Town/gown relations in college towns are often discussed in terms of what kind of a voluntary contribution the institutions of higher learning give to the municipality to offset the effect of their property tax-exempt status. Cornell is on record as making the point that in addition to its annual monetary contribution to the city’s coffers, it also has many, many programs that benefit the city residents by providing them with educational and training opportunities.
Cornell has an Office of Engagement Initiatives that “oversee[s] funding and development opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and their community partners.” Cornell is always clear that they are interested in any project that helps them to advance their mission. In his 2009 “State of the University” address former president David Skorton included “public engagement” as one of the four pillars of the university’s mission.
Associate Vice Present of Community Relations Gary J. Stewart suggested that new Ithacans should contact Cornell Cooperative Extension. Extension services are by definition a bridge between the university and the community, and not just the farming community. Cooperative Extension works on issues related to the environment (e.g. invasive species), energy issues (e.g. green building practices), family (e.g. child rearing practices), and food (e.g. development of local production and manufacturing).
“The Office of Community Relations,” said Stewart, “helps make town-gown connections when and where possible, including providing applicable information on University programs and opportunities. Topics and potential resources run the gamut, over many units and platforms.”
At Ithaca College many of the faculty and staff have established relationships with local business owners and community members that help facilitate our students’ involvement. For a newcomer starting a business and wanting to involve students, it would be best to contact Amanda L. Lippincott, assistant to the president. Lippincott can put the business owner in touch with individuals and departments on campus that might be able to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Additionally, she can help business owners connect with our leaders in community service and engagement, as well as our offices of human resources and career services which can assist with job and internship postings.
“Ithaca College is always seeking connections with local companies and business people,” said Lippincott, “to create and support internships, job shadowing, and information interview opportunities for students. We also welcome business leaders into the classroom to share industry trends, life experience, and career advice.”
According to Lippincott, all the programs at IC emphasize experiential learning and therefore working with businesses and community organizations.
“We offer courses throughout the schools that incorporate community-based project work into the course curriculum,” said Lippincott. “Those courses put our students in direct contact with local business owners and community members to provide assistance in a variety of ways, including marketing, fundraising & capital allocation, finance & accounting, organizational strategy, and operational management.”
How do these experiences build town/gown relations? “Students tend to enjoy working with businesses they frequent or that have a mission they can relate to/care about,” Lippincott said. “Our local business community’s willingness to work with our students and enthusiasm for the co-curricular projects, as well we the quality of work our students have delivered, is a win-win. Students who engage in the community beyond the campus are likely to feel part of the larger Ithaca area community and view themselves as invested stakeholders within it. This can lead to better relations between off-campus students and their neighbors, increased volunteer activity through things like Service Saturdays, and a greater likelihood of students patronizing local businesses.” §