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Community-Engaged Teaching Grant to support Metro Denver Nature Alliance

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By: Susan Daggett

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Plant with sunset in distance

Thanks to CCESL’s Community-Engaged Teaching Grant, I was able to engage a graduate student to work with me, the Metro Denver Nature Alliance (Metro DNA), and other DU students to support community-based efforts to develop a Regional Vision for People and Nature.     

Metro DNA is a regional collective-impact organization focused on equity-centered urban conservation at a regional scale that was conceived and created more than a decade ago with the support of DU and has long partnered with DU faculty, staff, and students in community-engaged research and other projects. The grant this year enabled DU to continue this important partnership and to provide coordination and research support for a variety of different Metro DNA projects.   

Among other accomplishments, our student intern created a working team at DU and provided an organizational structure that brought together DU students, faculty, and Metro DNA partners on a regular basis to focus on a couple of discrete goals. The first goal was to develop and implement a social media campaign to publicize six demonstration projects selected by Metro DNA to explore best practices in integrating social equity and urban conservation. This project was so successful that Metro DNA will continue working with the DU student over the course of the summer to fully implement the communications strategy. The second goal was to build out Metro DNA’s Regional Equity Assessment by furthering research regarding the physical accessibility of area parks and open space. This project was successfully launched in the spring term and has included outreach to disability rights groups, advocacy organizations, and parks managers to assess the availability of data on physical accessibility.     

As this data is collected over the course of the summer, we anticipate continuing the research project into the fall, potentially including a GIS mapping component to demonstrate the extent to which information about accessibility is (or is not) available to the public. CCESL’s grant support of students to work on these projects (over many years) has strengthened the relationship between Metro DNA partners and the University, has resulted in unique opportunities for students to work with these partners and gain invaluable experience and relationships, and is contributing to our collective efforts to create a metropolitan region where people and nature thrive.