Update - The newsletter for the University of Memphis
More March Features:

Campus School is Among Best
Recycling Initiative Gains Steam
U of M Effort to Clean Memphis
U of M's 'Blue' Patrol Turns Green
DAA Gala: Year of the Tiger
Skloot's Book is Best-Seller
AUSP Joins Effort in Caribbean
Magnani Discovers Fault Line
Web Exclusive: Campus School


March 2010 Briefs

Boom-a-lacka, boom-a-lacka... This was the beginning of the 1920-1921 Lady Tigresses cheer that started every game that season. Read more

Green Thumb: A variety of plants identified by NASA as top air cleaners are part of a campus study in reductions in heating and cooling costs. Read more

The University of Memphis's Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy has appointed Dr. Jeffrey S. Lowe as associate director of its newly-established Mid-Sized Cities Policy Research Institute.

The Assisi Foundation of Memphis has awarded a $500,000 renewable grant this year toward a $2.5 million conditional pledge over five years to the U of M to assist the School of Public Health, formed in July 2009, in obtaining its national accreditation.

For More Information:
303 Administration Building
Memphis, TN 38152
Phone: 901/678-3811
Fax: 901/678-3607
e-mail: grussll@memphis.edu

U of M part of effort to present a cleaner region

By Sara Hoover

Memphis, five-time winner of the nation’s cleanest city award, may eventually add a sixth honor in that category with the help of the University of Memphis.

The U of M teamed up with Clean Memphis to get communities more involved in keeping their neighborhoods clean and to help map out zip code initiatives — zones used to break the city into manageable sections.

Clean Memphis is a nonprofit that divides Memphis into zones and enlists the help of neighborhood residents and other community partners to systematically clean up litter and blight with the aim to make Memphis once again the cleanest city in the country.

The partnership began in 2008 when the U of M’s Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action did a problem property survey of every residence in Memphis.

Dr. Phyllis Betts
Dr. Phyllis Betts
“We had been doing research for quite some time on blight, what causes neighborhoods to go down and foreclosure,” said Dr. Phyllis Betts, director of the Center. “We started the Neighborhood by Neighbor survey. The idea was also to involve neighborhood groups. We had handheld computers and a training program for the groups. Once we were involved with the neighborhood groups and Clean Memphis was interested in action projects in neighborhoods, then we heard about each other.”

With mutual interests, the two organizations got together. Since the results of the survey showed where blight was clustered, including environmental dumping and excessive litter, Clean Memphis used the data to select its priority areas.

Aaron Cregger, a master’s student in urban anthropology, worked as an intern for the Center and on the Neighborhood by Neighbor survey.

“I did a lot of the surveys. We did on-site surveys and documented all the ones that were considered problems either by code violations or other things,” said Cregger (BA ’08). “The great thing about the project was it inherently encompassed an aspect of community engagement. We’d actually go into the communities and enlist the help of organizations and community members and get their insight as far as the actual conditions of the neighborhoods, not just what we perceived the conditions (to be).”

Janet Boscarino, director of Clean Memphis, said the organization needed a way to connect with individuals who lived in a blighted community, hence its association with the U of M.

“You really had to get an organic process of getting people involved that actually live, work or go to church in those areas to be involved with the cleanup process and taking ownership of it. Through that process of connecting with neighborhood groups and CDCs, we were connected with the U of M’s Center for Building Community and Neighborhood Action.”

Clean Memphis also needed help in dividing the city into zones and figuring out the boundaries, so they turned to the U of M’s Center for Partnerships in GIS.

“In the beginning, our goal was to divide the city into zones largely based on actual neighborhood boundaries, zip codes,” said Boscarino (BA ‘07). “We would make these zones and pull teams together within the zones to make this cohesive group that would address it in an ongoing basis. The University helped us develop that. We did just a drawing on a regular city map of dividing the zones. They were able to take that and make a GIS mapping system out of it. The data from the survey was incorporated as well. They helped us get the zones mapped out and added layers to help us better approach or better inform the neighborhoods of the problems and how to address those.”

But breaking zones out by neighborhoods wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“When you look at how people define neighborhood boundaries, they don’t line up next to one another. They are all over the place because no one can agree on which neighborhood they live in,” said Dr. Brian Waldron, director of the Center for Partnerships in GIS in the FedEx Institute of Technology. “The City divided the city based upon what operations they were performing. They’ll break it up by council districts, by storm water and sanitary sewers. What everybody is struggling with across the board is to make sure they’re using the same map. That is critical. That will allow you to compare apples to apples.”

Waldron’s team, including students, was able to produce a new and improved map for Clean Memphis in two days while Clean Memphis thought the new map would take two to six months to develop.

“They were ecstatic. We have some really top-notch students. We have the expertise. That’s why we are able to go faster,” said Waldron (BSCE ’92, MS ’94).

More than 100 volunteers, including students from the U   of M, Rhodes, Frayser High School and other Frayser   neighborhood groups, cleanup along the Wolf River with   the Wolf River Conservancy. (Photo by Janet Boscarino)
More than 100 volunteers cleanup along the Wolf River with the Wolf River Conservancy. (Photo by Janet Boscarino)
The group converted Clean Memphis’ standard street map into an interactive, Web-based one.

“They had a street map with hand-drawn boundaries on it,” Waldron said. “It looked rag-tag because they used it so much. What we were able to do was not only produce a new map, but go online. We produced an interactive Web site where anyone they gave access to could zoom in, ask questions, see the roads and move around the map. It is very dynamic in that it helps to facilitate communication they have with their clients.”

Since mapping out the zones and identifying the immediate target areas, Clean Memphis has been pleased with their zip code initiatives and has more planned.

“Within all of the zip code partnerships we have, we’re working on cleanup initiatives,” said Boscarino. “They all have spring cleanups on the calendar. The meetings are very well attended and everyone’s very enthusiastic and wants to get on a more strategic level of dealing with litter and blight.”

To help get youth more engaged in their community and understand the problem of blight, Clean Memphis piloted a “Build to Live” summer camp for kids in southeast Memphis this past summer. The Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action has a strong presence in the area with its role in the Southeast Memphis Initiative for the past seven years and lent a hand.

“Clean Memphis’ emphasis is on neighborhood cleanups, but it is more than just that. It’s on organizing people in the neighborhoods, especially youth, to take a more global view of the quality of life in their neighborhoods — what it means to be in an environment that sn’t blighted,” said Betts.

Every Saturday, children from the Autumn Ridge apartment complexes and some parents participated in the eight-week program. The Southeast CDC, Boy Scout Explorers Program and the Urban Land Institute were involved as well.

“It included things like basic cleanup and building our environment to enhance our quality of life and our morale,” said Betts. “It was pretty successful.”

“We incorporated a community service project into the lessons,” added Boscarino. “They organized their own cleanup and marketed it. They ran the whole show: got supplies, made the arrangements for trash pickup, so it worked really well. Hopefully, through the cleanups and other service learning projects, they’re taking ownership and modifying behavior for the long term.”

Clean Memphis is in the planning stages of a more in-depth and expanded pilot program to be launched in the Southeast Memphis area as an extension of the summer camp. They also hope to continue expanding the zip code initiatives.

“We’d like to have the city basically covered with zip code collaboratives,” said Boscarino. “Then, we want to provide service-learning projects. We’re looking at doing those with existing outreach programs. You can really tell the difference when you’re talking to a kid. It’s as if they’ve never known about the litter being out there until they’ve started to clean it up. It’s amazing how they connect to it all of a sudden and wonder why it’s here.”

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