Engaged Research and Outreach Projects


A major part of UROC’s mission and budget is dedicated to providing an environment for initiating and nurturing collaborative work between many different parts of the University and North Minneapolis community. This involves operating an efficient and welcoming facility for both large and small projects, and may involve providing advice and support on strategies for engaging residents.

Many of the projects and programs taking place at UROC are ongoing, fully-staffed projects, while others are temporary grant-funded projects or monthly conversations. All projects at UROC are conducted through partnership between community members and staff, faculty, and students from various University of Minnesota colleges including University of Minnesota Extension.


UROC Projects and Programs

These are projects and programs initiated and led by UROC staff in partnership with community members.

Community Affairs Leadership Council

The University Northside Partnership is an opportunity for the University of Minnesota and Northside community members to discuss issues that are critical to the urban core. This is accomplished through the University’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research Outreach-Engagement Center.

Critical Conversations Series

Critical Conversations is a series of public discussions that brings together scholars, historians, artists, community leaders, and the public to address urban issues. Coordinated by the University’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center, the twice-annual event is intended as a "gathering place" for urban-focused research, dialogue, and cultural events.

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Hennepin County Probation Community Engagement Plan

Hennepin County is partnering with African American and American Indian community members to help support long-term engagement to reduce racial disparities in corrections outcomes.

Josie R. Johnson UROC Engaged Dissertation Fellows

The Josie R. Johnson UROC Engaged Dissertation Fellows program supports graduate students as they develop into scholars that partner with communities while conducting research that addresses community priorities.

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Mapping the Demand for Sex with Trafficked People in Minnesota

Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in Minnesota surfaces new community-based knowledge about who purchases sex, where they live and purchase sex, how they enter the market, and what they seek in the marketplace. This report fills a critical gap in our knowledge about the statewide marketplace for commercial sex and the role of sex buyers in that market. 

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Neighborhood U

UROC’s Neighborhood U is a family-friendly program that’s designed to bring University of Minnesota researchers to North Minneapolis for demonstrations and conversations on a range of entertaining and helpful topics. Neighborhood U topics range from astronomy to financial planning, and are always free and open to the public. Visit UROC's Facebook page for future performance times and dates.

Northside Achievement Zone Community Survey

The Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) Community Survey is conducted every other summer in North Minneapolis to gauge the effectiveness of NAZ and give community members the chance to provide feedback on NAZ. The survey is conducted by University of Minnesota students and community members through Wilder Research.

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Northside Asset Project

The Northside Asset Project is a web-based tool developed by North Minneapolis residents and the University of Minnesota that uses interactive maps and community stories to spark conversations about the people, places and services that contribute to quality of life on the Minneapolis's northside. 

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Northside Job Creation Team

The goal of the Northside Job Creation Team is to create 1,000 sustainable jobs in North Minneapolis by 2019. This is being done by using research to identify businesses that match the employee profile of North Minneapolis and then work with local partners to recruit businesses to relocate or expand in North Minneapolis.

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Northside Job Creation Team - Communications Task Force

The NJCT Communications Task Force promotes the work of the Northside Job Creation Team, using communication professionals from the University of Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis and the philanthropic community. The goals is to make the NJCT’s work transparent and to transform the way economic development works in North Minneapolis.

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Northside Job Creation Team - Leadership Minor

The Leadership Minor is working with the Northside Job Creatiion Team to pilot a new method of utilizing community and professional leaders to disseminate job leads, especially for businesses working with the Northside Job Creation Team.

Northside Job Creation Team - Work Force Task Force

The NJCT Work Force Task Force helps prepare Northside residents for employment, with a focus on filling the positions created through the Northside Job Creation Team, which has a goal of creating 1,000 sustainable jobs by recruiting businesses to relocate or expand in North Minneapolis. Transportation barriers is among the many employment issues the task force is addressing.

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Northside Job Creation Team- Business Site Development Task Force

The NJCT Business Site Development Task Force is working to create a business park in North Minneapolis, in an effort to support the Northside Job Creation Team’s goal of creating 1,000 sustainable jobs. A business park would help the NJCT recruit new businesses to the area.

