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Pilot Project Profile - Oberlin College

Page history last edited by Beth Blissman 7 years, 8 months ago

Lead Contacts     |     Issue Focus     |     Pilot Project Plan     |     Timeline     |     Progress Reports



Lead Contacts

  • Beth Blissman, Director, Bonner Center for Service and Learning (BCSL) | beth.blissman@oberlin.edu
  • Avram Miner, OC '09, Policy Options Research Assistant | avi.miner@oberlin.edu (December 2009 - May 2011)
  • Gina Makris, DC,MSELP, Policy Options Research Fellow, Summer 2011


Issue Focus

  • Food policy  




Progress Reports

  • Course Implementation Profile
    • Pilot Course #1: Environmental Policy (ENVS 209), Spring 2009. Instructor: Crystal Fortwangler
    • Pilot Course #2: Community Food Development (ENVS 294), Spring 2009. Instructor: Brad Masi
    • Pilot Course #3:  Environmental Policy (ENVS 208), Fall 2009.  Instructor:  Crystal Fortwangler
    • Pilot Course #4:  Environment and Society (ENVS 101), Fall 2010.  Instructor:  Camille Washington-Ottombre 
    • Winter Term 2010:  Sean Dunne '11 worked with General Plug investigating wind policy.  Sponsor:  Beth Blissman
    • Winter Term 2011:   Julia Munson '12 and Erin Swenson-Klatt '13 worked on the the mapping project while Leanna Frye '13 worked on researching existing municipal level food policy in Lorain County.  Sponsor:  Beth Blissman
    • Private Reading #1, Fall 2010:  Sarah Bolinger laid the groundwork for municipal policy research in Lorain County.  Sponsor:  Beth Blissman
    • Private Reading #2, Spring 2011:  Erin Swenson-Klatt continued work on the mapping project 
  • Campus Working Page - Oberlin College
  • Semi-Annual Progress Reports - See timeline below and pilot courses above



Pilot Project Plan




In recent years, Oberlin College students, staff, and faculty have worked with the office of Congresswoman Marci Kaptur (D-OH), the Ohio Black Caucus, and Oberlin City Council members on policy research on a variety of topics. We have also collaborated with Policy Matters Ohio (www.policymattersohio.org), a nonprofit policy research organization working to broaden the debate about economic policy in Ohio. A Local PolicyOptions Initiative would enrich Oberlin’s current community-campus partnership efforts, and it would also help us solidify and track research undertaken over time.


The focus of our research at this time is environmental policy, particularly access to fresh, locally grown produce. Many neighborhoods in Oberlin’s county of Lorain and neighboring Cuyahoga County can be termed “food insecure” communities where residents lack access to healthy foods. Oberlin in recent years has experienced the closure of one of its two local supermarkets, which was in walking distance for many residents of the southeast quadrant, Oberlin’s most economically challenged neighborhood. In Cuyahoga County such closures have been followed by a rise in fast-food establishments, convenience stores, and gas stations, which by default become the primary shopping places for many families yet are frequently higher in price and offer only limited selections of fresh fruit and vegetables. To help address this need, the Cleveland / Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition (CCCFPC) was formed in April 2006.  The PolicyOptions Initiative supported by the Bonner Foundation will help residents of Oberlin and Lorain County learn from the CCCFPC and explore the formation of a Lorain County Food Policy Coalition. Such an effort would support research, policies, and entrepreneurial activity and programs that increase food security and social and economic opportunity for farmers, other food producers, distributors, and consumers alike. 


Student Engagement


It is important the PolicyOptions initiative in Oberlin have multiple entry points, both curricular and co–curricular, for student participation. This approach is in keeping with the goals and activities of the Oberlin College Bonner Center for Service & Learning (Bonner CSL), which was formed in 1994–95 to support Oberlin College’s mission of “preparing students for intelligent and useful response to the present and future demands of society.”  The Bonner CSL serves as a lynchpin for community-college connections, and since students have already been involved in various projects involving policy research and implementation of local policy through the Bonner CSL, it will be a logical place to host our PolicyOptions Initiative.


We will build infrastructure so that students can become involved through the Bonner Scholars Program, the Bonner Leaders Program, community–based learning courses, summer internships, or Winter Term internships. Several current Bonner Scholars and Leaders have an interest in researching local and state public policy and non-profit activity and publishing their findings using the issue brief template on the PolicyOptions.org website. Input from these students will be sought to formulate a recruiting plan and create the necessary infrastructure to train and support students once they become engaged in our local policy initiative. To support these efforts, funding is requested for student stipends during the summer and academic year. 


