, Reisner said one of the main goals of Strunk’s class will be to look at existing bus routes in the city of Clinton and come up with a plan to better serve some of the areas in the city, with regards to that specific type of transportation.
“My urban geography students will be conducting a study of the regional transportation system in and around Clinton,” said Strunk. “In addition to analyzing transit ridership data, students will conduct fieldwork on the design of streets and key corridors in the region.”
This on-site fieldwork and excitement of working in real world scenarios are ideals that sophomore and hopeful participant in Strunk’s 325 class Barrie Chileen likes about these types of courses.
Earlier this fall, Chileen gained experience similar to the Clinton initiative while working on projects in the Keystone neighborhood in Rock Island.  This process is not new to her, and she believes students should get involved with the partnership for two reasons.
“I really like taking these types of courses because it provides actual real world experience working with class content, and I like that we are able to help people by gaining a hands on experience with the subject matter,” said Chileen. “And, having courses like these under your belt and on your resume looks really good to potential employers.”
Reisner agrees with Chileen that the project will help students become involved with a community in need, and that one will gain skills to work in the job market. But, he also cites one more reason as to why students should consider taking one of these classes.
“To be honest, this should be fun,” said Reisner. “Every term there will be multiple classes, so it’s a chance to get to learn what other students are doing.”