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  • Colleges can play a role in community and economic development
  • Posted By:
  • Jamie K
  • Posted On:
  • 24-Aug-2012
  •  Universities and colleges in our country face stiff challenges today which make us ponder on whether it is time to question higher education’s political economy and legitimacy. If you search deep enough amidst all the gloom, there is still a ray of hope.

    Through specific partnerships and by sprucing up civic engagement programs, sceptical public can be convinced by universities on their relevance. In these tough economic times, such partnerships can help communities survive and grow. This will be a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Expertise, creativity and labor are resources that could be infused to fulfil the desperate local needs. These are aspects people cannot afford. This is an excellent way for universities to show stakeholders and skeptics how valuable they are.

    Institutions like Wagner College, Syracuse University and University of Pennsylvania lead the Anchor Institutions Task Force group. This is a movement that helps create mutually beneficial community and institutional partnerships.

    Colleges, schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations, churches and universities are some of the assets every community has. All of them are facing financial issues and they require long-term commitments and creative solutions to survive and grow.

    Another example of a cooperative initiative is between Port Richmond Community at Staten Island and Wagner College. This initiative aims at enhancing their neighborhood’s quality of life. Our communities are in desperate need of hope, vision and optimism and we need someone to provide this.

    Local governments and non-profits are unable to do this as they are reeling from the effects of underfunding and under staffing. These organizations are unable to come up with any comprehensive development programs.

    This is where our educational institutions can come of help. Universities already have resources such as labor, research, expertise and leadership. Communities can benefit from their dedicated fields of discovery, research and applied learning. By sharing these resources, it is definitely possible to make an impactful difference in communities.

    The best part of such initiatives is that they do not need a lot of funds. They only need alignment of available resources presently allotted to research, teaching and student life. As such, today many students, staff members and faculty are engaged in civic work. All we have to do is to bring about a better focus. We have to make this work strategic and intentional by linking it to student learning.

    Real world problems will be the curriculum students will learn in this civic learning and community partnership pedagogy. Communities will largely benefit and students will be able to better understand the relationship between theory and practice.

    After initiating it, it is important to ensure that these partnerships succeed. The first step is to make sure they are sustainable. For any venture to succeed, it is imperative for it to be affordable and a value-addition.

    All campus and community stakeholders must understand the learning needs of students as this is the only way to ensure long term relationship.  To create a positive impact in the fields of college readiness, economic development and health, measurable and clear goals must be set.


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