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 2015-2016 program year, Texas CityLab partnered with Leander, Texas. Like many Central Texas cities, Leander enjoys strong economic and population growth, but faces sustainability challenges that accompany this growth. During the year, over 200 students from 10 classes across the university worked with Leander and CityLab staff to develop and undertake research projects that support the city’s sustainability needs and goals. Students interacted with Leander staff and leadership through data sharing, classroom lectures, and reviews. In addition, many students undertook site visits to Leander, where they researched topics such as Leander’s historic housing stock and downtown, current housing and commercial development opportunities, bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, and environmental resources and assets. The annual report summarizes the year’s research and provides Leander leadership with designs, scenarios, models, and policy recommendations specific to the Central Texas community and context.