For the next few months, Kristen Franklin and 14 of her classmates at the University of Maryland, College Park, will be going door to door to businesses along the Golden Mile.
Their goal will be to get to know the minority and immigrant small-business owners along the U.S. 40 corridor and get them more engaged in the redevelopment of the area.
Daniel Francis and 11 of his classmates will study how the city government can better manage its carbon emissions.
Other students will be walking through the city's watershed, looking at invasive species and studying how climate change has affected and will affect the city's water supply.
Altogether, about 350 students are converging on the city of Frederick this fall and spring for a pilot program that is the first of its kind for the state. The program, called Partnership Action Learning in Sustainability, or PALS, will turn the city into "a gigantic learning laboratory," Mayor Randy McClement said.
City officials kicked off the program at the mayor and Board of Aldermen workshop Wednesday, with dozens of officials, professors and students from the university in attendance. Alderwoman Kelly Russell and aldermen Michael O'Connor and Phil Dacey attended the kickoff, saying how excited they were about the pilot.
"I'm pretty blown away," Russell said. "I'm just really giddy with excitement."
The partnership is a great example of the real-world, hands-on learning that the college is aiming to provide, said Mary Ann Rankin, provost at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Thirty courses in 10 of the college's programs have been designed around studying what city staff identified as important issues. At the end of the course, students will deliver reports that give suggestions for how the city can accomplish its goals.
Most of the courses are graduate programs, although a few are undergraduate, and a few are mixed, said Uri Avin, director of the Planning and Design Center at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the university, which is administering the program.
The city is sponsoring 18 of the courses, paying the university $5,000 for each for a total of $90,000. The mayor and board approved the funding for the program at a meeting last week. The college is paying for the rest.
One class this fall will create a downtown architectural tour, another will study the economic impacts of historic preservation, and another will look at revitalizing certain areas such as the Jefferson Street and Church Street corridors.
Francis said he is excited to take theoretical learning and make it more practical. He said he is devoting his career to helping cities reduce their carbon footprint.
"I care a lot about cities and climate change," he said.
Franklin, of Upper Marlboro, said she and her classmates want to do as much education and outreach as they can with the minority and immigrant small-business population, which is traditionally not as engaged.
"We want to be able to increase active participation of the target population and educate them about the redevelopment plans," Franklin told the crowd.
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