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Jenny Willoughby, the City of Frederick’s Sustainability Manager, began her work for the city earlier this year. Below Jenny reflects on her work thus far with University of Maryland students through the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program, which nears the conclusion of its first of two semesters assisting the City of Frederick. Here’s what she had to say:

As I stepped into the role of sustainability manager, I was well aware that I’d have support from staff, but that I would not have dedicated staff for sustainability projects. The PALS students have been able to help progress my goals as sustainability manager further than I’d be able to go on my own by conducting a greenhouse gas inventory, studying climate change in the watershed, and pushing the envelope with a shared use path extension. With their help, I will have plenty of data to back up the City’s Sustainability Master Plan with valuable data and information.

I’m particularly excited about the level of commitment the students and professors have to the City. Not only is the commitment there, but the work so far has been outstanding. I communicate each week with several professors and students about data collection, finding existing data, or to help guide expected final products.

I especially like heading out into the watershed and exploring the City with students. They look at our spaces with fresh eyes and fresh ideas, which helps us step out of our boxes and look in from the outside. The watershed, in particular, is a place with many user groups, but with a main goal of water supply protection. Keryn Gedan’s course focuses on climate change in the watershed and will help us look at how the watershed is used today and how it might change in the future. Two students in that course initiated a survey about current usage and spoke to the watershed ad hoc committee about launching it. It was quite a successful survey as it reached many different groups through social media sharing. Other students spent weekend days collecting data about invasive species in the watershed. Their work will be quite valuable as we move forward with a management plan for the watershed.

While I’m not a planner, I can appreciate all the work that goes into creating a usable space. Chris Ellis’ students working on the shared use path extension through the City’s eastern reaches have really gone beyond my expectations. Their progress reports and mini-presentations have given us an opportunity to dream about what this wild space could be. I’m hopeful that many of their ideas will be used when the space is developed.

Overall the PALS experience has injected excitement about what the City is and what it could be and I’m excited to see all the finished products.