On Wednesday, September 24, the University of Maryland officially launched the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program in the western city of Frederick, Maryland. Students, faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines presented a program overview and glimpse of coursework to city leaders and residents of Frederick, a prelude to some of the important projects—and collaboration—to come in the program’s inaugural year.
The PALS program, modeled after a program at the University of Oregon, draws from 10 different colleges and involves 350 students over the academic school year to give students practical experience outside the classroom. PALS immediately becomes the largest program of its kind in the region with 30 courses, spanning a number of disciplines—from architecture to biology. It’s estimated that students will put in over 50,000 hours of work for the City of Frederick to serve its broader sustainability needs.
Gerrit Knaap, Executive Director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, discussed the core tenets of the program, which focus on student engagement, action learning, service to local governments and sustainability.
Knaap said PALS “complements so much of what we do” at the National Center for Smart Growth,” which oversees the program, pointing to “interdisciplinary contributions across campus” as one of the program’s greatest strengths.
University Provost Mary Ann Rankin joined in praise for the PALS program identifying it as “an incredibly exciting project and just what we should be doing with our teaching.” Rankin emphasized, “All of this is focused on discovery and experiential learning and real world hands-on experience – and this is a great example.”
PALS Director Uri Avin, highlighted the full scope of the projects across the city, painting a portrait of the services students would provide the city and the real impact such actions will have. Avin then turned the presentation over to six students who discussed what their courses would entail.
One of the presenters, first year planning student Daniel Francis spoke about his course titled “The Carbon and Energy Economy for Planners,” which will produce a greenhouse gas inventory for the city, accounting for emissions from building and transportation, among others, and recommending cost-saving measures the city should consider. During his remarks, Francis also mentioned his desire to take coursework at the University of Maryland that not only focused on theory but application of it outside classroom as a driving force for his decision to enroll in the class.
Graduate Student Kiel Edson speaks before Frederick city officials.
Following student remarks, Mayor Randy McClement welcomed students and thanked them and university officials for gaining greater understanding about the work and their commitments to the city.
Alderman Michael O’Connor joined in the praise claiming that he was “overwhelmed” by what he had seen. O’Connor stressed his desire for Frederick to be an innovation hub through harboring similar projects now and in the future.
Alderwoman Kelly Russell proclaimed that she was blown away by what she had seen and echoed her colleague’s excitement. As the meeting concluded, the Board reiterated similar praise and touted their eagerness for the infusion of young talent in the area to address the city’s needs.
To see the kind of projects in store for Frederick and to view the entire video from the day’s events, visit the City of Frederick’s website: http://cityoffrederick.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=12&clip_id=2278