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Using the city as a classroom

Students in Professor Jonathan Rosenbloom’s ‘Sustainability and the Law’ class at Drake University Law School are continuing a successful tradition of coordinating with Des Moines area organizations to enhance sustainability in the community. The course is a unique experience in which the students “represent” a real client, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and address real and pressing challenges facing the region. After researching and reviewing the existing conditions, students identified key areas of concern and drafted changes to city code in an effort to address those concerns. Proposals are then presented to the Partnership and to the Des Moines City Council.

“The student reports represent an impressive body of research and an innovative and creative approach to local governance and higher education,” says Prof. Rosenbloom, associate professor of law. “They also represent a true collaboration between the private and public sectors with all parties working for the betterment of our community.”

Topics for this year include “Urban Infill and Sustainable Development,” “Farmers Market Incentive Program,” “Water in the Environment: Residential Water Quality,” and “Revitalizing Walnut Street.” Students sought input from experts within the Des Moines community and did a thorough review of best practices around the country, and in some instances, best practices around the world. To view the full report, click here.

“Our experience over the last three years with Drake Law students, and in particular the sustainability class, has exceeded our expectations in many ways,” says Meg Fitz, senior vice president, regional business development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “There is a wonderful synergy that comes from the various groups working together. Not only are the students thorough and diligent in their review, they also add a perspective to the projects that we find refreshing and unique.”

“The City of Des Moines benefits greatly from our relationship with Drake Law and the Greater Des Moines Partnership,” said Laura Graham, director of sustainability for the City of Des Moines. “The joint purpose encourages us to reach new sustainability standards and to achieve higher goals than if we worked independently. I'm encouraged by the talent that these students possess and am most impressed with the amount of ownership they take in this project. They are not simply checking off an assignment for class, they are gaining real experience. As a result, the City of Des Moines benefits, the Great Des Moines Partnership benefits, and the students benefit individually from their work.”


While the program has created an invaluable relationship between Drake Law School, the Partnership and the City of Des Moines, there has been another outcome that takes the project to a new level: the creation of a sustainability fellowship position. The fellowship is offered to a Drake Law student who continues to develop the projects after the class is finished, allowing further development and promoting real change. The Fellow will present the most recent model ordinances to the Metro Advisory Council on May 14.

With the overall purpose of the project being to help make the Greater Des Moines region more environmentally friendly, economically viable and socially sustainable, the continued efforts of Drake Law students and the organizations are vital.

For more information, contact Jonathan Rosenbloom (jonathan.rosenbloom@drake.edu or 515-271-4164).

Sustainability and the Law - Presentations to the Des Moines City Council, May 6, 2013
(Presentations begin at the :44:45 mark.)

 
Date Posted: 5/2/2013
Last Modified: 5/30/2013 10:13:00 AM by Ann Van Hemert