The Urban Project -- a collaboration of 18 academic departments and programs aiming to make SLU the best place in the nation to study future urban problems -- has received a grant of $45,000 from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation. Funds will be used to create a state-of-the-art, on-line graduate course on the future of U.S. rail transportation.
Initial plans were developed by Robert Cropf (Public Policy Studies), John Woolschlager (Civil Engineering), Robert Ripperdan (Environmental Studies), Richard Colignon (Urban Sociology), James Scott (Film Studies) and Donald Stump (Micah Program).
According to Stump, who drafted the proposal in collaboration with the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, the course will examine the latest research behind such projects as the recently proposed U.S. high-speed rail corridors. The rapid trains envisioned for the Midwest would connect St. Louis with Kansas City, Chicago and other metropolitan areas.
Since rail is the most energy-efficient form of large-scale transportation, its development is important for moving passengers and freight in an economical and relatively environmentally friendly way. According to Stump, rail is smart for the future. Since it can operate on electricity and other forms of energy, as well as petroleum, it offers great promise as a sustainable solution to some of the nation's problems with energy consumption and greenhouse emissions.
The course will be designed around 15 video segments, allowing students to view documentary-style lectures and interviews on the Internet from anywhere in the country. Members of the class will discuss readings and other course materials in small seminar-style sessions conducted via video-chat or in a traditional classroom.
The first offering of the course at SLU will be in the summer or fall of 2012. Though listed in the public policy studies department, it will be available to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students in several disciplines.
The team developing the course is working with British documentary filmmaker James Scott,who will produce the 15 video segments. He and Stump plan to seek further grants to produce a PBS-style documentary, "The Return of Rail," to complement the course and increase the visibility of SLU as a place to study cities and sustainable transportation.