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Urban Universities and Community Revitalization Efforts: Opportunities for Student Engagement and Education

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Service and Outreach Projects

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Fouad H. Fouad University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Dr. Fouad H. Fouad, Ph.D., P.E., is Professor and Chairman of the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and the Director of the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center. Dr. Fouad is a fellow of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Dr. Fouad’s research interest is in the area of infrastructure design, maintenance, and rehabilitation with a focus on sustainable green building design and construction.

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Paula Alvarez Pino

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Paula Alvarez Pino is the Associate Director of the Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center at University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB). Paula is in charge of monitoring the progress of research, outreach and training activities in the center, as well as to set short and long-term goals to ensure the continuous progress of the SSCRC. Paula collaborates with the City of Birmingham as liaison in several projects related to the built environment and to improving the overall quality of life of the communities. Paula plans international research experience programs for undergraduate and graduate students in collaboration with international partners. She has helped organize and develop international workshops in the field of sustainability and smart cities. Paula has also developed outreach programs that educate the youth about the principles of sustainability. Paula received a Bachelors and Master’s of Science in Civil Engineering from UAB, and is a credentialed professional of Envision Sustainable Infrastructure rating system (ENV SP). Paula has a research interest in utility distribution poles and the development of an innovative smart pole for smart cities.

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Andrew J. Sullivan University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Mona N. Fouad University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Urban universities are well positioned to become catalysts for neighborhood revitalization and to drive local change in the surrounding communities because of their proximity to city neighborhoods and their established relationships with industry and organizations that can support community development efforts. Urban universities possess human capital, which includes talented students and faculty experts who have unique capabilities to generate new knowledge and cutting-edge information for the benefit of the society.

The Civil Engineering Department (through its Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, SSCRC) at our university, has a long history of collaboration with the city, industry, and community partners working together towards the common goal of improving the health and quality of life in our communities. The Center enables interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty across the university focusing on understanding and transforming the impacts of urbanization at the scientific, economic, and human levels. The main focus of the Civil Engineering Department and the SSCRC has been on the built environment and its impact on quality of life.

This paper describes the process of how our urban university, through the Department of Civil Engineering and the SSCRC, has developed and established strong partnerships with the city and industry for the sake of improving our communities. These collaborations create mutually-beneficial relationships that provide an opportunity for students to gain experience addressing real-life challenges that impact the community, while the city and its residents benefit from the university’s technical expertise in meeting those challenges. Through such efforts, our students develop strong local professional networks and gain practical experiences that enhance their professional opportunities upon graduation.

The role of these collaborations in developing innovative and entrepreneurial research, utilizing technologies and solutions to enhance the quality of life and economy of the communities, will be explained. The paper presents case studies of efforts to revitalize communities in our city through research, training, and community engagement. The importance of involving undergraduate and graduate students in all stages of this work, as well as creating career opportunities for them, is emphasized.

Fouad, F. H., & Alvarez Pino, P., & Sullivan, A. J., & Fouad, M. N. (2020, June), Urban Universities and Community Revitalization Efforts: Opportunities for Student Engagement and Education Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35437

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