Mad River Valley residents are invited to hear about the experiences and recommendations of UVM students, who have been working on local projects. The event takes place December 8 at The Big Picture in Waitsfield.

For the second year in a row, the Mad River Valley has served as the focus of a University of Vermont course within its community development and applied economics department. The 15 students in the service learning course, entitled Local Community Initiatives, have been working closely with a handful of The Valley's community organizations and taking an active role in local projects. The students are learning about the different ways that community members work together to identify challenges, resources and solutions and how they envision their future.

At a September 15 kickoff meeting at Knoll Farm, the students met with residents of the Mad River Valley and initiated their projects. The three projects are (a) to develop recommendations for interpretive installations along the Mad River Path, (b) to provide feedback and recommendations for the mission and organization of Mad Bikes of Waitsfield, and (c) to survey food producers and consumers in the Mad River Valley and identify challenges and opportunities for local food efforts.

The students will present the final deliverables and recommendations of their projects at 6 p.m. at the Big Picture Theater on Wednesday, December 8. Each of the student groups will give their presentation and then welcome questions and comments from Mad River Valley community members. Celebration and conversation will follow. All Valley residents are invited.

"It is exciting to witness this truly dynamic collaboration between UVM students and Mad River Valley citizens," explains Joshua Schwartz, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District. "We are looking forward to the student presentations on December 8."

Local groups that the students have been working with include Mad Bikes of Waitsfield, the Mad River Valley Localvore Project, the Mad River Path Association, the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Valley Futures Network.

"We've experienced a second great semester of partnership and contact with Mad River Valley groups and residents," says course lecturer Will "Chip" Sawyer. "This Valley represents a rich laboratory for students to learn firsthand what it is like to engage in your community and try to make a difference. That is the primary educational goal of the course."

In the summers of 2009 and 2010, Sawyer worked closely with Schwartz and other members of the Valley Futures Network, to communicate the course idea to Valley residents and collect ideas for student projects. Sawyer reports that planning will soon be in the works for another round of the course in the fall of 2011.

For more information contact Will Sawyer, University of Vermont, (802) 656-0892, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..