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Outreach Program puts UMD to work for Md. Communities

March 28, 2014

Maggie Haslam, Maggiehaslam6@gmail.com

Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability puts the University to work for Maryland Communities

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland's National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) announces the launch of the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), a new university-wide initiative that will pool the intellectual resources and ingenuity of the entire university to offer a fresh look at the specific challenges facing Maryland's communities. PALS will officially commence this fall with a partnership with the City of Frederick, Maryland.

Architecture students"We are extremely excited about this new program which will not only help Maryland communities become more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, but will help provide a new generation of students with real-word experience in working with local communities," said Gerrit Knaap, director of the National Center for Smart Growth. "We can't wait to begin work with our new partners in Frederick Maryland."

PALS is the first initiative of its kind for the University of Maryland. Created with support from the Provost's Office, the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the UMD Office of Sustainability, the program's mission is to offer students an active, "on the ground" learning environment by helping Maryland communities become more sustainable places to live, work and play. Through targeted, custom coursework and faculty engagement, the program enlists a host of disciplines to provide fresh solutions for individual partner communities.

Modeled after the University of Oregon's City Year program, PALS offers affordable, useable, and high-quality advice for partner communities while providing valuable exercises in critical thinking, real-world problem solving and community engagement for UMD students. With coursework tailored to reflect specific community challenges, a variety of issues can be addressed, including water conservation, attracting new employers, creating health and wellness programs, leveraging social media, engaging immigrant and minority communities and more.

"The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability will be an ideal vehicle to showcase the talent and ingenuity of our students," said the university's Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. "It is an integral part of our responsibility as a land-grant university as well as our commitment to provide an active learning environment."

Discussions have begun with City of Frederick officials and UMD faculty to target which needs will be addressed this coming fall. Meanwhile, a beta test of the program is currently underway in Salisbury, Maryland. The project, dubbed "Envision Salisbury," has partnered 50 graduate and undergraduate students in architecture with the town's residents as Salisbury develops a master plan for downtown revitalization.

"This program presents a unique opportunity to address some of the issues facing The City of Frederick," said Frederick Mayor Randy McClement. "The students' multi-disciplinary approach will likely provide the City with fresh perspectives and unique options for this project.  We are extremely excited to work with the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth on this and other projects in the future."

To learn more about PALS, visit the National Center for Smart Growth website http://www.smartgrowth.umd.edu.