A Greener State

Partnership Helps Maryland Cities Address Sustainability
by Karen Shih ’09 | poster courtesy of Pals
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Algae buildup in a popular city canal. A struggling immigrant- and minority-owned business area. Fragile 18th-century architecture. At 270 years old, Frederick, Md., faces a variety of environmental, economic and social challenges, and a new campuswide partnership led by the university’s National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) is helping the state’s second-largest city tackle them in a sustainable way.

“You want to leave this earth in a better place than you found it, and that’s part of what we should do as a city as well,” says Frederick Mayor Randy McClement. “Everyone’s enthusiastic about working with UMD. In the long run, this will help our staff on projects they’d like to get moving forward.”

The Partnership in Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program brings together professors and students to participate in 30 new or refocused classes throughout the school year. Many are existing courses that have been redesigned to focus on Frederick, giving students opportunities to work in and with the city to study the impact of industrial redevelopment, encourage citywide composting, improve bicycle and pedestrian transportation, and investigate the impact of climate change on the Frederick watershed, among other issues.

“All cities and jurisdictions have limited resources, so this infusion of student and faculty work helps to plug a lot of those holes and gives them tremendous resources, information and ideas to think about,” says PALS Director Uri Avin.

PALS will choose a new local government to work with each school year. It will also begin a multiyear partnership with the city of College Park this spring.

“Sustainability is one of the major challenges facing humanity these days,” says NCSG Director Gerrit Knaap. “It’s part of the University of Maryland’s mission and something every student should be exposed to.”

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