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Safe Harbor for All Strategic Planning Process

Many in Minnesota - including some legislators - want to extend Safe Harbor for Youth, which decriminalizes people who sell or provide commercial sex, to adults. This would be a major change in state level policy related to prostitution. Prior to making this change the legislature funded a statewide strategic planning process to examine intended and unintended outcomes, other issues to consider (i.e. services, prevention activities, housing, childprotection, etc.). This project provides a short window to gather information and produce a concise report.

Sex Trading, Trafficking and Community Well-being Initiative

UROC's ongoing Sex Trading, Trafficking and Community Well-Being Initiative examines sex trading, prostitution, and sex trafficking with a focus on the problem at large and how North Minneapolis and other urban communities can take steps to reduce exploitation and harm.

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Witness Creative Writing Project

The Witness Writing Project is creating a community of writers in North Minneapolis. Its monthly workshops offer participants a chance to use writing to explore various “truths” about justice through poems, short stories, essays, memoirs, and any other form of creative storytelling.

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Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota - Action Research Engagement

UROC was hired by the Women's Foundation of Minnesota to develop and conduct an action research engagement process to ground the Young Women's Initiative of MN in the voices, experiences, hopes, dreams and wisdom of young women and their communities who experience the largest gaps in opportunities in the state.


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YoUthROC is a community-connected youth research team working to develop a public, accessible space committed to youth, kinship, and action in the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) of the University of Minnesota.

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Affiliated Projects and Programs

These are long term fully staffed projects and programs at UROC that have been initiated and are led by Extension or other University departments. Some of these projects receive staff support from the UROC team.

African American Leadership Forum

Researching disparities in education, economic development, health and wellness, and family, culture, and spirituality between the African American community and other sectors of the Twin Cities is the focus of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF). The forum will use research to reduce these overwhelming disparities.

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Asian Media Access 4-H Collaboration

The Hmong Mothers and Daughters Club was developed to learn about leadership, cultural food, and dance. Some of what members learn is on display during an annual event where the club invites elderly community residents to enjoy food provided by the club’s young members.

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Congressional Arts Competition for Minnesota's 4th Congressional District

The Congressional Arts Competition showcases the artwork of student artists who live or attend school in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. The competition builds community by showcasing talented youth, giving them national recognition for their work, and bringing together professional artists as judges, the student artists, and Congressman Keith Ellison.

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Enhancing Smoking Cessation in the Homeless Population (Power to Quit II)

To promote health among the homeless, the Power to Quit II program involves researchers working with Twin Cities homeless shelters to help individuals quit smoking and reduce alcohol abuse. The program involves assessing the effectiveness of intensive motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to promote smoking and alcohol cessation.

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Examining the Causes and Affects of Evictions in North Minneapolis

The CURA Evictions project seeks to understand the dynamic process of evictions from the perspectives of tenants and landlords who have experienced the eviction filing process. This project allows participants to share their own voice and stories of evictions. Ultimately, the project aims to understand the experience of tenants who have faced an eviction filing to help better inform the development of targeted interventions, needs, and policy prescriptions, as well as gather data to help better inform the ways that the city and state can work with landlords as partners in community building and help the city produce targeted incentives for landlords illustrating positive behaviors. 

Grandparents Shaping Our Community

This support group is for Northside grandparents who are raising grandchildren. The group supports the mental health of the grandparents and shares information and resources.

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Humphrey Fellowship Program – Human Rights Center

The Humphrey Fellowship Program hosts mid-career professionals from around the world, giving them an opportunity to develop professional leadership skills and enhance their quality of life. The program’s goal is to build international relationships between professional colleagues.

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Northside Achievement Zone College Success Action Team - Solution Plan

The Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) College Success Action Team’s Solution Plan focuses on supporting NAZ students through a successful post-secondary education experience. The plan’s goals are to ensure that NAZ students graduate from high school, enter college, and then graduate from college. The team is working with colleges and universities to create a pipeline for NAZ students, from admission to graduation.

