Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.85
Liaison Kelly Wellman
Submission Date Dec. 11, 2020

STARS v2.2

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 :
City of Nolanville

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?:
Sustainability-focused

Are underrepresented groups and/or vulnerable populations engaged as equal partners? :
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability:

ENDEAVR (Envisioning the Neo-traditional Development by Embracing the Autonomous Vehicles Realm)— is an ambitious project to re-envision ”smart” city solutions in small towns with students from a wide range of university degree programs in urban planning, landscape architecture, visualization, computer science, and civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. ENDEAVR launched in 2018 with a $300,000 grant from the Keck Foundation, which supports projects that promote inventive educational approaches.

“Smart” city solutions can help communities make big improvements in important areas like better traffic flow, improved public safety, better optimized utility systems, and many other public benefits from an extensive, high-bandwidth digital network and autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles can significantly improve the lives of socially vulnerable populations. For example, roughly 25.5 million Americans have travel-limiting disabilities, 29.8 million people are age 75 and up for whom driving might be a considerable safety risk, and 20.6 million Americans live in households without cars.

The university partnered with the City of Nolanville, a small Central Texas town 10 miles east of Fort Hood, the country’s largest army base. The partnership began in 2014 to develop the city’s first comprehensive master plan. Since then, the City has made great strides to implementing policies and actions to improve quality of life and sustainable solutions. Because of the strong relationship, the City joined the ENDEAVR project to address needed gaps. For example, the City continued to see inequitable support for its diverse population (25% Hispanic, 16% African American), its large number of residents in poverty (20%), and the large number of veterans, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens.

This year, the City worked with the university to update its comprehensive plan to embed smart city solutions into its priorities and capital improvement projects to foster the diversity in the community and continue to make Nolanville “A Great Place to Live”.


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

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):
Sustainability-focused

Are underrepresented groups and/or vulnerable populations engaged as equal partners? (2nd partnership):
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability (2nd partnership):

Willacy County is a rural community (pop. 21,515) in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, thirty miles north of Mexico. In 2017, Hispanics and Latinos represented 88% of the population. The County has 16 colonias that lack adequate infrastructure for water and sewer. Due to its location along the Gulf of Mexico, Willacy County is vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes and has faced significant flooding and wind damages in recent years.

County leaders and stakeholders identified a need to unify its residents and develop a transforming vision to become a resilient and environmentally friendly community. In collaboration with Texas Sea Grant, Texas Target Communities partnered with Willacy County to develop a county-wide plan to guide growth over the next twenty years. Three graduate urban planning and one undergraduate geography course contributed to the plan. The process included several well attended public meetings and various outreach efforts to discuss community values, vision, and goals. Because of the growing concern of the spread of COVID-19 in April 2020, TAMU had to reimagine ways to continue meetings by implementing online engagement through Facebook, Zoom, and StoryMaps. Willacy County high school students actively participated in the planning process. Inspired by the discussions, the high school students created a video on the need for a county emergency clinic and presented a proposal at a Raymondville Townhall in June 2020.

Together, the Willacy community created a vision to embrace the unique cultural heritage, strengthen the connection to the land and sea, and prepare for the future by promoting vitality, health, well-being, and safety. The plan includes ideas to enhance the quality of life, increase access to parks and recreational programs, promote vibrant neighborhoods with resilient infrastructure that support public safety, and continuity in the face of disasters. The plan also focuses on additional floodplain standards and ways to guide development away from hazards.

With 36% of the population in poverty, the community identified the need for economic development. The plan explores strategies to leverage community assets, including the natural environment that attracts “Winter Texans” for various recreational activities such as bird watching, fresh and salt-water fishing, and hunting.


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):
Multi-year or ongoing

Which of the following best describes the partnership? (3rd partnership):
Sustainability-focused

Are underrepresented groups and/or vulnerable populations engaged as equal partners? (3rd partnership):
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal community partnership to advance sustainability (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.


Website URL where information about the institution’s community partnerships to advance sustainability is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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