CU Denver and Lakewood launch 'Hometown Colorado'

New program helps hundreds of students gain real-world experience

September 22, 2015

Some major projects on the City of Lakewood’s to-do list will benefit from the work of several hundred students from the University of Colorado Denver, thanks to the new Hometown Colorado initiative launched on Sept. 16.

The program, initiated by CU Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning (CAP), provides students with hands-on learning opportunities while continuing the university’s commitment to the greater Denver community.

Modeled after the national initiative Sustainable City Year, Hometown Colorado uses cross-disciplinary collaboration throughout an academic year to help a city become more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Students and faculty will work with City of Lakewood staff on projects to increase sustainability and livability.

Vince Casteel, City Engineer, City of Lakewood and Lori Catalano, Co-Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and one of the Faculty Leaders for Hometown Colorado
Vince Casteel, City Engineer, City of Lakewood and Lori Catalano, Co-Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and one of the Faculty Leaders for Hometown Colorado.

Altogether, the undergraduate and graduate students in several CU Denver schools and colleges will provide 40,000 to 80,000 hours of work on the projects. Students will produce high-quality deliverables and will present their findings and results when the program ends next spring.

“We are excited to have Lakewood on board as our first Hometown Colorado partner,” said Acting Chancellor Roderick Nairn, PhD. “Hometown Colorado leverages the experience of our faculty and passion of our students to help local communities become more sustainable.”

‘Real-world projects engage students’

CAP Associate Dean Michael Jenson, PhD, kicked off the launch by welcoming students and faculty from CU Denver and officials from Lakewood. Jenson reminded the audience that Hometown Colorado includes participants from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Arts and Media, and the Business School, in addition to those from CAP.

CAP Dean Mark Gelernter, PhD, pointed out that the university has been doing service outreach in communities across Colorado for more than 50 years. “This is great for us and great for cities and great for our students,” Gelernter said. “And I’m very happy that our first partners are in Lakewood because I used to live there.”

Hometown Colorado will help Lakewood with a number of high-priority projects, including:

  • Local food assessment to eliminate food deserts in the city, led by Jody Beck, CAP, and Travis Parker, director, Lakewood Department of Planning
  • Sidewalk inventory, a walkability study to improve access to transit and other high-need areas, led by Scott Carman, CAP, and Roger Wadnal, manager, Lakewood Comprehensive Planning and Research Division
  • Master plan for Lasley Park, led by Lori Catalano, MLA, CAP, and Kit Newland, director, Lakewood Community Resources
  • Green Business Certification program, led by Roger Stace, Business School, and Travis Parker, director, Lakewood Department of Planning.

“Lakewood has recently completed a sustainability plan so these projects should go a long way in achieving their goals,” said Vickie Berkley, assistant director of civic engagement in the Colorado Center for Community Development. “Real-world projects like these engage students and provide them with immediate ways of applying what they are learning in the classroom to make a difference.”

Programs modeled after Sustainable City Year have been launched in 22 universities across the country. This is the first program of its kind in Colorado.