Beaufort Today -

USCB touts ReAL Initiative

Beaufort County could soon take advantage of a powerful local resource to address community challenges.

The University of South Carolina Beaufort has created a new program, The USCB ReAL Initiative.

ReAL stands for Research and Applied Learning.

The program uses the talents and intellectual abilities of faculty and students to tackle real world issues.

John Salazar with USCB and the county’s human services director, Fred Leyda, presented information about the program at a recent joint meeting of the County Council’s governmental and community services committees.

Salazar said USCB has been working for more than a year on setting up the program.

“It stems from engagement with Beaufort County,” Salazar said. “It’s how do we take the energy and intellect of existing faculty and combine that with students to address community challenges.”

The county would be able to provide a list of community issues to USCB and the college would then create a plan to work on those issues. The county would be “buying” faculty time for selected projects.

Each student in that particular class would present solutions.

Leyda said not all the students would have good solutions, of course.

“But some will have good solutions. The beauty is it gives the community all that manpower,” Leyda said.

One example showed that a city in another state using a similar program saved $144,000 a year after students analyzed power bills.

Costs for the county were not discussed.

The program is designed to benefit the community and the students.

Some areas in which ReAL could be used locally include housing, stormwater and water quality, rural transit, energy research, industrial and vocational education, planning and development, animal care, historical preservation and cultural tourism.

These initiative programs began at the University of Oregon. They are used at a number of colleges, including the University of Iowa and University of Maryland.

Salazar said USCB has set aside $125,000 to support the program.

“We’re now looking for a year or two commitment,” Salazar said of the county.

County staff and USCB officials will present more information at future meetings.