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Bridging the gap between community and college: Galesburg mayor teaches class on environmental matters in municipalities

Galesburg Mayor Peter Schwartzman
Yuchen Wang
Tri States Public Radio
Galesburg Mayor Peter Schwartzman.

The course focuses on the themes of water treatment, stormwater management, waste management, energy, and transportation.

Galesburg Mayor Peter Schwartzman is teaching a new course at Knox College called “Environmental Matters in Municipalities,” utilizing his 13 years of experience in city government.

Schwartzman is also a professor of environmental studies at Knox.

He said he’s always had a vested interest in how sustainability interacts with city management, but those subjects didn’t really fit in any of the courses he regularly teaches.

So, he designed a new course.

“The course allows me to expose students and engage students in discussions related to the function of cities, in particular as it relates to sustainability,” he said.

The course focuses on the themes of water treatment, stormwater management, waste management, energy, and transportation. None of them are glamorous topics, Schwartzman said, but they’re all essential in thinking about the sustainability of cities.

About 60% of people in the world now live in cities, and that’s expected to increase over the next 20 years.

“If we look at the future of humanity, our species and our connection and our relationship to the Earth, it’s going to be important that we learn how to live within those types of jurisdictions,” Schwartzman said.

He said his experience in city government has helped him form connections that he is now utilizing to expose his students to the real-life workings of those topics.

The class visited the Galesburg water treatment plant, and Schwartzman has more field trips planned.

He hopes students will become more involved in their communities, both in Galesburg and in the future.

“I hope that they will take their education and see opportunities for contributing positively to the development of the various things we’re going to learn about,” he said.

Schwartzman is also sharing a shortened version of his class on his YouTube channel, One Human.

He said he feels he often exists in two worlds, and he hopes to “bridge the gap” by sharing what he is teaching in the class with the community.

Schwartzman said many of the topics discussed in the class are very important to community members, like water quality, stormwater management, and transportation.

“I want them to know what’s going on to some degree in my class and hopefully encourage them, maybe inspire them to be more engaged in the topics that are really important to them,” Schwartzman said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Eleanor Lindenmayer is a journalism major at Knox College.