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Minneapolis Lightrail with purple St. Thomas wrap comes into a station.

Brainstorming Sustainability Solutions

St. Thomas has a strong history of experiential learning in sustainability. Ecopreneur business owner Jason Utgaard ’07 turns actual trash into wearable items. And in the classroom, St. Thomas faculty challenges students to solve real-life sustainability problems.

In courses taught by Dr. Sheneeta White (Operations and Management) and Tim Meyer (Computer and Information Sciences) MBA students are tasked to solve a sustainability problem identified by their government partner, Metro Transit.

One of Metro Transit’s project goals is to develop a tracking system for its non-revenue fleet vehicles. The two classes work collaboratively to develop a solution. Dr. White’s students first create standard operating procedures for tracking fleet vehicles. Meyer’s students then develop the procedures into an app to minimize cost and increase user-friendliness. Subsequent usability testing of the app is then done by White’s class.

For Operations Management major Michelle Wise ’19, the project deepened her skills in business process mapping and decision analysis.

“My group worked through multiple solutions before choosing the most practical solution,” she said. “By working with Metro Transit, we were able to figure out the most efficient, affordable, and hopefully fail-proof solution.”

Local government units, and especially cities, are facing emerging sustainability issues that they may not have ever faced before, and companies like Metro Transit don’t necessarily have the time or the capacity to address everything.

For Metro Transit partner Kelly Morrell, Commuter Programs Specialist, the research and work put in by the students on this project is “of immense value” to the company given their limited resources.

“The students and faculty have helped Metro Transit bridge that resource gap in an innovative way,” she said. “The results of this project will help us operate more efficiently. It’ll reduce unnecessary paper use and allow us to make more informed decisions about our non-revenue fleet.”