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Community event to celebrate UniverCity partnership with Pepin County

August 23, 2019 By Rebekah McBride
Photo: A river

The Chippewa River as it flows through Durand in Pepin County. Image courtesy of Travis Dewitz

Pepin County and the UniverCity Year program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison invite community members to attend an information session and celebration on August 28 to learn more about the three-year partnership between UniverCity Year and Pepin County, which will seek to find practical solutions to economic development and environmental sustainability challenges in Pepin County.

This two-part community information session and celebration will begin at 4:30 p.m. at Durand City Hall with a program overview and presentations by community leaders, including Deputy Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Anne Sayers and Tom Mosgaller from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute.

Participants will then be invited to join Bucky Badger at the Taste of Durand, where UniverCity Year will have an information table, giveaways, and Babcock ice cream.

Developed with the Wisconsin Idea in mind, UniverCity Year brings together faculty, students, and members of Wisconsin communities to address local challenges through engagement and university research. Over the past few years, the UniverCity Year program has worked with the City of Monona, Dane County, and Green County on more than 100 community projects that have included more than 1,200 students and faculty.

The partnership with Pepin County will include at least 15 projects that have been identified by the community. Throughout the 2019-2020 school year, community members, students, and faculty will work together to reexamine long-standing practices, ask tough questions, and ignite sustainable growth as it relates to economic development and water quality.

“Pepin County is excited about the potential of our economic development projects to help support our efforts to promote Pepin County and our small local businesses,” Maria Nelson, the Emergency Management Director, Zoning Administrator, & Land Information Officer in the Pepin County Land Conservation and Planning Department. “We hope to complete an inventory that helps us to attract complementary businesses that can be supported with our existing infrastructure. Additionally, the environmental and water issue projects will hopefully help us to reverse the trend of groundwater pollution and identify solutions that can be implemented in our agricultural community to protect those living in rural areas.”

Upon the completion of these projects in spring of 2020, students will present their findings and solutions to the county along with deliverables such as research, reports, and design proposals.   UniverCity Year staff will then work with Pepin County to evaluate the feasibility of recommendations and aid in implementing projects and reporting on outcomes.

“Working with Pepin County is notable for several reasons,” said, Gavin Luter, managing director of the UniverCity Alliance and the UniverCity Year program. “First, the Wisconsin Idea means that we want to serve all communities in the state. Our work in Pepin embodies that. Also, it hits on issues that many rural communities in Wisconsin face such as economic development and concerns about environmental sustainability. Finally, we have joined forces with the Division of Extension now that it is a part of UW–Madison. This allows us to more deeply engage in the community.”

On Aug. 28, the Information Session will be from 4:30-5:50 p.m. at Durand City Hall, 104 E. Main St. Taste of Durand will be from 6 to 9 p.m., at Durand Memorial Park,

UniverCity Year is a program of the UniverCity Alliance (, a cross-campus effort to make UW–Madison better positioned to help cities solve their most pressing challenges.