Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.15
Liaison Kelly Wellman
Submission Date Dec. 19, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Texas A&M University
EN-10: Community Partnerships

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Jaimie Masterson
Program Coordinator
Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability :
Houston Independent School District, Furr High School

Does the institution provide financial or material support for the partnership? :
Yes

Which of the following best describes the partnership timeframe?:
Multi-year or ongoing

Which of the following best describes the partnership’s sustainability focus?:
The partnership simultaneously supports social equity and wellbeing, economic prosperity, and ecological health

Are underrepresented groups and/or vulnerable populations engaged as equal partners in strategic planning, decision-making, implementation and review? (Yes, No, or Not Sure):
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability, including website URL (if available) and information to support each affirmative response above:

The Partner, Furr Institute of Innovative Thinking (FIIT), a magnet high school of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), currently offers high school students from across Houston the opportunity to study one of three educational pathways, including Environmental Communications, Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency systems. FIIT recently received the XQ Foundation Super School which is a $10 million investment in the school. Texas A&M was a part of their application proposal and FIIT stated they feel the strong connection to the university resulted in their award. Texas A&M has worked with FIIT for the last 4 years to immerse high school students and college students in citizen science and place-based education on the FIIT community. This is “an educational approach that combines rigorous academics with hands-on learning and the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-world experiences.” With ubiquitous connectivity and career-oriented partnerships, students experience a classroom without walls. Mentors, coaches, and guest speakers are accessible through digital communication, face-to-face meetings, and virtual field expeditions to career-centered sites.
Texas A&M also works with FIIT and their Woodsy Owl Conservation Corps Green Ambassadors which have gained recognition as youth keynote speakers at the 2015 Environmental Justice Conference surrounding their work with food justice, food deserts, and creating urban food forest and corridors throughout the city of Houston. In addition, Green Ambassadors also work with elementary, middle and other high schools to connect and create a sustaining feeder program in which students continue ‘greenification’ projects and efforts throughout their education. In 2015, the Green Ambassadors were awarded the highest honor of The United States Department of Agriculture with the Abraham Lincoln Award for Diversity, Outreach, and Inclusion.
Fundamentally, the Partner seeks to build a program that attracts and serves a diversity of students from across the Houston region and creates a conservation constituency that reflects the community and its natural resource values.
FIIT is located on the East End of Houston. Houston Ship Channel communities such as the Harrisburg/Manchester super neighborhood are at particularly high risk of impacts from the nexus of exposure to hazardous substances and natural disasters. In fact, Manchester residents bear some of the highest cumulative cancer risk among all of Harris County (Linder et al., 2008). Within 1 mile of the Manchester neighborhood, there are 21 facilities that report to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, 11 large quantity generators of hazardous waste, 4 facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous wastes, 9 major dischargers of air pollution, and 8 major storm water discharging facilities (WEACT – find original cite). The population of the Harrisburg/Manchester Super Neighborhood is 98% minority, with a median income that is one-third less that the City of Houston. Only 6% of residents have obtained a bachelor’s degree (City of Houston Planning and Development Department, 2014). Floodplains along Sims Bayou have increased by 15% since 1980, due to increases in development and pervious cover like concrete and asphalt, while expected sea-level rise could expose another 35,000 residents along the ship channel to flooding (CITE Leslie, Paco; RCCCP Fact Sheets).
Last year, Texas A&M held a 6-week long environmental justice course at the high school, designed and conducted by graduate students. Students went in the field, went on a "toxic tour" and classroom activities, among other experiential learning opportunities. Next up, high school students and college students will collect water samples in the school and test for heavy metals and other harmful substances.
This year, FIIT plans to fold environmental justice into their entire curriculum. With our team and T.E.j.a.s. they held "toxic tours" around the city to give students hands on understanding of problems. We met with other FIIT partners in a day-long workshop to brainstorm ideas. We will hold 2 continuing education workshops for teachers based on data collected in the community to re-envision how to include it into classes.


Name of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability (2nd partnership):
Charity Productions

Does the institution provide financial or material support for the partnership? (2nd partnership):
Yes

Which of the following best describes the partnership timeframe? (2nd partnership):
Multi-year or ongoing

Which of the following best describes the partnership’s sustainability focus? (2nd partnership):
The partnership simultaneously supports social equity and wellbeing, economic prosperity, and ecological health

Are underrepresented groups and/or vulnerable populations engaged as equal partners in strategic planning, decision-making, implementation and review? (2nd partnership) (Yes, No, or Not Sure):
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability, including website URL (if available) and information to support each affirmative response above (2nd partnership):

