Center for Small Town Projects

2022–23 Partnerships


Initiatives are Center for Community Partnerships-led multi-year endeavors. They originate from a place-based rural challenge articulated by community members. In Phase One, the Center coordinates an advisory group to conduct a community needs and assets assessment and shares the results with stakeholders. In Phase Two, the Center coordinates community-engaged learning courses, student interns, and faculty fellows to work with the advisory group on each output and outcome, until all have been addressed. In Phase Three, outcomes are shared with rural communities experiencing similar challenges, and a process to expand the initiative’s work beyond the originating community/region begins. Finally, in Phase Four, ongoing work related to the initiative has either become self-sustaining or has institutional commitments from UMN Morris or other organizations for ongoing support. Our initiatives are funded through the generous support of the Otto Bremer Trust, institutional funds, and community support. 

The Rural Intercultural Education Initiative

The Rural Intercultural Education Initiative (RIEI) focuses on alleviating educational and community engagement inequities for immigrants in Stevens County and expanding partnerships/sharing lessons learned to other rural MN communities. Our next steps for Phase Three include providing resources to other communities interested in conducting their own needs and assets assessments and adding distance learning options for TERCERO to serve more communities. 

  • RIEI Fellows: Tammy Berberi, Thomas Genova, Cristina Ortiz, Windy Gonzalez Roberts
  • Interns: Libby Gustafson, Kiley Rodamel
  • Core Community Partners: Citlali Ibanez, Morris Area Community Education; Autumn Macias, Conexiones and Morris Area Schools; Chris Staebler, Conexiones
  • Status: Ongoing since 2013; Phase Three

Stevens County Food Systems Initiative

The Stevens County Food Systems Initiative focuses on alleviating food insecurity in Stevens County. This year, the team is working toward two goals: creating a one stop resource for food security for the county and establishing a pilot mobile food shelf to serve outlying communities in the county using existing resources. We anticipate addressing additional goals over the next two years, including better connecting service providers, food producers, food distributors, and grocery stores to meet food security needs; establishing a community garden and/or greenhouse for improved food security; and working with grocery stores, city, and county government to provide delivery service to EBT users with transportation constraints.

  • Faculty Fellow: Ed Brands
  • Interns:  Erianna Conrad and Torin Klebba, VISTA 
  • Core Community Partners: Brenda Boever, Stevens County Food Shelf; Maggie Johnson, Horizon Public Health 
  • Status: Ongoing since 2022; Phase Two

Stevens County Food Systems Initiative

Connecting Students, Faculty, and Community Projects 

Connecting Students, Faculty, and Community Projects are proposed by community partners or members. These proposals focus on projects that might benefit from coordination, faculty expertise, student interns, or all three. CST funds these projects with the generous support of the Otto Bremer Trust, external sales (when appropriate and possible for community entities), and institutional funds. In Level One projects, CST places and oversees student interns in a project that is coordinated by an organization. In Level Two projects, a faculty member and/or CST staff are a part of the core team coordinating a project and meeting weekly. For Level Three projects, CST is leading the project or contracted to complete a project for a partnering organization. CST stays at the table as project outcomes are met and works with stakeholders to consider the question, “What comes next?” Our Connecting Students, Faculty, and Community Projects are funded through external sales when feasible, an ongoing partnership with the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, generous support from the Otto Bremer Trust, institutional funds, and community support. 

100 Rural Women

Description of Project: 100 Rural Women’s goal is to conduct authentic engagement and ignite action in community leadership, civic engagement and rural entrepreneurship. In this project, Alexis and Lindsey are supporting a dynamic team of staff and interns in data analysis, website improvement, and planning for a mentorship program for women seeking to run for elected office. This project is a collaboration with the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and partially funded by Otto Bremer Trust.

  • Student Interns: Alexis Lhotka, Lindsey Roemeling
  • Status: Level Two, ongoing since 2021

Bonanza Education Center

Description of Project: This project, a collaboration with the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, seeks to develop a communications portfolio for the Center to Enhance Community Partnerships.  

  • Student Intern: Amelia Williams
  • Status: Level Two, new project

Center for Community Vitality—UMN Extension

Description of Project: Data entry and analysis for a range of projects on which the Center for Community Vitality is working. This project is funded through the support of UMN Extension.

  • Student Interns: Tasha Douville, Lindsey Roemeling
  • Status: Level one, ongoing since 2018

Center for Small Towns Communications

Description of Project: The Communications Intern works on ongoing communications tasks to share the Center’s programs and projects with stakeholders and the public. This internship is supported by the Otto Bremer Trust.

  • Student Intern: Lydia Hurst
  • Status: Level Three, ongoing since summer 2022

Minnesota Musical Map

Description of Project: The Minnesota Musical Map is a growing map of community ensembles in Minnesota. The map is part of a larger project that will ultimately be used to connect Minnesota music makers and provide additional support for ensembles.

  • Faculty Lead: Denise Odello
  • Student Intern: Krystyna Krupko (fall 2022)
  • Status: Level Three, ongoing since 2021

Minnesota Musical Map

Morris Area Tree Board

Description of Project: The Morris Area Tree Board works to enhance education about and care of trees in the Morris community. The intern will assist the tree board with administrative and tree care tasks.

  • Student Intern: Ben Siebenaler
  • Status: Level One, new project

PartnerSHIP 4 Health 

Description of Project: PartnerSHIP 4 Health is developing a four county regional food systems plan. The intern will work with a dynamic team to collect secondary data, conduct planning and outreach for asset mapping, and develop primary data collection and outreach to gather local data.

  • Student Intern: Annabelle Scafe
  • Status: Level One, new project

Pomme de Terre Foods

Description of Project: Serving as the manager at Pomme de Terre Foods (PDT) during a critical transition and integrating volunteers back into the work of PDT.

  • Student Intern: Samantha Clear and Torin Klebba, VISTA
  • Status: Level One, summer 2022–fall 2022

Someplace Safe

Description of Project: The research team is engaged in analyzing data from an ongoing research project about equity for survivors of intimate violence in the court system. The study will inform Someplace Safe’s next steps in providing victim advocacy.

  • Faculty Advisors: Jon Anderson and Kerry Michael
  • Student Interns: Sarah Best, Gabrielle Meyers
  • Status: Level Three, ongoing since 2019

Stevens County Organics Survey

Description of Project: The Stevens County Organics Survey project seeks to gather input about next steps for the county’s composting project.  

  • Faculty Lead: Ed Brands
  • Student Intern: Chenoa Marks
  • Status: Level Three, new project

Story Builder

Description of Project: Story Builder is an emerging software that aims to provide teachers and parents with a tool to build children’s literacy skills in a creative way.

  • Faculty Lead: Kristin Lamberty
  • Student Interns: Natasha Zebrev—fall 2022, Joshua Eklund
  • Status: Level Three, ongoing since 2021

Uniting Cultures

Description of Project: This ongoing project seeks to collect stories and histories from residents in the multicultural community of St. James, Minnesota. In this phase of the project, CST is supporting ongoing planning and working toward transcribing Spanish language interviews as a critical step in the project’s overall goals. The project is a collaboration with the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership with additional funding from Otto Bremer Trust.

  • Student Intern: Emma Fedor
  • Status: Level Two, ongoing since 2021

Wadena Development Authority

Description of Project: The city of Wadena is working toward a Creative Community Plan to enhance artistic and cultural resources in the region. Through background research, a community survey, and other community engagement efforts, the Wadena Development Authority hopes to have a plan to guide their work by summer 2023.

  • Faculty Advisor: Mauri Systo
  • Student Intern: Ashley Johnson
  • Status: Level Two, new project