For the sixth year in a row, the City of Eugene and UO have partnered on the Real World Eugene class, an undergraduate capstone experience in the school of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM). This past Fall Term, 16 students conducted research on four City of Eugene projects. Staff from across the organization served as project leads, attended team meetings and offered their time for informational/mentoring interviews with students. A primary focus for the overall class this year was equitable approaches to community engagement, especially gaining better access to the student voice. The students in this year’s class did an exemplary job researching new information in a short amount of time that will enhance these four projects moving forward. The projects for this year included:
- Sprucing Up Skinner Butte Summit – Parks staff will use information from this project to develop a framework for how best to revitalize Skinner Butte summit. The research completed through this project could inform best practices in using underutilized space in general; examples found through this project could impact other parks or open spaces within the City of Eugene leading up to the World Athletics Championships.
- Transportation Tactical Urbanism – This project prioritized intersections for tactical urbanism improvements in cooperation with the City’s Transportation staff and Lane Council of Governments (LCOG). Tactical urbanism includes low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment, usually in cities, intended to improve local neighborhoods and city gathering places.
- Job Availability and Retraining in the Time of COVID-19 – A key area of community recovery that needed attention is the student perspective on job availability and retraining, specifically in Eugene. This project dove into understanding how students are thinking and feeling with regards to their future careers, and what City programs or other community organizations can do to keep students interested in Eugene as their home after graduation.
- Shaping Eugene’s Housing Outreach Strategy: Middle Housing Public Involvement – Traditional public outreach methods have excluded many community members and perspectives. Additionally, residents are now living in a pandemic and moving to mostly virtual engagement— a challenge and an opportunity for the City to expand its reach. The project assisted Planning staff with a strategy for the next phase of public involvement with particular consideration given to younger populations.
“It was a pleasure to work with Darian, Brianna, Cody, and Camryn (pictured below) through the Real World Eugene Class. Planning outreach always aims to be as widespread as possible, but our processes tend to not see representation from younger people and renters. This partnership was an opportunity to include more voices and establish a town and gown relationship with students that call Eugene home. Our young adult engagement and outreach/communication strategies for the project increased by 250% in just 9 weeks—work that will continue past the class,” says Sophie McGinley, Assistant Planner and Real World project lead. “University of Oregon students are not only part of our community now, but the next generation of planners, commissioners, councilors, and community members. To do relevant work, we have to listen to the voices of the next generation: what they care about and why it matters. This partnership did just that.”
The City of Eugene will continue this unique relationship with PPPM in order to keep students involved in important City projects. It is a partnership that serves the students—they gain professional experience working as consultants with experts in the field—as well as City staff and project teams as a whole—the class has a built-in framework that allows the City to tap into the student population in an authentic way to bring new voices into the fold, while also allowing staff to understand and learn new perspectives and research. This experience brings us together under the common umbrella of living in community with each other and helps to incubate other partnerships between the City and UO beyond this class.
The Real World class will happen again next Fall with another round of community projects underway. To learn more about this partnership and to suggest project ideas, please contact Stephanie Scafa, 541-682-5652.