UConn Environment Corps: Harnessing Student Power to Help Towns

March 25, 2020

Presented By Chet Arnold, CLEAR Director

A UConn faculty partnership that reaches across departmental and college lines is engaged in an effort that seeks to enhance, expand and institutionalize a new model for community engagement at the University. The “Environment Corps” combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and Extension outreach in a unique way that provides “real world” experience for students as they prepare for the work force, while helping communities respond to complex environmental mandates. Students enroll in a semester of classroom instruction that focuses on the impacts and issues involved in an environmental problem at the municipal level. Case studies, news articles, guest lectures by practitioners, field visits, and group projects are used to provide a local framework for the class. Students can then choose to enroll in a practicum course during the following semester, where they form teams that work directly with municipal officials from Connecticut towns. The initial pilot effort, funded by an internal UConn grant, created the Climate Corps, now finishing its third year. It was joined in the following year by the Brownfields Corps, and the Stormwater Corps in Spring 2020. To date, 39 town projects have been completed. The challenge moving forward will be to institutionalize this approach at UConn by making it an attractive and viable option for instructors.

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