Michael Reisner, founder of The Upper Mississippi Studies Center, will send out proposals for sustainability-centered projects to local government units, small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Rock Island County.
Reisner, who has law and ecosystem ecology degrees, has worked for several nonprofit organizations, which is one of the reasons why he started the Upper Mississippi Studies Center.
“How do we get cities to realize the resources available at universities and colleges?” said Reisner.
The projects are a direct response to that question and will involve a combined effort by volunteers from the Augustana faculty and students along with the organization that presented the project.
According to Reisner, members of the faculty from multiple departments, including the arts and humanities departments, volunteer their courses to participate in the joint projects. After the sustainability projects are chosen, the courses are paired with a project.
Reisner hopes to place emphasis on including courses not centered in the natural sciences.
“The goal is that the final projects give some solution ideas,” said Reisner.
Jessica Flondro, senior geology and environmental studies major, has been doing research with the center since 2013.
“The interdisciplinary approach allows us to gain holistic insight into the most important issues and enables us to view the problem with multiple lenses,” said Flondro.
Reisner was quick to point out that the name of the organization does not include “River” and that the Mississippi River is not the primary focus.
The purpose is “interdisciplinary research focused on community identified sustainability projects,” said Reisner.
Though the idea is to find ways to increase sustainability in the Rock Island area, Reisner also hopes to create more opportunities for students of many different academic backgrounds.
Participating in courses that are part of the partnerships will help students learn how collaborate with stakeholders and individuals with diverse views.
Reisner also hopes the program will create more opportunity for internships.
Working with community partners can open doors for job opportunities as well as senior inquiry projects. Participating in a project involving the community also provides students with the chance to apply class material to the real world.
“I learned a lot about research and what it takes to put together a scientific study,” said Flondro.
Reisner hopes to give students more chances to leave the classroom and apply their knowledge.
“Instead of forecasting the future we need to go to the future and come back,” said Reisner.