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Upper Mississippi Center

ENVR 100 students
ENVR 100 students get instructions from Dr. Michael Reisner before starting a visual survey in Davenport, Iowa, as part of a project involving lead-based paint.

The Upper Mississippi Center mobilizes Augustana’s faculty and students to help communities solve social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Communities sometimes lack the resources to develop and implement innovative solutions to sustainability challenges. Augustana students and faculty have the skills and knowledge but often lack real-world settings to put their expertise to work.

These sustainability challenges create opportunities for students to learn how to tackle and solve complex, controversial 21st-century problems. The UMC brings these groups together.

The center integrates knowledge and perspectives from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to create solutions as students work with community members.

Since 2013, the UMC has created high-impact learning experiences across campus with community-based research projects, project-based learning experiences for existing courses, internships, and service-learning experiences.

These experiences:

  • Are community-identified and driven problems that focus on an economic, social, or environmental sustainability problems
  • Are action-oriented and try to move towards solving the problem
  • Require authentic collaboration with community partners and stakeholders
  • Create opportunities for students to make a difference

Sustainable Working Landscapes Initiative

The Sustainable Working Land Initiative (SWLI) is the centerpiece of the UMC’s efforts to build learning partnerships that enhance the value of a liberal arts education by solving challenges facing communities. The model is a one- or two-year partnership between Augustana and a city/county partner, matching existing courses and other learning experiences (independent research, internships, etc.) with community-identified and driven sustainability problems.

The SWLI enables cities and counties to achieve their economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals, while allowing students to learn through real-world problem-solving. Modeled after the Sustainable Cities Year Program at the University of Oregon, Augustana's SWLI is the only such program at an undergraduate institution.

SWLI asks communities to identify their most pressing social, economic, and sustainability challenges. It builds enduring relationships between Augustana and the partner community.