U of MN Media contact: Andrea Cournoyer, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 612-625-9436,

LGIA Media contact: Jennifer Gilhoi, SparkTrack Consulting, m: 612-240-6589

Southeast Minnesota's Mobile Science Lab Program Earns LGIA's Top Innovator Award

December 1, 2016

For the past seven years, a collaborative team of hands-on learners has been going about education in science-related fields in an innovative way.  It’s just the type of program prime for recognition by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center’s Local Government Innovation Awards (LGIA).

The Mobile Science Lab Program, a collaboration of the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC), Mayo Clinic, and Rochester Area Math Science Partnership (RAMSP) in Rochester, MN, creates a connection between classrooms and science-related careers. Traveling trailers filled with the equipment and supplies to conduct science experiments in high school classrooms support the training that teachers receive during an intensive professional development experience. The program first received an LGIA in 2011, two years into their mobile lab program. In 2016 as LGIA celebrates its tenth annual awards, the program is receiving LGIA’s Top Innovator Award for their continued innovation, increasing reach and meaningful impact.

In a conversation with SCC’s Amy Grover, LGIA learned more about the labs. The concept to create them arose from looking at data that indicated Mayo Clinic’s teacher professional development program’s were not translating into area high school students seeking a career in the medical field upon graduation.  

Ross Aleff, a Mayo Clinic research technologist and instrumental leader in the lab’s evolution since the beginning, pinpointed the missing link: access to equipment and consumables needed for experiments. “When the lab began in 2009, teachers who completed the training at Mayo were the first to test out the concept,” says Grover. “The teachers could do much more with access to the labs than they could in the classroom alone. It was so positively received by teachers and students alike that we knew we wanted to do more. The need was there.”

In the United States and around the world, similar lab concepts in Texas, West Virginia and India have popped up, but Amy says the lab size, program and experiment flexibility, teacher-led instruction, minimal cost and length of time for student interaction, are all advantages that contribute to the continued success and growth of the Mobile Science Lab Program.

“The lab is compact and its mobility is appealing so we’re finding that teachers rent it two times a year for a week at a time,” says Amy. “We’re working toward integrating more levels so teachers working with beginner to advanced students have options.”

With two existing trailers focused on molecular biology and agricultural science and the recent addition of a food sciences lab, the program has the potential to connect with more students to provide them with real-world experiences. The current list of participating teachers has now exceeded 145 from 54 school districts. Teachers from districts in Southeastern Minnesota are the primary users of the labs, but the labs have also make the trek to visit students in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Over 92% of students surveyed indicated that the experience personally impacted them in a positive way by increasing engagement in their learning, teaching them new skills, and/or increasing awareness of scientific careers.  What could be cooler than hands-on learning about BioRad pGLO systems, DNA necklaces, mitochondrial DNA purifications, sub-cloning, DNA sequencing and genetically modified organisms (GMO)? And that’s just the microbiology track.

Students surveyed said things like:

It showed me how scientists work and made me feel like one.

It made science more interesting and made me want to learn more

It led to a new interest in science and I am now thinking about a career in this field.

The lab’s overarching goal is to positively impact students’ attitude towards science education as well as their understanding of the relevance of science education for their future. Since the first classroom visit in 2009, over 10,000 students have been impacted! Surveys completed following the labs show that of 18 career paths the top three selected by students include a health science career (28%), a career in the STEM field (24%) and a career in agriculture or food science (17%).

The LGIA panel of Humphrey Fellows reviewing the application was impressed with the impact and growth the program has experienced since originally winning an award in 2011. They agreed that the Mobile Science Lab Program is an innovative and impactful way to ensure that students can see themselves as real scientists and catch a glimpse of their future.

The LGIA Award Celebration will be held December 8th: REGISTER HERE.

LGIA Top Innovator


Celebrating 10 Years of Government Innovation, Humphrey School Recognizes 19 Local Government Projects

November 18, 2016

From an environmental vacuum and a virtual health network, to reimagined community centers and culturally proficient schools, Minnesota governments are redesigning products, processes, and experiences in ways that are making an impact.

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota today named 19 such projects as recipients of its tenth annual Local Government Innovation Awards (LGIA), organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, MN Association of Townships, and the Minnesota School Boards Association. The awards recognize projects in four different categories, and name one overall award winner in each: cities, counties, schools, and townships.

As a highlight this year, a Top Innovator will be selected by an esteemed jury of Humphrey School faculty and fellows and announced at a public awards celebration next month. The Top Innovator must be a past LGIA winner that has shown continued impact and demonstrated sustainability and replication over time.

"Through this program, we continue to see innovation as governments push themselves to creatively do more with less and provide members of their community with thoughtful, connected, high-caliber services," said Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School's Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center. "In our tenth year of this program, we're able to recognize programs as part of our annual process and additionally recognize a Top Innovator that has had a long-term, sustainable impact."

A panel of judges considered nearly 80 submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration. The overall winners of the four categories will receive a $5,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work and a professionally produced video to use for marketing and awareness.

Overall category winners of the 2016 Local Government Innovation Awards include:

City Category: Innovation in Water Resource Management—Vacuum Dredge Box for Sediment Removal
The City of Eden Prairie's Utilities Division developed a system to efficiently remove sediment and other materials carried by the storm sewer system from streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. The heart of the system—a Vacuum Dredge Box (VDB)—makes it possible to perform this work in areas that are inaccessible by large equipment due to adjacent buildings, steep terrain, or limited working space.

County Category: Arrowhead Telepresence Coalition—Collaborative Integration in Person-Centered Services for Integrated Behavioral Health
Arrowhead Health Alliance, a joint-powers entity representing the Minnesota counties of Carlton, Cook, Lake, Koochiching and St. Louis, helped create The Arrowhead Telepresence Coalition (ATC). The ATC is a virtual collaborative focused on developing and expanding an integrated behavioral health network that connects community behavioral health providers with schools, jails, rural hospitals, law enforcement, tribal providers, and others to better serve its community members.

