Working on projects with community partners provides the foundation for accomplishing our educational mission. Our students, faculty and staff work with community members on design and planning projects that benefit from the preparation and discussion of alternative ways to address issues and questions. Community projects may be site designs, master plans or regional investigations and they typically come in through requests from municipalities, agencies and non-profit organizations. In many cases the project process and products prepare community members to continue to work with design professionals and serve as the basis for community prepared funding proposals toward project implementation.
Our research addresses questions that are posed by communities, organization, and our faculty and students in response to contemporary issues they encounter. The projects range in scale from urban streets and neighborhoods to roadway corridor investigations. Many of our research projects engage community members but we would like to continue to build a practice of participatory action research in which community organizations are more equal partners in all stages of the research process.
Educational materials and programs are a natural outcome from our work in multiple communities over the past 10 years and longer. The educational programs take what has been learned through experience and research, and share it in understandable and interesting ways, making it accessible to community leaders, citizen planners, agency staff and professional practitioners. The Center works with state, regional, and national organizations and agencies to develop and deliver Educational Programs and Materials. Programs introduce local leaders and community residents to the planning and design process to tackle regionally specific issues and opportunities through hands on workshop projects. Workshops, training manuals and publications present planning and design issues and concepts in a visual, nontechnical manner. Educational objectives may vary for specific programs; however they generally address design literacy, leadership development, communication strategies and organizational capacity.