Environmental Science and Environmental Studies Professors and Students win Colorado American Planning Association Award

CC professors Dr. Corina McKendry and Dr. Miro Kummel accept a merit award from the Colorado American Planning Association, 9/28/23.
CC professors Dr. Corina McKendry and Dr. Miro Kummel accept a merit award from the Colorado American Planning Association, 9/28/23.

Dr. Corina McKendry, CC Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Environmental Studies Program, and Dr. Miro Kummel, CC Professor and Associate Director of the Environmental Program and a group of their students won a merit award from the Colorado American Planning Association for their research on food access and temperature in Southeast Colorado Springs.

What started off as a research project for an earlier capstone class turned into important, community-based research with community partners leading the way.  

“Our focus was on the community group and the students; applying for an award never would have occurred to me,” McKendry said. “But why it is important to me is because it is a recognition that class projects, if done thoughtfully and in partnership with community organizations, can be impactful, high quality, and make a difference.”

A few years ago, McKendry and Kummel were teaching Environmental Synthesis, the senior capstone course required for Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors. The class did a climate vulnerability assessment for Colorado Springs, where the students created a map of summer surface temperature for Colorado Springs and analyzed it with respect to the social data found by the U.S. Census. The class also did a spatial examination of food access in the area.

“One of our most striking findings was that Southeast Colorado Springs, which is the most racially diverse part of the city, was several degrees hotter than the city average,” McKendry and Kummel said. “Our students presented the findings to members of City Council, and the finding was reported frequently in local newspapers and in discussions of the need for more trees and green spaces in the Southeast, two of the interventions that can decrease temperature and therefore help mitigate the urban heat island.”

McKendry and Kummel were scheduled to teach the capstone class again in Spring 2022, so towards the end of 2021, the two were trying to pick a research project for the class. Around that time, they were contacted by a staff member of the Solid Rock Development Corporation, a social and environmental justice organization based out of Southeast Colorado Springs. One of the key officers in the organization had seen the research McKendry and Kummel and their class had done, and wanted to get more information and see if there was additional research on the issue. After a few weeks of discussing with Solid Rock, McKendry and Kummel decided it would be useful for the organization if their upcoming class did a more in-depth analysis of heat in Southeast Colorado Springs.

“Led by Solid Rock and their interests, we designed research projects for our students to do as their Synthesis capstone project,” McKendry said. “The main reason we did this research was in support of a request for research by a community organization, but also because it was a great opportunity for students to apply what they had learned in their majors to a number of pressing environmental justice issues in Colorado Springs.”

All Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors in the graduating Class of 2022, 47 students in total, took part in this research. McKendry and Kummel divided the students into teams for each specific question, though all teams had both Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors.

“We thought this was important because each question had both policy aspects and physical science aspects associated with it,” the two professors said. “This allowed the students to complement each other's expertise, to teach each other and led to better product in the end.”

This project intersected with what McKendry’s research focuses on, as she studies cities and climate governance, and is particularly interested in how cities can address the impacts of climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a socially just way. The study also related to important themes in Kummel’s research, as he focuses on local climates and food justice.

“It was incredibly rewarding to work on a project that had real-world consequences and that was guided by the needs and questions of our community partners,” Kummel said. “Importantly, it is the work of our partners, Solid Rock primarily and City Planning secondarily, that needs to be celebrated here.”

The Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association is a non-profit that provides a vision and leadership for future development of communities in the state. There are eight project category awards, including student and recent graduate projects, which is the category in which McKendry, Kummel, and their students won an award.


Report an issue - Last updated: 09/29/2023