The University and Local Economic Development

John MULLIN, Zeenat KOTVAL-K, Jonathan COOPER

Abstract


Increasing pressures on universities and educational institutions to be more involved in the communities that house them have led to a wave of interactions that have been both creative and mutually supportive. These ‘town-gown’ relations have stemmed not only from pressures by government leaders, but also from the sense of civic responsibility and the drive for ‘service learning’ where students move beyond the academic walls to engage in real life situations as part of the learning process. The resultant merits are invaluable lessons and experiences that are mutually beneficial to the students and the communities. Similarly, the involvement of community residents with events on campus fosters a mutual relationship and a positive perception towards the university. Challenges with such partnerships include the resentment between the community residents and the university members and the ‘us and them’ mentality that leads to communication blocks, mistrust and resentment. Overcoming these sentiments requires perseverance, patience, and creative thinking. This paper discusses one successful partnership between the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the City of Springfield in Massachusetts. This collaboration was targeted to benefit the City by helping with their economic revitalization efforts, and the University by giving them a space in downtown Springfield for a ‘Design Center’, where students have a meeting space for studio and field work and can then exhibit their work. The paper ends with a set of principles that can guide other institutions and communities in developing strategic outreach and engagement activities.


Keywords


town-gown; service learning; partnerships; outreach; economic development

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