Faculty Engagement


Faculty will be engaged in the process and the development of PolicyOptions Issue Briefs, both as teachers and advisors. We will begin by targeting faculty in the departments of Politics, Sociology and Environmental Studies. Several faculty members in these departments have already created strong working relationships with community partners on food policy–related issues. We will also connect PolicyOptions research with at least one academic course as well as credit-bearing internships that occur over summer and Winter Term, which will be sponsored by either faculty members or Bonner CSL staff members. We would also like to undertake a faculty survey to gather information about which Oberlin College faculty members currently contribute to policy research on the local, regional, state or national level in any policy area. 


Deliberative Democracy Forum


Our long-term goal for the local PolicyOptions Initiative is to create a structured, ongoing campus-community dialogue about local food access which can support the formation of a Lorain County Food Policy Coalition. The student interns will work with current community partners and other area stakeholders to analyze existing policies and areas of need and then collaborate with Bonner CSL staff to engage faculty members and students in community-based research in areas such as community food assessment, health and nutrition, institutional purchasing, urban/rural land use, and composting / waste recovery. Student interns will lay the groundwork for opportunities to discuss policy issues both on the PolicyOptions wiki and at gatherings that would bring together diverse constituencies: residents, community partner organizations, policy makers, the media, academics, youth, business leaders, organized labor, Oberlin College alumni, potential funders, and faith-based organizations. We have already spoken with contacts at the local community college (Lorain County Community College), who have expressed interest in co–sponsoring a forum designed to bring together stakeholders from all aspects of the food system. Preliminary plans call for the event to be scheduled in early 2010, to help promote a food security and food system development agenda at the city and county level to ensure that every resident has access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. 


Editorial/Advisory Board 


Oberlin’s PolicyOptions initiative will be housed in the Bonner CSL, to give students access to the initiative through the different pathways outlined above and to allow the involvement of multiple academic departments. We will establish an editorial/advisory board consisting of community and campus leaders to guide the development of the initiative and to help ensure the quality and accuracy of the student research products. For the board we will seek at least one current or former Oberlin City Council member, one or two Oberlin faculty members, one alumni representative, one staff or faculty person from Lorain County Community College and several students and/or local residents willing to serve on an unpaid basis. The editorial/advisory board will consult with Oberlin College’s Assistant to the President for Community and Governmental Affairs on an as–needed basis. Other potential resources for the initiative include residents of Kendal at Oberlin, a local retirement community, and staff of through the City of Oberlin.  Also, an ad hoc group of local citizens recently worked with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life on campus to organize a symposium on poverty at the College, and some of these individuals may be interested in serving on the Editorial/advisory Board as well. We will make every effort to integrate this initiative into ongoing community service, service-learning, community-based research, civic engagement, and community-campus partnership activities at Oberlin. The PolicyOptions wiki will be an invaluable tool in order to provide background information and a way to document past successes and future challenges. 





Spring 2009 Achievements

  • March
    • Prepared and submitted local PolicyOptions initiative proposal
    • Following notification of funding, began outreach to faculty and community stakeholders, along with planning for early 2010 forum
    • Oberlin’s PolicyOptions wiki page launched, with basic information about the goals of the project
  • April
    • Oberlin team attended Networking Initiative Grantee Meeting (Princeton, NJ)
    • Information about PolicyOptions initiative (especially re: faculty stipends for creating a new course or integrating policy research into a current course) shared with the General Faculty Committee on Community-based Learning (GF-CBL).  Committee members spread the word re: the $1500 small grant available for summer 2009.
  • May
    • GF-CBL approved Crystal Fortwangler as the summer 2009 faculty member to receive $1500 stipend for integrating PolicyOptions wiki as a tool for community-based research into the current course ENVS 208: Introduction to Environmental Policy.
    • Summer student intern (Michelle Jahnke, OC '12) hired to work on integrating the PolicyOptions Initiative wiki with the Bonner CSL website and OberlinServes wiki (start date will be 17 June 2009)
    • Bonner CSL staff recruits members of PolicyOptions editorial board for academic year 2009-10


Summer 2009

  • June  — Progress on initiative shared at the Bonner Program's 2009 Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) at Stetson University (DeLand, FL), basic information about the ecosocial context of Lorain County and northeast Ohio posted on Oberlin's PolicyOptions wiki page
  • July — Summer student intern continues work updating the PolicyOptions Initiative wiki 
  • August — Second progress report submitted; Opportunities for fall 2009 publicized, and summer intern prepares materials to present in Fall Environmental Policy Course.


Fall 2009

  • September –– Additional students and faculty members recruited, and policy research begins in revised course and other BCSL programs that serve as entry points to the project
  • October –– Beth Blissman and Michelle Jahnke have presentations on PolicyOptions Wiki in Environmental Studies 101 and 208.
  • November — Project update shared at fall 2009 Bonner Directors Meeting; student intern for Winter Term 2010 recruited
  • December — Third progress report submitted; issue briefs posted for courses offered fall semester 2009, focus group with community partners on local food access organized, recent graduate (Avi Miner '09) hired as PolicyOptions Research Assistant for the remainder of the academic year.


