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Center for Small Towns Announces Fall 2019 Projects

The UMN Morris campus Welcome Center, seen on a sunny fall day, with orange fall foliage in the foreground
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
October 30, 2019

The University of Minnesota Morris Center for Small Towns (CST) announces its fall 2019 project portfolio. Each semester CST works with communities around Minnesota to find local solutions to challenges impacting Minnesotans.

Acting as a doorway to the University, CST gives small towns access to the talent and resources at UMN Morris while helping students apply the skills they're learning in the classroom, strengthen their bonds to greater Minnesota, and develop as professionals.

This fall CST is working with 22 students on 16 projects around the state.

Fall 2019 Projects

Center for Rural Policy and Development-Data Gathering and Updating Atlas

Partner — Center for Rural Policy and Development
Student — Zachary Stahman (Morris)

Stahlman will help the Center for Rural Policy and Development gather data and update the Atlas, an online data tool, using the Shiny package in Rstudio.

Center for Small Towns Communications

Partners — UMN Morris Center for Small Towns and Native American Student Success
Students — Payton Sierra (Porcupine, South Dakota), Hope Guyer, Zoe DeBates (Luverne)

Sierra, Guyer, and DeBates will prepare for CST's 25th anniversary, maintain the CST blog and social media channels, develop and implement a digital story map, and collect photos and stories from community partners and alumni.

City of Morris Video Project

Partner — City of Morris
Student — Ali White (Bloomington)

White will collect interviews and develop videos showcasing the things that make Morris a great community in which to live and work, building on previous student work with the city to develop a social media presence and collect video interviews.

Creative Community Design Build: A Resource Guide for Community Engagement in Main Street Building Renovation with Rural Communities

Partner — Department of Public Transformation
Students — Zoua Vue (Saint Paul), Felicia Galvan (Mounds View)

Vue and Galvan will conduct research and interviews as part of a larger community-led effort to create a resource guide for refurbishing vacant small-town buildings into community spaces.

Eighth District Drug Court

Partner — Eighth District Drug Court
Student — Denise Riffey (Morris)

Riffey will work with the Eighth District Drug Court and CST to evaluate how well the drug court is working in the district by entering and analyzing data collected from key stakeholders.

Grant County 4-H After School Program

Partner — Grant County 4-H
Students (2) — Griffen Northrup (Littleton New Hampshire), Gracie Butler (Sauk Centre)

Northrup and Butler will work with Grant County 4-H to create and implement an afterschool program layout for the future. The layout will include structured lessons that can be replicated or modified, a schedule for afterschool programming, and plans to build relationships with area schools and contacts.

HRA Housing and Senior Surveys

Partner — Stevens County HRA
Students — Sunanda Rajput (New Delhi, India), Jake George (Ramsey)

Rajput and George will complete a survey on what makes workers decide to live in Morris and what, if anything, would influence others to do the same. They also will conduct a survey on current and future housing needs of seniors in Stevens County.

Montevideo Community Meals

Partner — Montevideo Community Meals
Students — Noelle Muzzy (Rochester)

Muzzy will help the group develop an outreach strategy, social media presence, and sustainable outreach practice.

Morris Area Chamber of Commerce Event Coordination

Partner — Morris Area Chamber of Commerce
Students — McKenzie Herrboldt (Elk River)

Herrboldt will work with the Morris Area Chamber of Commerce to coordinate, carry out, and evaluate community events in the City of Morris. These will include Prairie Pioneer Days, Crazy Days, and the Parade of Lights, among others.

Morris Farmers Market

Partner — Morris Healthy Eating
Student — Autumn Johnson (East Bethel)

Johnson will work with the Morris Area Farmers Market to increase knowledge of and access to healthy foods on campus and in the community. She will help the Morris Healthy Eating coordinator publicize, document, and evaluate the Morris Area Farmers Market season; develop and disseminate media content; and implement food-­related initiatives and projects.

Native American Boarding Schools Research

Partner — UMN Morris Archivist Stephen Gross
Student — Lauren Solkowski (Manitowoc, Wisconsin)

Solkowski will support Gross's research on the American Indian boarding schools that operated on the Morris campus between 1887–1909. Solkowski will research archival materials, shelve and retrieve materials, and work with library staff to develop an image and document database.

RUSC Kinship Data and Program Development

Partner — RUSC Kinship
Student — Tara Lindquist (Saint Paul)

Lindquist will help RUSC Kinship and CST improve evaluation tools for mentoring programs, collect and analyze data, create and implement an annual program survey, and grow the new Lunch Buddies program.

Someplace Safe Sex Trafficking Education

Partner — Someplace Safe
Students — Dylan Brunetti (Rogers)

Brunetti will help develop a better understanding of how crimes like domestic and sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, and homicide are being addressed through the court system by collecting and analyzing public data.

Stand Up, Step In, Speak Out, Bystander Intervention Program

Partner — Unspoken Voices
Student — Desmond Homann

Homann will compile and analyze survey results, conduct supplemental interviews with teachers to help draft an evaluation report, and organize performances. Stand UP, Step IN, Speak OUT is a culturally inclusive bystander training program around personal, power-based violence.

Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC) Vacant Building Research

Partner — UMVRDC
Students — Adam Schneider, Hewan Gebremichael (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

Schneider and Gebremichael will inventory properties and compile site-selector information on them as a part of a larger project to inventory, redesign, and reinvigorate vacant and underutilized buildings. This information will be used by graduate students and UMVRDC to create a vision of economic development in the UMVRDC region.

U of M Extension Data Entry and Analysis

Partner — UMN Extension
Students — Meghan Florip

Florip will continue a long-term partnership with the Extension Center for Community Vitality by providing data entry and analysis support for multiple projects throughout the year.

What's Next

Many of these projects will run through the full academic year. CST will accept an additional 3–4 applications for projects through November 29. To learn more, visit