A successful community-based research class


A little over a year ago, I learned that our proposal for a capstone class to the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies got accepted.  I literally jumped off my chair when reading the email from the selection comittee; I was so happy.  Supported by the Nelson Institute’s Community Environmental Scholars program, Charlotte Zieve, and the Morgridge Center for Public Service, the class had been finalized by holding a public event last week as our final meeting.  It was indeed a successful class.  We had a group of twelve highly motivated undergraduate students, and had the support of fourteen dedicated The Natural Step Monona volunteers.  I both thanked and congratulated them for this.  The following link will bring you to a news coverage by the Herald Independent about the event.

This class was designed for undergraduate students to have an opportunity to work closely with a community in addressing local environmental issues as part of their participation in the Environmental Studies certificate program.  Since I have worked with The Natural Step Monona since 2007, I proposed to Randy Stoecker, my advisor, that we should partner with them for this class.  When proposed with this idea, both agreed.  Couldn’t be better!!

In addition to the financial support for my graduate study (there is no question about it), there are two things I am extremely pleased about this project:

  • I have not had the privilidge of working side by side with my advisor until this opportunity came.  It was probably okay, not bad.  But it was not okay for a PhD student like me who was in his 3rd year by the time we submitted this capstone proposal.  It is definitely something I had been looking for.
  • The Natural Step Monona is a young grassroots organization.  I saw an opportunity for a community-higher education partnership that both sides can benefit from; one of my research interests.  While The Natural Step Monona has probably had a certain relationship with the UW-Madison, they had not had a research partnership with the UW-Madison before.  So this collaboration is a new thing for them, and will likely open doors for many other opportunities and resources available in campus.

I am very much looking forward to following up our findings from this research.  We have planned for a few journal articles and perhaps presentations.  We have been awarded for another capstone class with another group of undergraduate students in the fall 2011.  We will continue our collaborative work with The Natural Step Monona and do community actions based on our findings from spring 2011 class.  You can learn about our spring 2011 class from this flyer.  The fall 2011 class is called “Community Organizing with the Natural Step Monona,” and can also be learned from the Nelson Institute page.


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