The University of Wisconsin-Superior and the Mayor's Office are working together to find out what people think about Superior.

Through a series of focus groups and a meeting for the public, the goal is to gauge what's going well, what's not going well and what opportunities there are for the future of the city.

"We're having listening sessions with targeted demographic groups," said Mayor Jim Paine.

The project, Embracing and Envisioning Superior, is a partnership between the Center for Engaged Learning at UWS and the city of Superior, working with the Mayor's Office, said Jenice Meyer of UWS.

She said the goal is to learn about the community's strengths, the challenges it faces, the city's potential and the direction it wants to go.

"Together, from collecting this information, what we hope to do is for UWS to better mobilize and participate and be a part of the community and the changes they want to see whether that be through the students and internships ... or perhaps creating some budget priorities," Meyer said.

"It will certainly affect policy in a very significant way," Paine said. "The common line given at every one of these is ... the government for the city of Superior works for its citizens. Their opinion matters just as much as ours in elected office. It's absolutely going to drive policy; it's absolutely going to drive the vision and direction of the city."

This is a part of the university's mission to serve the needs of the region, Meyer said.

The university is working with business leaders to gather information from a variety of groups. Seniors and potentially at-risk students at Northland High School were among the first to weigh in on the city's assets, struggles and potential.

All the information provided by students will be recorded to develop a data set, which will be compiled with the information provided by other focus groups.

Students had the opportunity to talk in small groups facilitated by community leaders and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Superior late last month.

After discussing a variety of issues Jan. 23, students in Northland at Superior High School had the opportunity to vote on those issues that mattered most to them.

"One of the discussions we had was that we need a safe, welcoming place," said Taylor Pedersen, president and CEO of the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County, who helped facilitate discussions with the students.

"These kids have insight; they have perspectives," said Tracy Henegar with UWS Continuing Education, one of the facilitators. She said while students understood that the bars in Superior did have the a positive impact by bringing people over from Duluth, the number of bars in Superior still pose a problem for the city.

Other issues the students brought up were the challenges finding dental providers that accept certain insurance providers, the difficulty in finding jobs that pay a decent wage and the challenges the city's infrastructure and cold weather pose for getting to school. They noted the abundance of convenience stores, which was good, but also noted the lack of places to shop, hang out or even just to catch a movie in Superior.

In some cases, Paine said things the students noted were similar to issues brought up during the focus group with seniors.

Paine said he was impressed with the ideas and thoughts shared by the students.

Paine encouraged the students to consider running for office when the time comes and offered his support because of the ideas students brought to light, noting them some of them will be eligible to run for office in the next year or two.

"What I just looked at were not just ideas, but a political platform," Paine told the students. "There are actually the kinds of things we're actually looking at moving forward. That looks like some of the most impressive and significant ideas I've ever seen come out of a group. These are the kinds of things real leaders are talking about."

Upcoming sessions

* Business, Workforce, and Community Development: 4:30-6 p.m. Monday, March 5 at UW-Superior's Yellowjacket Union. RSVP by Feb. 26 at ccel@uwsuper.edu or (715) 394-8518.

* Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8 at Faith United Methodist Church.

* Broad Community: 5-6:30 p.m. March 28 at UW-Superior Yellowjacket Union.

* A Healthier Superior: 5-6:30 p.m. April 4 at UW-Superior Yellowjacket Union

* Natural Resources: 5:30-7 p.m. April 11 at the Lake Superior Research Reserve on Barker's Island.

* Families & Parents: 7-8:30 p.m. April 19 at Lake Superior Elementary School.