Photo Caption: At a Previous Service Learning Project, Kim Wilson Engages with Stakeholders at Community Meeting
Making a meaningful, long-term community impact when you only have a 15-week semester has been a traditional barrier for service learning landscape architecture students. Fortunately, that barrier is starting to crumble thanks to the efforts of University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Landscape Architecture Program Director Kim Wilson who was recently awarded a Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Teaching Engagement grant entitled “CEEM Project: A New Community Engagement Education Model.”
Collaborating in this endeavor will be the Nebraska Extension, the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, the Willa Cather Foundation, the City of Red Cloud, Red Cloud Chamber of Commerce, and many others as the program evolves.
Over the next two years, the Landscape Architecture Service Learning (SL) studios will partner with The Willa Cather Foundation’s, Heritage Tourism Development Director Jarrod McCartney. The objective of the vertical SL studios will be to assist in the development of a regional cultural heritage tourism initiative focusing on the City of Red Cloud and Webster County, Nebraska, which has experienced declining jobs, shrinking populations and eroding incomes. Their quality of life amenities such as hospitals and schools are similarly threatened. In order to implement a project of this magnitude and scope, the project will incorporate the work and research of multiple SL studios, with each sequential studio building on the work of the previous studio.
Red Cloud is the home of the famous novelist Willa Cather and thus has significant and unique heritage tourism assets and opportunities. While notable cultural heritage tourism development has occurred, the Red Cloud community has greater potential to significantly increase its regional economic and cultural impact.
The economic health and vitality around the region depends on ways to diversify its economy. Cultural heritage tourism is an innovative, income-generating strategy to diversify the economy, attract new businesses, build on the community assets and sustain success in a global economy.
“I’m extremely pleased Rural Futures Institute has agreed to support our initiatives and efforts to engage and create a meaningful community impact through our service learning student projects,” commented Kim Wilson. “Community engagement projects like this are invaluable learning tools that teach our students the “art” of creating great, sustainable communities through using appreciative inquiry and asset mapping, applying the community input process and utilizing planning and design principles and strategies.”