Winter / Spring 2010

  • January –– Winter Term intern Sean Dunne continues research on various policy issues, including agricultural and wind subsidies and tax law under guidance of Avi Miner, students continue posting course projects.  PolicyOptions Advisory Committee meets on January 29th
  • February / March ––  Lorain County Local Food Access (Lorain County Food Policy Coalition) policy forum organized (in collaboration with Lorain County Community College) to share work to date and set future directions; Students and faculty continue policy research, students continue posting course projects, ENVS 208 takes on a different format for community based learning - project locations range beyond Northeast Ohio, Advisory Committee meets on March 12th to discuss food summit scheduled for April 25th at Lorain County Community College.
  • April — Progress report submitted, issue briefs posted for courses offered spring semester 2010, Lorain County Food Policy Coalition kicked off at Food Summit on April 25th at Lorain County Community College, with roughly 35 community members in attendance.
  • May –– Summer intern hired to work on integrating the PolicyOptions Initiative wiki with the Bonner CSL website and OberlinServes wiki; Bonner CSL staff recruits members of PolicyOptions editorial board for academic year 2010-11


Summer 2010

  • June 3-6 — Project update shared at the Bonner Program's 20th Anniversary & Summer Leadership Institute at Berea College (Berea, KY); Summer intern focuses on creating timelines and checklists so that teaching assistants for community-based research courses can continue the project in the future
  • June — Lorain County Food Policy Coalition meets at Yesterday's Ice Cream in Oberlin to discuss future projects; a Lorain County local food system map and a policy research project are chosen. 


Fall 2010

  • September — Sarah Bolinger '12, signs up for a 1 credit private reading through the Bonner Center; researches municipal level policy for the Lorain County Food Policy Coalition in Elyria, Amherst, and Vermilion
  • October / November —  Avi Miner works with four Environmental Studies 101 students (all class of 2014) to start the Lorain County Food System Mapping Project
  • December — Bonner Scholar Tessa Cruz '13 signs up to use her Bonner hours doing policy research for the Lorain County Food Policy Coalition


Winter / Spring 2011

  • January — Mapping and Policy Research projects continue with three Winter Term interns.  Julia Munson '12 and Erin Swenson-Klatt '13 work on the the mapping project while Leanna Frye '13 works on researching existing municipal level food policy in Lorain County
  • February / March —  PolicyOptions Research Assistant Avi Miner works with Julia Munson '12 and Erin Swenson-Klatt '13, as well as many other students and community members, to put on Food Week, a weeklong string of student organized events designed to engage the student body and community at large in collaboration, meals,  panel discussions, and ongoing student projects.  For Erin, this is the first part of a 1 credit private reading sponsored by Beth Blissman
  • March 23rd — PolicyOptions Research Assistant Avi Miner gives a presentation entitled "Healthy Food Systems, Healthy Communities" to 25 members of the Senior People Interested in Nutrition and Community Health (SPINACH) interest group of residents at Kendal at Oberlin.  Angela Wu, Beth Blissman, Brad Masi, and Glenn Gall, all members of the Lorain County Food Policy Coalition, are in attendance to field questions at the end.
  • April —   Tessa Cruz '13 continues researching successful food policies, starting in Cleveland and expanding outward nationally, with the goal of identifying specific ordinances, zoning specifications, etc. that could be modified for use in Lorain County.  Erin Swenson-Klatt '13 enters the second stage of her private reading, which includes the book The Town that Food Saved by Ben Hewitt and further work on the Lorain County Food Policy Coalition's mapping project.
  • April 21st — Erin Swenson-Klatt '13 given the Ping Award, along with a $500 check for her community partners, to recognize and honor her outstanding leadership and contributions to community service on campus and within the community. 
  • June 7th - Gina Makris, DC., MSELP - researching funding opportunities/grants for Lorain County Food Policy Coalition. Meet with LCCC and faculty members of Oberlin College Environmental Sciences and George Jones Farm representative to dialogue combined participation in LCCC's new certificate program in Sustainable Agriculture starting in the fall.
  • June 20th - Met with community garden policy advocates for initial draft change of existing ordinance prohibiting the sale of produce from the gardens.

          The impact of a change in this legislation will impact other gardens in the county.

     •  August 17th – Gina Makris and Beth Blissman co-facilitate Lorain County Food Policy Coalition meeting at Oberlin Public Library to update interested attendees and brainstorm next directions for the LCFPC (attach handout and           ideas from attendees)



* We will keep a record of the number of students and faculty involved each semester, including information about their class year / major (for students) and department / rank (for faculty).  We will also document the number of issue briefs developed and track which policymakers have employed them, to the degree that is possible. 


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