Smart Communities Initiative

Memphis Trolley

SCI is founded upon the idea that universities and communities should work together to improve the health and vitality of their areas. Through the leveraging of interdisciplinary research and scholarship, community dialogue, human capacity, and innovation, municipal and university partners will collaborate toward the pursuit of smarter, more vibrant communities.

The Smart Communities Initiative (SCI) is a new interdisciplinary program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville which partners faculty and students across campus with one city, county, special district, or other municipal group each year to engage in real-world problem solving aimed at increasing the level of economic viability, environmental sustainability, and social integrity of the region. Each semester, municipal partners will work with SCI staff to identify relevant projects for service-learning- or internship-based courses.

Projects could focus on issues such as street-scale transportation improvement; infrastructure; brownfield redevelopment; public service or program assessment; energy incentives; civic engagement within a defined area; analysis of food, education, or healthcare policy; improvements in parks and public spaces; public relations campaigns; or economic opportunity projections. They could take the form of applied research (i.e. an economic feasibility report) or the design and development of some work product (i.e. a public relations campaign or branding brief). The SCI program will be housed within the Office of the Provost, and will be managed by the office’s designated Campus Coordinator for Service-Learning.

The program will match community partner projects with one of the following types of courses:

1)      A standard enrollment course specializing in a field of study related to the project. These courses will be taught by a faculty instructor, and typically composed of anywhere from 10-30 students. The courses may be upper-level undergraduate or graduate level, and may be entirely or partially dedicated to the project. This option is most suitable to projects that could benefit from a variety of different ideas and perspectives grounded in disciplinary or interdisciplinary theory, or large projects that need to be divided into sub-components.

2)      An independent study course in a field of study related to the project. This course format will entail a faculty-recommended upper-level undergraduate or graduate student working under the close supervision of the faculty instructor in the discipline to complete the project. This format is most appropriate for small-scale projects, or to take on a single component of a large project.

3)      A research team of 2-4 faculty-recommended students from one or more relevant disciplines. Students could be upper-level undergraduate or graduate. The course will be entirely dedicated to the project, and will be guided by a faculty instructor in a discipline related to the project. This format is flexible to a range of projects.

The SCI program is housed within the Office of the Provost, and managed by Kelly Ellenburg, the Campus Coordinator for Service-Learning.

Find the full-text SCI Program Description here.