Texas CityLab (TCL), an initiative of The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Sustainable Development, partners Central Texas communities with UT Austin classes in an interdisciplinary applied learning program. Each year, Texas CityLab contracts with one Texas city; together, TCL personnel and city officials identify sustainability-focused research projects for existing undergraduate and graduate UT Austin classes to address. TCL program staff then enlist 10-20 university courses to tackle these identified projects, harnessing the energy, enthusiasm, and research of faculty and students across campus departments. At the end of the academic year, CityLab presents the partner city with a report of student- and faculty-led analysis, best practices, and proposed designs.
In the 2016-2017 program year, Texas CityLab partnered with Pflugerville, Texas. Similar to many communities in Central Texas, over the past several years Pflugerville has experienced unprecedented growth and the changes and challenges that accompany it. But more than meeting such challenges, Pflugerville is also seeking to leverage such changes to envision and create a new quality of life for its citizens. TCL and the University of Texas at Austin were happy to have been chosen to work with Pflugerville’s managers, staff, and City Council to help craft Pflugerville’s future. During the year, over 150 students from across the university worked with Pflugerville and CityLab staff to develop and undertake research projects that support the city’s sustainability needs and goals. Students interacted with Pflugerville staff and leadership through data sharing, classroom lectures, and reviews. In addition, many students undertook site visits to Pflugerville, where they researched topics such as urban agricultural, transportation needs, and economic development. The annual report summarizes the year’s research and provides the City of Pflugerville with designs, scenarios, models, and policy recommendations focused on the individual needs of the community.