Conference Shines Light on Town-Gown- Inspired Advances in Urban Sustainability

Across the U.S. some of the most successful sustainability-related projects are the fruits of partnerships between cities and universities. A one-day conference at Yale will highlight some of these success stories — and provide insights into how they might be replicated elsewhere.
In Boulder, Colorado, the city and the University of Colorado collaborated to build an integrated, smart micro-grid that will promote energy efficiency, new technologies, and infrastructure improvements that benefit the entire community.
In Davis, California, the nation’s first bicycle lane and a commitment by the University of California-Davis to close its core campus to traffic spurred a level of alternative transportation that far exceeds U.S. averages.
And in South Bend, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame recently entered a 50-year lease with the city to develop a hydroelectric plant on an underutilized city-owned dam to significantly boost the community’s use of renewable energy.
Across the country, from New Haven to Ann Arbor to Boulder, some of the most innovative sustainability projects are the fruit of partnerships between municipal governments and universities.
On Oct. 13, leaders from 12 of these cities will convene at Yale for a one-day conference, “Forging University-Municipality Partnerships Toward Urban Sustainability.” Convened by the Yale-based Hixon Center for Urban Ecology, the Yale Office of Sustainability, and the City of New Haven, the conference will begin at 9 a.m. in Kroon Hall.

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Based at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology works to understand and enhance the urban environment.
“I’m excited to shine a spotlight on these impressive projects, as I think there is a lot we can learn from their successful examples of working together on ambitious sustainability efforts,” said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, program director of the Hixon Center.
During the conference, representatives from each of the university-city partnerships will address issues such as leadership, transportation, stormwater and flood management, and climate action in a series of a panel discussions.
The first panel, “Leading in Partnership,” will include Yale President Peter Salovey and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp (as well as Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison, Wisc., and Charles Hoslet, Vice Chancellor for University Relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). Over the years Yale and New Haven have collaborated on issues related to public health, stormwater flooding, land stewardship, and economic development.

“Dedicated members of Yale’s faculty and staff work here and live their lives as part of the Yale community and our vibrant host city,” said Salovey. “Our strong and long-standing relationship with New Haven is built upon a shared commitment to address local, national, and global challenges. For example, Yale and New Haven are working together toward greater sustainability through green infrastructure development, a tree-planting program across the city, and other initiatives.

“The Hixon Center’s conference highlights the fruits of our partnership and offers insights from the collaborative efforts of other cities and universities.”

Guests will include university and city leaders from Ann Arbor, Mich. (University of Michigan); Baltimore, Md. (University of Baltimore); Birmingham, Ala. (University of Alabama at Birmingham); Boulder, Colo. (University of Colorado); British Columbia, B.C. (University of British Columbia); Cambridge, Mass. (MIT); Davis, Calif. (UC-Davis); Madison, Wisc. (UW-Madison); Minneapolis (University of Minnesota); Pittsburgh, Penn. (Carnegie Mellon University); Providence, R.I. (Brown University); and South Bend, Ind..
If we’re going to inform and influence smart urban growth and development it is going to require interaction at multiple levels.
— Indy Burke, F&ES dean
At F&ES, where strengthening urban scholarship and practice was an emphasized goal in the School’s recent strategic planning process, the conference will offer a valuable opportunity to engage with leaders and innovators from across the U.S., said F&ES Dean Indy Burke, who will deliver the conference’s opening remarks.

“If we’re going to inform and influence smart urban growth and development it is going to require interaction at multiple levels,” said Burke. “At Yale we have to understand and contribute to environmental challenges here in New Haven, we have to build networks with other communities, and we also have to be mindful of urban challenges at the global scale.

“The Hixon conference offers a chance to take a deep dive into at least two of these areas: the opportunities to work with New Haven leaders to make our home city more sustainable and those examples of urban leadership that have had real impact in other American cities.”

The conference is open to the public but registration is required and seating is limited. The conference can also be watched via livestream.
yale aerial 1200
Aerial view of New Haven, including, in the foreground, the Yale campus.
PUBLISHED: October 10, 2017
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.