Getting to the Essence of “SERVICE LEARNING”

Madeline (Maddie) PhillipsI have worn a few different hats while studying, working, and now serving under the umbrella of the Community Service Center (CSC) at the University of Oregon. Currently, I hold the RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) position of Community Development Coordinator at the City of Creswell, Oregon; an eleven-mile hop, skip, and jump south of the Eugene-Springfield Metro area. As I transition into this position, I have had a chance to reflect on the colorful road I’ve traveled with the CSC. In the words of our Co-Managing Director Bob Parker, I’ve managed to work on projects that have been “not just one, but two or more standard deviations from the mean;” To those of you scratching your head, that means they’ve been pretty darn interesting. What I have realized, however, is that these projects have allowed me to thrive, each one testing my stamina, to which I will credit my capacity as an aspiring planning professional. No matter what type of work or challenge I find out here, beyond the walls of Hendricks Hall, I will surely revisit those formative moments with fondness (and maybe a smirk).

My résumé with CSC reads something like a “choose your own adventure.” It began with Salem’s Local Energy Assurance Plan (Dec 2011), a Community Planning Workshop (CPW) effort to develop greater resilience of Salem’s critical facilities to prolonged energy interruption. With chops in ski technique and a certain level of persistence (which I’m told is a virtue), I was in the right place at the right time to connect with the roots of CSC’s beginnings working on the Oregon Skier Profile and Economic Impact Assessment (Feb 2013).  I found my outdoor and professional interests aligned with the naissance of CSC, especially as they related to recreation, environmental resources, and economic development. I capped off my work with the CPW arm of the organization last week by moderating a panel for the recent Oregon Planning Institute on the topic of Public Health in Planning, an opportunity born out of work around Expanding the Healthy Homes Initiative (June 2013) for the Oregon Health Authority and the Equity and Opportunity Assessment (pending publication) for the Lane Livability Consortium, among other projects. Versatility has proven to be my most valuable asset.

A historian at heart, I came to the Community and Regional Planning program with a keen interest in understanding what makes great places “tick.” I continually return to the concept of genius loci – the “spirit of a place” – in each step I take in my professional development. The spirit of CSC lies in a commitment to service learning, a logical approach to an applied field like community and regional planning. CSC inspires students to listen, roll up their sleeves, ride the roller coaster of the iterative process, celebrate your successes (however large or small), and above all learn from the experience. CSC continues to “link the energy, expertise and innovation of the University of Oregon with the planning and public policy needs of Oregon communities.” As a proud member of the CSC family, I am imbued with this mantra as I take my next steps forward.

Madeline (Maddie) Phillips at Mt BachelorAbout the Author: Maddie Phillips is the Community Development Coordinator at the City of Creswell, Oregon through the RARE program. She might ski out of the trees at Willamette Pass or pass you in the bike lane when you least expect it.

“Water” You Doing?

Engaging the Community on Water Quality Issues

Middle Fork Willametter River, Oakridge, Oregon

On hot summer days what sounds more tempting than tubing down the river or fishing along babbling brooks as you soak your feet in chilled water?  Protecting water quality! Often times we forget cities work hard to lessen their impact on the rivers so we can enjoy them.  Oakridge is a small city the Community Planning Workshop (CPW) is currently helping, so they can take an innovative non-regulatory approach to meet the requirements for protecting and enhancing water quality along the Middle Fork Willamette. The result will be a surface water management program where results hinge on engaging and involving the community.

So “water” we doing to engage the community? On Tuesday, July 30, CPW organized a community outreach event to meet with homeowners primarily along the river. The purpose was to give residents information to address surface water issues on their own property, like managing storm water on site and identifying invasive species. We also wanted to hear their opinions and perceptions about the river, but what makes an event that sounds bureaucratic and formal successful?

That was the same question we had. Our strategy was to advertise a fun, informal, and festive event right off the bat through a general news release and customized letters to our target audience. We invited regional partners to engage with the residents while letting the residents enjoy live music, eat food, win door prizes, play invasive species bingo, and participate in children’s activities. All in all, it worked! The event was a great success – we had about fifty people attend, which met our expectations. Meeting with residents in small groups gave us the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions about regulations and hear what they want to see the city do in terms of managing water quality.

As we move forward we are incorporating our discussions with the community into the management program to make a product that represents the community’s needs and gathers its support. So on the next hot day when water is calling your name, remember “water” you doing?

About the Author: Casey Hanson is a MCRP student and enjoys playing soccer, discovering new recipes in the kitchen, and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.