Township Category: Cormorant Township and the Cormorant Community Center
Cormorant Community Center (CCC), formerly a one-room school, has been developed into a public gathering space for social events, meetings, and family recreation. Residents use the space—which includes a workout facility, new park, and playground—for free or for a very low cost. The project has helped residents feel more socially connected, and improved their overall feeling of health and livelihood.

School Category: Cultural Proficiency—Translating Beliefs and Actions into Student Success
Sioux Trail Elementary in Burnsville is forging new pathways by examining beliefs, values, and assumptions to guide them in daily interactions. This model, Culturally Proficient School Systems (CPSS), expands diversity practices and equity initiatives to honor students' traditions, beliefs, and practices (culture). By re-examining the key elements of cultural competency, this model has helped create an environment of inclusion, collaboration, and healthy practices.

Here is the complete list of 2016 Local Government Innovation Awardees:

City Category

Innovation in Water Resource Management-Vacuum Dredge Box for Sediment Removal (overall category winner)

Transforming Snow Plowing Operations—City of Saint Paul Public Works

Minneapolis Organics Recycling Education and Outreach—City of Minneapolis Division of Solid Waste & Recycling

The Missing Link: A Complete Streets Demonstration Project—City of Alexandria

Blue Zones Project Albert Lea—City of Albert Lea

County Category

Arrowhead Region's Telehealth Initiative—Arrowhead Health Alliance (overall category winner)

St. Louis County Embedded Social Worker in Duluth Police Department Program—St. Louis County

Washington County Child Support Service Delivery Redesign—Washington County Community Services, Child Support Unit

Community Services Time and Activity—Crow Wing Community Services

Anoka SMART—Anoka County Community Social Services and Behavioral Health

Township Category

Cormorant Township and the Cormorant Community Center—Cormorant Township (overall category winner)

Township Forum Mentorship Program—Irving Township, Kandiyohi County

Workman Township Service Day—Workman Township

Ambulance Station Miracle—Eyota Volunteer Ambulance Service

School Category

Cultural Proficiency:Translating Beliefs and Actions into Student Success—Sioux Trail Elementary, Burnsville (overall category winner)

Webster's Family-Style Dining—Webster Elementary, Minneapolis Public Schools

PAKRAT: Partners and Kids Reading A lot Together—St. Cloud Area School District, ISD 742

South St. Paul School and WIC Release of Information Referral Partnership—South St. Paul Public Schools

Alternative Career Pathways—Little Falls Community Schools

All 19 awardees will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony and reception Thursday, December 8, at 4 p.m. at the Humphrey School. To register for the event, click here.


Humphrey School celebrates 10 years of government innovation

September 1, 2016

The call for entries for the 2016 LGIA runs September 19 through October 12. Winners will be recognized at a public celebration Thursday, December 8. For more information, 

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota announces a call for entries for its 10th annual Local Government Innovation Awards (LGIA) to recognize the creative and innovative ways that cities, counties, townships and schools are serving Minnesotans. Through their decade-long history, the awards—hosted in partnership with the Bush Foundation—are credited with setting a ‘gold standard’ and helping to improve the way local government entities deliver services.

Like other states, Minnesota faces an aging population, rising health care costs, and increasing demand for government services with reduced revenue. Many counties, cities, townships and schools have refused to let traditional approaches of either increasing taxes or cutting spending dictate their responses to these challenges and instead have found innovative ways to redesign their work.

 “These awards bring much-needed attention to the positive efforts and impact that often happen unbeknownst to the public and largely even among government entities,” said Jay Kiedrowski, Humphrey School senior fellow and LGIA program lead. “They celebrate the full host of stakeholders involved in a project and demonstrate the level and continuum of impact that is essential to share.”

The Local Government Innovation Awards have gained traction as a meaningful way for these entities to analyze their projects each year, and share their successes and challenges with others. Winners often inspire other cities, counties, townships and schools to replicate programs or projects, helping to create a ripple effect that benefits service recipients throughout Minnesota.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary and support the program’s longevity, this year’s competition includes a new award to recognize projects that demonstrate a long-lasting impact. To be eligible, entrants must be previous LGIA winners and submit a progress report that conveys the long-term impact.

“We want to create an inspiring way to share the core learning that encourages innovation and cross collaboration for local entities,” said Kiedrowski. “This new award will help achieve that goal and ensure long-lasting commitments to these types of efforts.”

What makes the LGIA program unique is the opportunity for local government entities to submit projects for a juried review. Judges include faculty and staff from the Humphrey School's Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Association of Townships, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Submissions are accepted in four categories: counties, cities, townships and schools. They are evaluated on how they create greater accountability; use incentives, targeting and funding to meet those in need; orchestrate competitive contracting; manage collaboration or consolidation; deploy prevention strategies that eliminate the need for a service or divest current services to the community.

Up to 20 local government entities will be recognized with 2016 awards. The winner in each of the main categories (counties, cities, townships and schools) will receive a professional video highlighting their work and a $5,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue local government innovation and redesign.

The call for entries for the 2016 LGIA runs September 19 through October 12. Winners will be recognized at a public celebration Thursday, December 8.

View the press release on the Humphrey School website. 


About LGIA
The Local Government Innovation Awards, celebrating 10 years in 2016, recognize the creative ways counties, cities, townships and schools are making Minnesota better by pursuing innovation and service redesign. Created by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs' Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center, the awards are supported by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Association of Townships, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Boards Association. 
About The Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is ranked as one of the country’s top 10 professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national, and global level and offers six distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and five certificate programs.