What is Texas CityLab?
Texas CityLab (TCL) is an experienced-based, interdisciplinary applied learning program that partners Central Texas communities and with university courses and resources. Sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin Center for Sustainable Development (CSD), TCL strengthens sustainability in the built environment. Each year, TCL personnel work with one Central Texas city to identify their sustainability needs and goals. Program staff enlist 10-20 university courses to tackle these identified problems, harnessing the energy, enthusiasm, and research of faculty and students across campus departments. At the end of the academic year, TCL presents the partner city with a report of student- and faculty-led analysis, best practices, and proposed designs. Examples include stormwater management, affordable housing, efficient transportation, and community outreach strategies. TCL results in sustainability progress for communities, meaningful learning and professional development for students, and an opportunity for faculty to link classroom work to life outside the university.
Can I participate?
As a cross-disciplinary program, Texas CityLab encourages participation from across the University. We partner with lower, upper, and graduate division courses. Current engagement or interest in developing an applied or service learning course is encouraged. A background in sustainability is not necessary. We welcome all disciplines, expertise, and interests.
How much time am I expected to commit?
Time commitment depends upon class project and faculty preference. Our program is fairly flexible so faculty can merge their course, or a portion of it, in ways that best serve their teaching objectives and students.
How am I benefited as a faculty member?
Faculty benefits include:
Expanded community and intra-University partnerships.
Involvement in responsive real-world projects that improve quality of life across Central Texas.
Service-based pedagogical framework with staff support and assistance.
Opportunity to improve social, economic, and environmental conditions within and around cities while simultaneously expanding the problem-solving capacity of the current and future workforce.
How am I benefited as a student?
Student benefits include:
Skill building and professional development.
Real-world project experience through applied service learning.
Increased access to university, community, and Central Texas resources.
How am I benefited as a City?
Access to the unique resources at UT Austin.
Interdisciplinary sustainability research tailored to fit your city’s needs.
Innovative solutions for the built environment that empower municipal decision making and improve quality of life.
Individualized reporting format that includes written, visual, and data-based research; including an independent data repository that houses all project information.
What are CityLab’s expectations for participating faculty and classes?
We ask that participating faculty commit to the following activities:
Participation with project scoping.
Project and deliverable fulfillment.
Acknowledgement of CityLab program on class syllabus.
At least one class check-in with a city representative, which often takes the form of a guest lecture and discussion. However, we encourage and support additional interactions with city staff and residents throughout the year.
Attendance by faculty at CityLab kickoff and symposium events.
Support of TCL’s professional and pedagogical objectives.
What is a CityLab deliverable?
A deliverable can take a variety of forms. Some courses produce reports while other generate visual media or data-sets and best management practices. In general, a deliverable is the “product” generated by your class that we include in a final report for the client city. CityLab staff, city representatives, and faculty work together to determine deliverable content and format at the onset of the project.
How can CityLab staff assist and support faculty?
CityLab will help you identify and develop the city-focused project, connect you with resources and community partners, and coordinate information and data gathering. We also provide coordination of classroom visit(s) by city staff; class visits to the city; faculty visits to and contact with city staff; and access to any shared data or other materials requested from and provided by the city. Please contact us if you have additional assistance and support questions.
How does CityLab choose city partners?
CityLab continues to look for city partners for the 2017-2018 academic year and beyond. We ask that city partners make a financial contribution to support the program, and we have found that differences between city fiscal year calendars and UT’s academic calendar require us to confirm potential city partners about a year before the desired start date. Please contact us for more information or if you would like to schedule a visit with CityLab staff to learn more.
How did Texas CityLab get started?
In 2011, a group of UT School of Architecture faculty members began to explore different models of interdisciplinary service-learning programs. Several faculty attended a workshop to receive training about the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year, which had received considerable attention for its innovative approach to sustainability service learning. After the workshop, faculty formed an advisory board, and the Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) successfully applied for Texas CityLab Green Fee funding to hire graduate research assistants to develop the groundwork for the program. Former CSD co-director Barbara Brown Wilson asked Katherine Lieberknecht to serve as the initial Principal Investigator, which she has been doing since the fall of 2013.