United in a common mission of improving sustainability efforts in Flint and the region, the University of Michigan-Flint and the City of Flint are joining forces to establish a path forward for the community that will help combat the effects of climate change.
Faculty, staff, and students from UM-Flint are beginning work with officials to co-create an environmental sustainability plan for the city. Early discussions between the university and the city have been collaborative with an eye toward finalizing a plan that is realistic and implemented in phases over the next few years.
Heather Dawson, Executive Director of the Office of Research and Economic Development, has been a staunch advocate for progressive sustainability practices on campus and in the community and looks forward to helping to lead the team from UM-Flint in the new partnership.
"The time has come for the university and city to combine ideas, energy, and resources to create a plan that will benefit every person in this community," said Dawson. "Climate change is a priority for all of us and developing this plan for sustainability will impact generations to come."
UM-Flint faculty with expertise in such areas as sustainability, environmental, and urban studies will work with city employees and community members to consider several approaches in developing the plan, and they will seek input from residents during the process. Students have a major role to play in this initiative. UM-Flint graduate student Meghan Jeske has already signed on to work on the planning, and interns from the university's Urban Institute for Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice are exploring the possibilities of joining the effort as part of their research projects.
"The City of Flint is incredibly grateful to join with UM-Flint to build a plan for environmental sustainability. This alliance will strengthen the relationship between academia and municipal government, giving brilliant minds the opportunity for intentional civic activism on a project of vital importance," said Lottie Ferguson, Chief Resilience Officer.
The university is undertaking other important sustainability efforts. This fall, Chancellor Deba Dutta created the UM-Flint Sustainability Committee. The committee will lead and coordinate the work of making progress toward carbon neutrality on the campus. The Sustainability Committee will be directly involved in working with city officials on the planning process.
"This new committee is pivotal for examining the issues and opportunities for developing a more sustainable future for the campus and community," said Dutta. "The collaboration with the City of Flint will be a crucial component in this new endeavor and will inform the work of the committee as they strive to bring recommendations and solutions that will help us to achieve carbon neutrality."
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley is enthusiastic about the planning process, and the involvement of many stakeholders and experts over the next year.
"The City of Flint looks forward to expanding our partnership with the University of Michigan-Flint on building an environmental sustainability plan in Flint," said Mayor Sheldon Neeley. "The impact of this work will create a blueprint for other urban municipalities to follow. It is purposeful work that cultivates innovation through applied research to move Flint forward."