Changing the World at Your Doorstep: The Division Street Student Research Initiative

How do we transform a barrier into a boulevard? Late last fall a group of professors began talking about Division Street as a laboratory for their environment and community-related courses.

Already some of us were using Division Street as a case study in our courses, particularly in land use planning and interior architecture. But we all agreed that more could be learned from this important landscape right on our doorstep.

What could the history of this commercial strip tell us about our town? How could anthropology suggest ways to build a conversation about the regenerative possibilities for the strip? What could students learn by looking at Division Street through the eyes of an architect, planner or artist? Could students in sociology and political science learn more about how communities work by studying Division Street?

These questions were on our minds as we began a formal conversation in January and February 2015 about the prospects for a multi-semester, interdisciplinary student project. Today, approximately fifteen instructors from across campus and University of Wisconsin Extension are working together to make this experiential learning activity a reality.

Named the Division Street Student Research Initiative, the unique project will bring students from a range of disciplines into collaboration with faculty partners, city officials, designers and artists, community members and business groups in an initial effort to consider the revitalization of north Division Street, a roughly ninety-two acre blighted highway/business corridor adjacent to campus.

Students will investigate zoning strategies, create innovative conceptual renderings, design sustainable streetscapes and learn through experience how a holistic approach that draws upon the social and natural sciences and the humanities can tackle complex urban design problems and ultimately improve quality of life for all in the community.

Students who follow the project might become eligible for internships and research presentations beginning 2016. An upcoming presentation and Q&A session will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 in CPS 116 and is open to students, faculty, staff and the public. For more information contact Katja Marquart (, Tori Jennings ( or Anna Haines (

Dr.  Tori Jennings


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