Students lead the way in connecting a university to its neighborhood

When a school like the University of Minnesota offers coffee shops, food courts, convenience stores, exercise facilities, and U.S. Postal Service locations, employees and students can conduct all of their business and socializing on campus and never even think about the surrounding neighborhood.

So what, right? So what until those employees and students inevitably decide they want to work with their neighbors on traffic planning or crime reduction or community-based research.

Two years ago, graduate students at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs began organizing to change the relationship the schools on the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus had (or didn't have) with the adjacent Cedar Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis. The project they initiated, called CHANCE (Cedar-Humphrey Action for Neighborhood Collaborative Engagement), has since become an institutionally supported effort (it has a very committed paid staff of one, and is housed with the Center for Integrative Leadership).

Students continue to play an important role in the growth of CHANCE. They developed a year-long service-learning course to help future urban planners and other professionals learn how to work with a community (PA 5990-03 Engaging the Public in Policy & Planning), and they collaborated with the Cedar Riverside Business Association and Augsburg College to create an incentive for university students and employees to patronize local businesses. (Augsburg College has a history of engagement with the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, especially through their Center for Service, Work and Learning.)

Most recently, CHANCE led and coordinated an initiative to donate used University of Minnesota computers to neighborhood organizations.

Later this fall you'll be able to read about this ongoing university-neighborhood effort on a new CHANCE blog. We'll let you know when it's on-line!

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs