UO model for others to follow

University representatives from the U.S. and around the globe visited campus last week to learn about the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) at an annual conference hosted by University of Oregon. Now in its fifth year, the UO program has gained popularity and been adopted by a variety of institutions in 13 other states.

Described by the New York Times as, “perhaps the most comprehensive effort by a U.S. university to infuse sustainability into its curricula and community outreach,” the interdisciplinary program enables universities to help a city reach its sustainability goals each year.

The annual conference is an opportunity for representatives from participating and prospective universities to learn and collaborate. This year’s conference was different than previous years, because it incorporated the experiences of programs beyond the UO. Programs adopted from the UO SCYP model include the University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, University of Texas and San Diego State University among others.

“There is a variety of expertise and experience, including differences in institutional type and community context,” explained Nico Larco, co-director. “The conference now uses that expertise to teach new programs and help all of the implementing programs get better.”

Although participating universities vary by size and focus, the flexibility of the program makes this range and diversity possible. The SCYP model demands a high level of community involvement and academic support, and it can be scaled and personalized appropriately for cities with different needs and universities with different skills.

According to Marc Schlossberg, also co-director, the UO still has the biggest and most diverse SCYP program, “Our hope is that other institutions are able to implement it at similar scales...society needs this work to get done and universities need to be more active in helping meet some of our most pressing problems.”

Interest has also spread internationally. This year, four faculty members from the University of Omar Bongo in Gabon attended and requests have been received from universities in India and Africa. Larco and Schlossberg have already presented in Sweden, Spain, France, England, Gabon, China, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

The SCYP model utilizes expertise across multiple disciplines and takes advantage of existing classes that match the needs of a project. Teams work closely with partner cities to develop ideas and efficiently use resources in a way that integrates environmental sustainability, economic viability and social integrity.

Schlossberg believes that the success of the program is in a large part due to UO’s enduring legacy of students and faculty committed to making a difference.

He adds that, “The truth is that students everywhere want to change the world.”

-- By Chloe Huckins, Public Affairs Communications intern