Texas A&M University's Center for Housing and Urban Development has developed a Memorandum of Understanding with Charity Productions. Currently, TAMU is working with Charity Productions in a number of ways.
Charity Productions began in 1984 and became a full nonprofit organization in 1988, their services are primarily delivered on an outreach format. Charity Productions is staffed by volunteers and uses contracted services when funded by contract or grant. Charity has service footprints with several major initiatives’ with the City of Houston Health Department and Municipal Courts, Harris County Emergency Management, Harris County Juvenile Probation, Red Cross (southeast and northeast branches), Beaumont and Port Arthur PDs and the Texas Youth Commission dating back to 1987.
One of the neighborhood focus areas of Charity Productions is Sunnyside. Sunnyside, the oldest African-American community in southern Houston, is located south of Downtown Houston between Loop 610 and Beltway 8. Approximately 93% of the neighborhood’s population is African-American and nearly 40% live in poverty (City of Houston Planning and Development Department, 2014). Lacking public support and city-wide buy in, the neighborhood is characterized by its lack of civic services, grocery stores, and safe walkable streets. Environmental concerns are at the forefront of communal concerns, according to the City of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services, within one mile of Sunnyside, there are 8 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting facilities, 3 Large Quantity Generators (LQG) of hazardous waste, 2 major dischargers of air pollutants, and 1 facility which treats, stores, or disposes of hazardous waste.
This year we won the Our Great Houston Region Award from the Houston Galveston Area Council for our work in Sunnyside with Charity Productions. This project was part of two landscape architecture design studios that developed 12 design alternatives for the Sunnyside and South Park neighborhoods of south Houston that focused on green infrastructure and flood attenuation, limiting gentrification, locally sourced food production, and preserving cultural heritage.
Charity Productions hosts quarterly breakfasts with attendance from 500-800 community members. TAMU sponsors the breakfast, attends, and participates when asked. For example, we conducted a survey at the breakfast on the perceptions of health following Hurricane Harvey. Additionally, we are working with Charity Productions to understand how neighborhood characteristics affect the interconnectedness of people and resiliency planning efforts.


Name of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability (3rd partnership):
Rockport

Does the institution provide financial or material support for the partnership? (3rd partnership):
Yes

Which of the following best describes the partnership timeframe? (3rd partnership):
Short-term project or event

Which of the following best describes the partnership’s sustainability focus? (3rd partnership):
The partnership simultaneously supports social equity and wellbeing, economic prosperity, and ecological health

Are underrepresented groups and/or vulnerable populations engaged as equal partners in strategic planning, decision-making, implementation and review? (3rd partnership) (Yes, No, or Unknown):
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability, including website URL (if available) and information to support each affirmative response above (3rd partnership):

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the City of Rockport experienced severe damage to a quarter of all structures. The City partnered with the Texas Target Communities (TxTC) program to update the city’s comprehensive plan mindful of the challenges and issues of recovery and to provide a unique service-learning opportunity for students.
TxTC connected with students and faculty to tackle a host of community-identified issues related to resilience. Seven courses in urban planning, landscape architecture, law, and public administration worked together with the community in a data-driven and participatory process. The high impact service-learning projects coordinated with the Texas Rural Leadership Program, the American Planning Association, the Texas Sea Grant Community Resilience Collaborative, TAMU School of Law, TAMU at Corpus Christi, Texas Tech, the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, and the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. Students were exposed to complex problems and the opportunity to explore innovative ideas. Community members engaged in a participatory process including visioning, goal setting, alternative scenario exploration, and strategies for implementation.
Texas A&M has three other partnerships with similar communities to increase sustainability and resilience of under-served Texans.


A brief description of the institution’s other community partnerships to advance sustainability:

The Institute for Sustainable Communities (IfSC) produces transformative research that offers solutions for more sustainable and vibrant communities, translate the research to action through engagement, and create high impact learning experiences for students. IfSC works with communities in the Houston area to engage them in understanding and finding solutions for their urban problems. IfSC works closely with the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service (t.e.j.a.s.) to investigate the issues related to pollution and environmental justice along Houston's Ship Channel. Researchers (faculty and students) work closely with t.e.j.a.s to take water, soil, air, and particle samples to understand the heavy metals and petroleum chemicals in "fenceline" communities. T.e.j.a.s. guides the research and IfSC translates findings for community members so they can make the most informed decisions about their own health. These communities were also flooded during Hurricane Harvey and our relationship has led to quick research response to understand the level of exposure from the flood waters. This relationship has led Texas A&M to apply and win a $10 million Superfund Research Center to further investigate the public health consequences of communities with chronic exposure from petroleum refineries.
The Texas Target Communities Program (TxTC) is a high impact service-learning and community engagement program. Since 1980, TxTC has assisted more than 60 underserved communities across Texas, invested 12,000 hours of student and faculty expertise per community, and connected communities to resources for assessing and leveraging community assets. TxTC is interdisciplinary to provide the tailored support communities need to solve complex problems. TxTC’s mission is to provide training, tools, and assistance necessary to facilitate the transformation of communities from high risk/low opportunity to equitable, resilient, and adaptive by mitigating threats to the economy, environment, and culture.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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