Paid Leave and Minneapolis African-American Families

This project is examining the impact the Minneapolis paid sick leave ordinance has on African American family resilience. The project seeks to provide an avenue for these families to contribute their own narrative around paid leave and other policies at the city and state level.

Racial Justice Afterschool

Understanding how afterschool programming can support young people’s lives is the focus of this program. It addresses everyday trauma young people experience by inviting community awareness and encouraging youth to address their community concerns as they relate to racial justice, health, and trauma.

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Safer Products That Work: Cleaners and Degreasers for Industrual Maintenance and Auto Repair

The goal of this project is to reduce worker exposure to degreasing solvents and improve air quality at industrial and automotive businesses in North Minneapolis. The plan calls for working with businesses to adopt safer cleaning and degreasing products.

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Signifyin' and Testifyin' Annual Storytelling Festival

The art of storytelling is the focus of this program. Storytelling is a source of positive instruction for students of all ages. Local, national, and international storytellers share their craft with children in the Metropolitan Area, captivating them with this age-old cultural art form.

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T/A and UROC Partnership

The University of Minnesota has career opportunities that can impact the community for the better through. This partnership between University Human Resources and UROC works on increasing access for community members to potential careers at the University.


University-Community Partnerships

These partnerships meet at UROC. They have been initiated by community members or University personnel seeking collaborative approaches to pressing urban issues.

10,000 Stories: Minnesota Youth Make Media

Empowering youth through digital storytelling is the thrust of this program. Understanding the experiences of young people is an important part of addressing structural inequality, equity, and social justice in schools and communities. In the classroom, students will create, produce, and direct digital stories, taking on roles as reseachers, teachers, and community leaders.

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Community Health and Advocacy Talks (CHAT)

Community Health and Advocacy Talks (CHAT) is a forum that focuses on community health and advocacy. It brings together stakeholders and community members to address the social factors that determine a community’s health. The program meets on the second Tuesday of every month at the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center.

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CREATE: Co-Developing Research and Engaged Approaches to Transforming Environments

 The goal of this project is to influence public policy and contribute to shared understanding among communities in Minneapolis regarding the impact of segregated urban spaces on the distribution of environmental benefits through investments in parks, clean water, and other green infrastructure.

Cultural Providers Network

The health of children and their families is the focus of the Cultural Providers Network, which brings together communities and organizations that have an interest in promoting policies, practices, standards, and research that address children’s health, with a focus on behavioral health.

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Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

The EFNEP provides health and nutrition information to low-income families with children under the age of 18. They learn about healthier meal planning, shopping, and food safety. The EFNEP is a federally funded program that has been educating families for more than 45 years.

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Extension Master Gardener Program: Working to Improve Community Impact

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Program wants to ensure that the right volunteers are selected to be a part of the program. As a result of the University's revised Safety of Minors and background check policies, Extension is requiring all volunteers to undergo a background check every three years to protect the integrity of the University, its affiliates, individuals that participate in the Master Gardener program, and volunteers.

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Good Food, Good Fathering

This pilot project is intended to show that good food and good fathering are complementary. Fathers learn about grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation to develop healthy eating practices for their children. It’s one way to strengthen their ability to nurture their children and promote a healthy home.

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IGDI Age 3 Expansion

This project seeks to extend existing measures -- Individual Growth and Development Indicators -- so that teachers and child care providers of three-year-old children can quickly and easily monitor individuals' progress toward academic success, and provide/evaluate interventions for those not currently on track.


Developing an iPad application to help preschool teachers assess literacy and language levels of their students is the focus of this project. The teachers themselves will be involved in developing the app to ensure that it’s intuitive and meets their needs in making decisions about their students’ education and allows them to evaluate and support instructional recommendations.

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Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities

Assessing the priorities of North Minneapolis residents when it comes to environmental sustainability, health, and livability is the focus of this project. Determining the differences between socio-economic groups in their perceptions and attitudes toward those factors will be valuable in building better cities in the future with innovative infrastructure design, technology, and policy.

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INTERFACE seeks to remove information barriers in diverse communities and engage families in ways that help empower families.

