A watershed moment arrived when the first design for Eau Claireâ€™s new hybrid buses were approved by Eau Claire Transit. Back in May of 2012, Eau Claireâ€™s Transit Manager, Mike Branco, began discussing the possibilities of designing three new hybrid buses with UWECâ€™s Art and Design Professor Jyl Kelley. The busses would be wrapped 360 degrees. Branco and Kelley felt it was paramount to include a community message with ties to the local landscape. Finding ways to incorporate the clean energy component of the hybrid buses was what the Department of Art and Design faculty and students could do best.
In August, 2012, Art and Design professors Kelley, Ned Gannon and Sooyun Im solicited the services of three talented Art students via faculty student collaborative scholarships through a competitive application process. Luke Benson, Jennifer Johns and Alison Wheeler were selected from a large pool of student applicants. Three scholarships were funded through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at UWEC for the many hours students spent producing and perfecting designs as they consulted with faculty mentors from the Art Department and professor Jim Boulter from the Watershed Institute of Collaborative Environmental Studies. Many synergies surrounded the potential for designing a project like this at the UWECâ€™s Art and Design Department because of its history of collaborative projects for student and faculty research. The department has had huge success in involving students, faculty, and the community in varied projects recently.