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Program and Staff Updates - Spring 2017

Hennepin-University Partnership (HUP) worked with the Hennepin County Elections

The Hennepin-University Partnership (HUP) worked with the Hennepin County Elections Division to design a process for recruiting student volunteers to help the County react to anticipated record-setting number of absentee ballots. More than 300 students volunteered for one or more 4-hour shifts during the week prior to the election (absentee ballots cannot be opened earlier than one week before the actual election day). County staff reported that students did a great job, and were especially good

Participants in the fall 2016 Neighborhoods Now! Issues Organizing & Systems Cha

Participants in the fall 2016 Neighborhoods Now! Issues Organizing & Systems Change at the graduation celebration in December 2016. Participants learned how to build more powerful communities by organizing to win changes leading to racial and economic justice.

May 25, 2017

In October 2016, CURA Community-Based Programs welcomed Andrew Tran as the new Program Director of Community-Based Research. Tran has a strong background in community-based research, having worked as a graduate researcher at CURA with community organizations throughout the Twin Cities.  Before coming to CURA as Program Director, he worked as an urban planner and designer for Community Design Group and Program Coordinator for CURA’s Neighborhood Leadership and Organizing Program. Tran has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, with a self-designed specialization on the intersection of design, racial equity, and planning and placemaking in immigrant communities.

Jeff Matson and Community GIS have partnered with national and Twin Cities LISC to develop a fully interactive disparity calculator that organizations in LISC cities can use to measure racial disparities among a host of indicators at pre-defined or custom geographies. This Leaflet-based web mapping application uses the Census API and data from the LISC Building Sustainable Communities initiative to give users an in-depth look at the gaps in home ownership, unemployment, educational attainment, poverty, and more. The primary purpose of this tool is to put actual numbers behind the statistics we hear repeatedly about income and opportunity differences among various racial/ethnic groups. Visit the online disparity calculator at http://z.umn.edu/1d5e.

The Hennepin University Project (HUP) Management Team, composed of leaders from both Hennepin County and the University, took action to support an ongoing program of Mixers/Grant Rounds to catalyze connections between Hennepin County and University of Minnesota staff and faculty.  Mixers will be held each spring and fall, with grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 being awarded to the highest rated ideas for collaborations.  The first Mixer/Grant Round under this new program was held in September 2016 and hosted by the County’s Facility Services Department under the direction of Mike Sable.  More than 40 Hennepin County and University staff participated in the Mixer, and as a result of connections made there, more than 10 ideas for collaborative projects were generated, and the County subsequently funded two studies:

  • Use of Building Automation Systems (BAS) to Identify Inefficient Operation (College of Design)
  • Supported Housing Preferences for Transitioning Youth with Neuro-diverse Disorders (Center for Sustainable Building Research)

The University’s Community of Scholars Program (COSP) supports the academic and professional success of graduate and PhD students from diverse backgrounds. In 2016, COSP established a summer internship program with the Hennepin County Human Resource Department. This collaboration evolved from connections made at a fall 2015 HUP Mixer. In the summer of 2016, COSP students were hired to contribute to important County projects:

  • Analysis and development of recommendations to simplify applications to the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP).
  • Analysis of demographic trends to support development of the County’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
  • Work with the County Transportation Department to evaluate the effectiveness of flashing yellow lights at traffic stops.

The Minnesota Prison Doula Project (MNPDP) has been awarded funding from the Medica Foundation of Minnesota and the Otto Bremer Trust to expand supportive programming for pregnant and parenting jailed women in outstate Minnesota.  Implementation will begin at the St. Louis County Jail in Duluth and the Beltrami County Jail in Bemidji. In 2017, the project aims to work with 250 jailed mothers at these two sites. 

MNPDP is also working with the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (RCCF) to develop and implement a program of supported visitation for jailed mothers. In the majority of Minnesota counties, jail visitation is done via video conferencing. This can be very challenging and confusing for children, who often come to visiting expecting to see and touch their parents. This may be particularly challenging for very young children who become confused and frustrated with the video screen. As a result, mothers frequently have chosen to not have visits with their children during their incarceration. 

With the support and encouragement of the RCCF’s Women’s Unit Manager, Elizabeth Reetz, we have collaboratively developed opportunities for mothers to have supported contact visits with their children at that location. Each week two families participate and up to three children are allowed to spend one hour with their mother in a newly developed family visiting room. The room was created through donations from MNPDP staff and financial support from Ramsey County.  Our shared goal for 2017 is to support 100 contact family visits at this location. 

An Resilient Communities Project-sponsored capstone project by students at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs received the Outstanding Student Project Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Planning Association. For their Participating in Policy and Planning Capstone, graduate students Chuck Demler, Kaela Dickens, Joseph Hartmann, Laurel Nightingale, and Kalli Perano collaborated with project lead and Carver County Parks and Trails supervisor Sam Pertz and UMN faculty advisor Kathy Quick on a project titled “Increasing Engagement with Communities of Color: A Toolkit for Carver County Parks and Recreation.” Read the project online at http://z.umn.edu/1djj. The award was presented at the 2016 Upper Midwest Regional/APA Minnesota State Conference in St. Cloud, MN, September 28–30, 2016.

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