LENA Start Implementation and Initial Evaluation

Developing positive parenting and early language skills in Northside families is the goal of LENA Start, which is a “universal access” parent education program. It’s part of Mayor Hodge’s Word Gap Initiative, “Talking=Teaching.”

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Metro Food Access Network

With help from more than 160 partner organizations, the Metro Food Access Network works to make healthy foods accessible to all Twin Cities metro residents. The network’s partners learn from each other and build cross-sector relationships to meet the project goals.

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Northside Educational Alliance Programming

The Northside Educational Alliance (NEA) works with families to develop a plan for accessing the educational opportunities best suited to their childrens’ needs. The NEA’s goal is to educate North Minneapolis residents about educational options and improve the quality of life for them by contributing to a culture that celebrates and prioritizes education.

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Padres Preparados Jovenes saludables (Prepared Parents, Healthy Youth)

Padres Preparados Jovenes Saludables is a program to prevent obesity among Latino youth. Caregivers and youth participate in eight sessions and fill three surveys to determine the program's effectiveness in improving parenting skills and eating and physical activity of Latino youth. 

Police and Black Men Project

The Police and Black Men Project seeks to develop relationships of honesty and trust in semi-weekly meetings between a small group of police officers and African American men. The project will document best practices for two-way relationships of respect and collaboration between police officers and Black men.


Prepare2Nspire provides underrepresented high school students with weekly mathematics tutoring and mentoring. The program is intended to support students in advanced algebra through calculus, building confidence and preparing students for a post-secondary education.

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Progress Monitoring Spanish IGDIs

Through this project, Spanish-speaking preschool teachers have the tools to assess the literacy strengths and challenges of Spanish-speaking preschool students as they head into classroom with English instruction. The Hispanic community is involved in developing the assessment measures.

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Project TRUST

Project TRUST works with schools and teachers to increase the way Somali, Latino, and Hmong students connect to their schools and teachers. Developing a strong relationship between educators and students is a strong predictor of academic achievement and a healthy development.

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This project provides a participatory theater experience for people of all ages. The theater performance leads to a discussion of issues involving school discipline, race, and educational justice.

Second Chance Saturdays

Having a criminal record can have a significant impact on employment opportunities and other areas of you life. Law students are working with lawyers from the Council on Crime and Justice to conduct workshops for community members who have questions about how to overcome a criminal record. The workshops are at the University’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research Outreach-Engagement Center.

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The Ladder

The Ladder is a club for Northside kids who are interested in health careers. It’s designed to expose kids to health careers through mentoring. The club is inter-generational, with members from fourth grade up through practicing physicians.

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UMN Extension SNAP-Ed

The goal of this project is to improve the public’s understanding of, and access to, healthy living opportunities, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, and increasing physical activity. Through education on health, nutrition, and cooking, low-income community members can improve their health. Changing the landscape so that healthy choices is the easy or default choice in the areas of health and nutrition is another goal.

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University of Minnesota Extension-Hennepin Co. Agriculture and Natural Resources

Hennepin County is a heavily populated urban area but the University of Minnesota Extension is there, working on the environmental and social sustainability aspects of farming and food production.

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University Relations and MPR North Minneapolis Bureau

Minnesota Public Radio and University Relations are in a new partnership to highlight the positive assets of North Minneapolis.

Urban 4-H - North High Science of Agriculture Team

Urban agriculture is a thriving movement in north Minneapolis and provides innovative solutions to social inequities, such as access to fresh and healthy food. This movement is engaging young people as changemakers while providing new career possibilities. Minnesota 4-H is developing community-based partnerships with North Minneapolis to share youth development expertise, agricultural industry connections, and opportunities for youth to showcase their innovative strategies.

Urban Garden Program - Growing Good Minnesota

Growing Good Minnesota is a program that helps teach Northside youth about growing healthy foods and promoting healthy growth. It also teaches life, leadership, and work skills. The program is coordinated by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum at UROC.

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Urban Youth Development

Urban 4-H provides clubs and programs that help youth discover new interests, develop leadership skills, learn a sense of global citizenship, and consider future possibilities. It’s an approach that helps them carve positive pathways to their future.

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