Campus-Community Partnership Models Sustainable Innovation

A group of men and women standing in two rows in a garden
Author: 
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
November 14, 2016
"There's a good case to be made about the campus and the City being leaders who have shared aspirations and who want to see Morris continue to be recognized nationally and internationally as a destination for people who want to come and learn about agriculture, energy, sustainability, and student leadership."—Troy Goodnough, sustainability director

While the surrounding landscape has turned to brown and gold, the University of Minnesota, Morris is still very green. This fall the campus has racked up a host of sustainability accomplishments: the result of efforts by the Office of Sustainability and the Center for Small Towns to grow a collaborative initiative with community partners called the Morris Model.

According to Sustainability Director Troy Goodnough, the Morris Model is "a community effort to work toward building out more energy conservation, clean energy, cultural exchange, community resilience, and celebration." He and the rest of the Morris Model team—made up of students, staff, administrators, and community partners—have built shared language and initiatives around Morris's aspirations in these areas. The result is a comprehensive campus-community partnership that demonstrates the campus mission and puts Morris on the map as a model for sustainable innovation.

The Morris Model aligns with campus goals around environmental stewardship as well as civic engagement and global citizenry. Through contributions to the Morris-Saerbeck Partnership and University of Minnesota's Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, it fosters an international exchange of ideas. In its work with the Jefferson Center and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (which launched the state's first Rural Climate dialogue), it promotes civic engagement and education. And with students at the heart of all these efforts, it provides meaningful, applied student learning experiences, which are at the heart of the campus's undergraduate liberal arts mission.

"Working on the Morris Model has expanded my perspectives on energy conservation, community resilience, and clean energy initiatives that are not only being explored in Morris, but also across the globe," says McKenzie Dice '19, Morris Model International Partnership intern. "Beginning work on this partnership as a freshman was a great start to my college career, and I look forward to continuing."

The Morris Model also embodies a spirit of innovation. Morris was one of the first Minnesota communities to work with a counterpart in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany, around ideas of climate protection and a technical partnership as part of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment's Climate Smart Municipalities project. The Model has gained statewide recognition for its work with Eutectics, LLC and the Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams to find innovative ways of financing clean energy work, overstepping the funding hurdles that, according to Goodnough, often prevent individuals and organizations from acting on their energy conservation and clean energy goals. All of this, he says, speaks to Morris's status as an authentic leader in green living.

"There's a good case to be made about the campus and the City being leaders who have shared aspirations and who want to see Morris continue to be recognized nationally and internationally as a destination for people who want to come and learn about agriculture, energy, sustainability, and student leadership," says Goodnough.

With winter around the corner, the team now is focused on its work with Saerbeck partners as well as its efforts around climate literacy and education. More information is available at morrismodel.org.