Category Archives: Urban Collaborators

A National Framework for Urban Extension

Photo of a city street looking through a small window.

The Journal of Extension published “A National Framework for Urban Extension,” co-authored by Michigan State University Extension educator Marie Ruemenapp. The framework was created out of a collaboration by the National Urban Extension Leaders (NUEL) group that Marie co-founded and in which she serves as the vice chair. NUEL was formed after a group of mid-level managers and administrators from Extension in urban cities met together over breakfast and began conversations about commonalities in their work, and the opportunities and obstacles faced in urban and metropolitan areas. The group decided to continue the conversations and to meet regularly. They began to draft a framework for urban Extension.

Marie said, “(Our goal is) to elevate the conversation around what Extension should be doing in urban environments to a national discussion, and to begin to collaborate and network around that, so that state Extension systems can be more effective in urban and metropolitan environments.

“Eighty percent (of people) in Michigan live in five metro centers around the state. About a third of the state’s population lives in one of 26 cities. So Michigan really is a metropolitan and urban state. And that’s true across the country. Even nationally, about 80 percent of the population live in urban or metropolitan centers. We need to work where our clients are and make sure we’re relevant to meet their needs in ways that work for them.”

To craft the framework, NUEL members conducted an extensive literature review and collected information and experiences from Extension staff members working in urban centers around the nation. They identified four areas of historical development and opportunity for urban Extension: positioning, personnel, programs and partnerships.

To condense the framework and recommendations to make it more accessible, Marie worked with fellow NUEL members Julie Fox, associate professor, Ohio State University Extension; Patrick Proden, metro regional administrator, Division of Outreach and Engagement, Oregon State University; and Brad Gaolach, director, Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension, Washington State University Extension; to author the journal article. Read the journal article at

At the end of 2015, the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy identified that they were going to put a priority on urban Extension, and they asked NUEL to give leadership to their efforts. As a result, the group planned the National Urban Extension Conference in 2017. They plan to sponsor this conference every two years.

NUEL is also in the process of organizing a regional collaborative networking group for staff members who work in urban Extension and are interested in talking to other staff. This is a great opportunity to get involved. If you are interested in joining this network, email Marie at She will connect you.

Further information on urban Extension:

A National Framework for Urban Extension: A Report from the National Urban Extension Leaders (full report)

Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, Special Issue: Urban Extension – June 2017

Also, you can find many helpful resources on the NUEL website.

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Filed under Accomplishments, communication, Publications, Urban Collaborators, Urban Extension

Extension educator plays critical role in urban agriculture

Michigan State University (MSU), the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station are engaged in numerous programs, initiatives and partnerships to enhance access to good food for Michigan’s urban residents. Communities across the country are struggling with how to feed the hungry and how to rebuild inner cities. Urban agriculture has taken hold in Flint in a big way. Michigan State University Extension has been right in the heart of this effort in Genesee County. Through a partnership with the Ruth Mott Foundation, Terry McLean, horticulture educator and urban agriculture coordinator, facilitates the collaboration of numerous efforts aimed at establishing local and regional food systems by providing support to assist the many groups involved. Terry’s role has been critical to the future direction of the local food systems collaborative efforts. Her efforts include participating in a grant from the Michigan Department of Energy Labor and Economic Growth with MSU bioenergy colleagues in a role to facilitate access to land bank lots and other non-traditional land (including Bishop Airport in Flint), based on community relationships with key partners. She also is participating on a grant studying the impact of lawns on the economy, environment, and social well-being of urban society funded by the Scotts Company with the cooperation of MSU and the Genesee County Land Bank. Terry held two community input sessions in the city of Flint collecting valuable information that was presented to the City Planning Commission. Assisted by a technical assistant and Genesee Master Gardener volunteers, along with nutrition education that MSUE food and nutrition educators plan to provide in 2010, Terry supports twenty new community gardens bringing the number of community gardens that she supports to 50. Terry is involved with numerous partnerships with the goal of not only getting fresh produce to residents but to educate them and involve them in the process. Among others, Terry has collaborated with Kettering University in Flint, the University of Michigan Urban and Regional Planning Program, the Genesee Farm Bureau and the MSU Student Organic Farm. Terry is making an effort to pair the production side of growing food with the nutrition side of preparing and consuming food to create a program that benefits the Flint community residents on many levels. Thanks for your leadership in Flint, Terry!

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Filed under Agriculture, Urban Collaborators

Students show off projects at Spring Practicum

Urban Collaborators will present 2010 Spring Practicum projects on April 30th at the International Center, Spartan Rooms B and C from 9 a.m. to noon. This year the projects all have a “green” theme with 36 undergraduate and graduate students in the urban and regional planning program working on five different projects:

  • Blissfest Music Organization Tourism and Renewable Energy Feasibility, Harbor Springs
  • A Feasibility Study for Blending Housing and Urban Agriculture in Lansing
  • Kent County Weatherization Assistance Program
  • Greening Mid-Michigan Toolkit for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
  • Feasibility and Benefits of LED Lighting, Okemos Downtown Development Authority

According to Dr. Zenia Kotval, associate professor, a community partner has requested each of these projects, and the students will present in the communities in which they are working for government officials, boards and the public.

Everyone is welcome to attend all or part of the presentations. Be sure to take some time out to see what these fine students have come up with to “green” our state.

 Urban Collaborators is an inter-disciplinary effort supported by Michigan State University Extension (MSUE); the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Social Science; the School of Planning, Design, and Construction; the Provost and Michigan Agriculture Experiment Station. It is administered through the Urban and Regional Planning Program, which provides graduate and undergraduate degrees in urban planning, and is a program of the School of Planning, Design, and Construction.

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Filed under Urban Collaborators

Urban planners partner for practicum

Dr. Steve Lovejoy

Dr. Steve Lovejoy

by guest blogger Steve Lovejoy, MSU Extension associate director

Every spring we get treated to an outstanding example of how MSU Extension and our partnerships affect urban communities throughout Michigan. Zenia Kotval and Rex LaMore, through the Urban and Regional Planning curriculum, offer a class composed of undergraduate and graduate students that work with MSUE county staff members to identify urban planning issues. Then, groups of students tackle the issues and report back. On May 1, I had the opportunity to hear several of the student presentations.

I heard about some very innovative ideas for stabilizing the State Street neighborhood in Saginaw by implementing a very specific list of objectives—some requiring funding while others only suggested more activities by local residents.

I also heard suggestions for marketing the Eastpointe and Mount Clemens in Macomb County. The strategies were based on students’ asset mapping and included strategies for both property and community marketing. Different asset meant different marketing suggestions for each community.

Another group of students examined how to energize the Michigan Avenue Corridor (between the MSU campus and the Capitol) by focusing on a variety transportation methods. While the population of the area was insufficient for full-fledged Transit Orientated Development (TOD), the students provided several alternative strategies for making this corridor more appealing to diverse groups of residents and small businesses.

Unfortunately, I missed the presentations on developing metrics for measuring progress in two Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods and the feasibility study of an RV park in Lowell, and a project focused on developing a parking-demand model and strategies in Portland.

These student presentations really illustrate how we can use our resources to help revitalize urban communities. MSUE educators helping identify issues and assisting with the campus/community partnership truly illustrate what MSUE is all about: Bringing Knowledge to Life!

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Filed under Economic development, Guest bloggers, Land use, Urban Collaborators