Rethinking local government

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Utah Valley University has joined Boston and Philadelphia in an effort to revolutionize local government. UVU is the third office and the first to be started at a university.

The Office of New Urban Mechanics, led by Luke Peterson, partners with Provo, Orem and other cities throughout the valley to test ideas to make government run more efficiently and encourage more engagement. ONUM will develop strategies, and research innovative programs for local cities that may not have the means to do themselves.

“Research and development don’t necessarily come naturally to a city, but it does come naturally to a university. For Boston and Philadelphia, they were very excited to see how we could create a model that would allow for new urban mechanics to be applied to a bunch of smaller cities and a university was the natural mechanism to do that with,” said Peterson.

There are about 20 UVU students involved in the program now. Students from any major are welcome to join.

“This is an opportunity to do something that directly relates either to my major or my interest or even to projects that will make employers take a lot more notice when I graduate,” said Randall Ellsworth, one of the students who is not only involved in the program, but a summer intern in both the established Boston and Philadelphia offices. “It’s a chance to really build camaraderie with other students who have similar interests and have a similar level of wanting to make a difference or wanting to go far with their education.”

Students are engaged in hands-on research and development

“It absolutely provides so many opportunities. For me, I think it mainly provides a lot of skills. I’ve learned more through this program than I did through college,” said Kylee Ashby, a Junior who is involved in the program. “Everything that they learn applies to so much that they couldn’t learn otherwise.”

There are three types of projects that the office does: pan-campus projects, more advanced projects that cities contract the office to do, and long-term, innovative projects.

Most of the projects that have been done so far have involved different departments on campus, for example, instructional designing, web and app development, hydrology, marketing, etc. Cities contract ONUM for advanced projects, and the cities cover the cost. The income from the advanced projects goes to paying the students for their work, and the rest funds the innovative projects so the office is self-sustaining.

One of the innovative projects is the social summit. ONUM gathered leaders from the education, business and political sectors together and discussed the problems in education.

In a partnership with Downtown Provo, the office surveyed people to find out what they wanted out of downtown. They found that people wanted a place to bring their families. Thus, Playstreet Provo was born. First South in Provo will be closed to traffic between Third and Fifth West for free activities, food, street soccer and other fun. During the event, ONUM will ask families what can be done to make downtown Provo a more appealing place to spend time.

Playstreet Provo will run on Saturday, July 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

To get involved with the Office of New Urban Mechanics, students can contact Luke Peterson.


Tiffany Frandsen, News Editor | @tiffany_mf