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Walk The Line: Colleges, Towns Should Team Up

In Pennsylvania, we all live near an invisible line. A line that parties on either side are reluctant to cross unless “invited over.” I’m not talking about politics, or the lines that often polarize communities by race, creed, or income.

My line is the imaginary boundary between a college/university and the community in which it’s located. It’s a barrier that far too many have reinforced and far too few have worked to erase. The time has come to remove these lines throughout the commonwealth.

Town-gown relationships –shorthand for the dynamics between colleges/universities and their local communities – are often tentative and reactionary rather than embracing and visionary.

Much like neighbors who never interact, we travel to and from our homes on individual routes, never bothering to try a new path. In order to begin to move in concert, rather than in parallel, both colleges/universities and local governments must make bold and deliberate changes.

In order to begin to move in concert, rather than in parallel, both colleges/universities and local governments must make bold and deliberate changes.

More importantly, Pennsylvania must strategically provide the resources to develop deep and lasting ties between the “ivory towers” and the vibrant communities of which they are a part.

Here are a few opportunities for higher education to become more active in communities:

Here are a few things local government can do to foster town-gown relations:

Here are some ideas for Pennsylvania’s elected officials:

Higher education, local government, and state programs are three of Pennsylvania’s proudest traditions. There’s no reason all three camps can’t learn new things – new things that truly make that imaginary line invisible.

- Michael Lehman, M.D., M.B.A, assistant Vice President of the Juniata College Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Huntingdon