Students Design & Undesign for More Equitable Communities


Usually university coursework focuses on the design process, but an educational outreach collaboration between the City of Omaha, the University of Nebraska – Omaha (UNO), and the Sherwood Foundation is drawing attention to the problem of how to “undesign.”  The “Undesign the Redline” project focuses on enhancing awareness of redlining and how past policies still impact communities today.  The collaboration engages faculty at UNO as well as at the P-12 levels to develop service-learning projects that address continuing impacts of historical injustices.

Students Take Neighborhood Revitalization Tour

The project is one of many on-going collaborations between UNO and the City of Omaha. In 2017, the city and university implemented a service-learning project on historic designations for Omaha buildings. Eighteen UNO students in an Honors colloquium participated in researching and creating reports on historical buildings and landmarks in North Omaha, providing 315 service hours to the City. The project helped to identify assets in the neighborhood and to better understand historical value of the buildings and neighborhood.

“There is a ton of history and value in this neighborhood that needs to be restored and preserved, and I learned on our ride that the residents of this neighborhood are doing what they can to the best of their ability.” – Student Participant


Building off this initial success, Julie Dierberger, Paul Sather Distinguished Director of the UNO Service Learning Academy, and Meridith Dillon, formerly of the City of Omaha Planning Department’s Division of Housing and Community Development, attended the 2018 EPIC National Conference together. The conference provided them with the opportunity to strategize a framework for larger scale university/city collaborations. As a result, the City and UNO embarked on multiple course collaborations over the 2018-2019 academic year and extending into the 2019-2020 academic year.


City Product/Goal

Number of Students

Service Hours


Information Sciences & Technology (ITIN 3330)

Development of a user-friendly, usable and innovative website for City initiative



Fall 2018

School of Communication (JMC 3230/8235)

Strategy development and asset mapping for neighborhood organization



Fall 2018

Information Sciences & Technology (ITIN 4260)

Development of prototypes for technologies aimed at enabling equitable access to housing and transportation



Spring 2019

Computer Science (CSCI 8266)

Development of technology prototypes to enable equitable access to housing and transportation; including user needs assessment



Spring 2019

Information Sciences and Technology (ITIN 4260) and Computer Science (CSCI 8266)

Students selected projects related to “Smart City Technologies and User Experience”, focusing on issues with housing, mobility, and transportation in Omaha. Working on teams of 3, students will develop a series of design alternatives for a novel interface addressing the chosen problem, build a prototype of the design, and conduct an evaluation of the prototype’s usability using human centered design principles.


TBD (in progress)

Fall 2019


Students Present Posters to Metropolitan Area Planning Agency

Working on course-based projects, students developed novel strategies and new information and other technology prototypes to address pressing community needs related to improving equitable access to transportation and housing. The City of Omaha has gained over 900 hours in project capacity through this collaboration, and over 90 multidisciplinary university students have gained real world project experience. Students report gaining improved public speaking, problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, and other valuable workforce skills through community-engaged coursework.   

For more information about community-engaged scholarship through the UNO Service Learning Academy, visit: