The Smart Communities Initiative (SCI) is founded upon the idea that universities and communities should work together to improve the health and vitality of their areas. Through interdisciplinary research and scholarship, community dialogue, human capacity, reflection, and innovation, SCI community and university partners collaborate toward smarter, more vibrant communities. The program works with a different community partner each year, taking on projects related to that community’s needs and priorities. The SCI just completed its pilot year with the City of Cleveland, TN, in which it engaged over 400 students and 13 faculty from across campus in projects connected to the City’s strategic plan. The 2015-16 partner will be the Southeast Tennessee Development District (SETDD), a special purpose unit of government comprised of municipal and county governments within the Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia region. Projects for the 2015-16 year will address issues such as rural health care, aging and disability services, regional greenway systems, disaster preparedness, water quality improvements, geo-tourism, and small business development. The SCI program is overseen by the Office of Service-Learning.
Community partners for the 2015-16 SCI year will included the Southeast Tennessee Development District, Bledsoe County, Grundy County, McMinn County, Marion County, Rhea County, Sequatchie County, City of Athens, Town of Decatur, City of Ducktown, Town of Englewood, City of Etowah, City of Graysville, Town of Jasper, Town of Kimball, City of Pikeville, City of Red Bank, City of South Pittsburg, the Chattanooga Enterprise Center, and the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society. University of Tennessee partners include the Office of the Provost, the Office of Service-Learning, the College of Engineering (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), the College of Architecture and Design (Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture Programs), the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (Landscape Architecture Program, Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics), the College of Law, the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (Public Health), the College of Arts and Sciences (Department of Anthropology, School of Art Graphic Design Program, Department of History, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Environmental Studies Program, Department of Political Science), and the Haslam College of Business (Department of Economics).
Impact on UT
The SCI brings learning to life. Under the direction of faculty instructors and community project leads, students leverage scholarship toward the pursuit of creative solutions to pressing local and regional problems. SCI projects are highly interdisciplinary, challenging students to consider interconnected environmental, social, political, and economic problems and propose equitable and sustainable steps forward. Students gain valuable career skills while dramatically increasing the partner community’s capacity to meet their area’s needs.
Impact on Community
SCI projects have a direct impact on improving the quality of life for the residents of the partnering communities. Impacts can range from a more walkable neighborhood or affordable public transit to cleaner air and water, a more vibrant downtown, greater opportunities for local business, or increased quality employment options. Because SCI projects are defined by the partner community, they are directly in line with the community’s goals for a healthier, more vibrant future.
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