East Hill Notes: The power of town-gown, in numbers

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Cutting-edge campus-community work was featured at this year’s International Town and Gown Association’s (ITGA) annual conference, kicked off by Penn State University President Eric Barron, who spoke on campus-community economic development.


As institutions of higher education and their home communities evolve as economic and societal leaders, this year’s well-attended conference addressed everything from entrepreneurial successes to continual concerns about race relations. The latter was the focus of a powerful keynote address by Leon Andrews of the National League of Cities on, “Elevating Social Justice and Civility to Enhance Our Environments.” Andrews will guest on WHCU’s “All Things Equal” on June 18 at 8:30 a.m.


Per custom, the conference featured a myriad of town-gown topics, from Greek life to green scooters, while my colleague Kate Supron and I presented on Cornell University’s annual economic impact snapshot that continues to have value in Tompkins County and beyond.


In addition to diverse topics and presentations, two special partnerships and a national town-gown
leader were recognized:

n The Larry Abernathy Award was presented to Miami (Ohio) University and its home community Oxford, for its ambitious vision to be “The Healthiest College Town in America.”


This town-gown initiative around health and wellness was led by Miami University President Greg Crawford and Mayor Kate Rousmaniere, both avid cyclists. Collectively, campus and community leaders have provided time and advocated for resources to support public health policy, infrastructure and planning, and mental, physical and economic health.


Some key successes over the past three years included reported declines in risky drinking for students and passage of a $10M levy for 12 miles of bike trails. For more information about this college town’s “healthy” ambitions, access: tinyurl.com/y2prpd49

n Honored with ITGA’s Presidential Excellence Awards at the conference were the Grinnell Education Partnership (GEP) and longtime city administrator, author and professor Dr. Roger Kemp.


The GEP supports education priorities identified by the Grinnell community at large. Its goals are to bridge the skills gap among graduating students entering the workforce, make sure all students are reading at grade-level at or before the third grade. For more information on this laudable initiative, access tinyurl.com/y5ald2g6


Kemp is the editor of Town and Gown Relations: A Handbook of Best Practices. “ITGA is the only association in the country that brings together city and university officials, highlights their best practices and encourages them to work together for the benefit of everyone - citizens and students alike. When cities and universities work together, everyone benefits,” said Kemp.
In concert with ITGA, Cornell organizes a regional town-gown conference every spring, and ITGA will hold its 2020 conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder, June 1 through 4. For more information about this town-gown leadership organization, please give me a call at 255-4666 or write gjs28@cornell.edu.

East Hill Notes are published the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Gary Stewart is associate vice president for community relations at Cornell University and serves on the ITGA Board of Directors.

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