Leaders of Massachusetts Colleges and Universities Mull Community Partnerships

(1-22-98) -- Presidents and top administrators from more than 65 Massachusetts colleges and universities explored ways in which institutions of higher learning can form meaningful partnerships with their local communities at a Jan. 21 conference in Fulton Hall.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), delivered the keynote address at the University-Community Partnership Conference, which was sponsored by his office.

In opening the event, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, said, "Community partnerships have long been central to the mission of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic university." He cited the collaboration between BC and the Allston-Brighton neighborhood on an innovative "extended services" program at the Gardner Elementary School as a recent example.

"What could be more in keeping with our mission than to join [our] talent and resources with the universities around us, and doing that, to better serve the children and families of our state and our nation?" Fr. Leahy added.

"Making a commitment to these partnerships is the right thing to do for higher education," said Kennedy.

"In so many ways, Massachusetts is the education state," he said. "In this new way, we can also be a model for the nation, creating and strengthening vital links for both our colleges and communities."

Following Kennedy's address and a series of remarks by education and community leaders, the group broke into smaller units to discuss specific issues facing colleges and their surrounding communities.

Topics addressed in these breakout sessions included university investment in neighborhood revitalization projects, partnerships in local grade schools and social service programs, and methods of combining community outreach with scholarly research.

The conference featured the introduction of a World Wide Web page developed by Brennan Professor of Education Richard Lerner, director of the Boston College Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships. The Massachusetts University-Community Partnerships web page will offer links to the web sites of universities across the state involved in community collaboration projects.

Among those attending the conference were the presidents of Boston University, Northeastern University, the College of the Holy Cross, Stonehill College, Lesley College, Assumption College, Regis College and Wheelock College. Harvard and Tufts universities, and Williams and Smith colleges were among the institutions which sent top administrators to the conference.

Lerner, a leading voice for "outreach scholarship" -- in which academicians and neighborhood residents combine to assess local needs -- hailed the afternoon-long conference as a "smashing success.

"What came out was a clear consensus among leaders of higher education in the commonwealth that Sen. Kennedy's vision of forming an infrastructure of university-community partnerships across the state is not only an important next step for higher education, but a viable and exciting one," Lerner said.

Participating with Sen. Kennedy and Fr. Leahy in a press conference before the event were the presidents of Clark University, Northeastern University, Fitchburg State College, Springfield College and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, which have joined Boston College in promoting the statewide university-community partnership network proposed by Kennedy.

Clark University President Richard Traina, whose school has made a major investment in the revitalization of its urban Worcester neighborhood, said a commitment to the community is required if a university is to "live up to [its] own obligations.

"Our mission statement ... says that we are preparing students for civic responsibility and moral leadership," said Traina. "If we were to stand by and neglect our neighborhood, to watch its deterioration, it would be a terrible lesson in civic responsibility and moral leadership."

Practical, as well as moral, imperatives compel urban universities to greater involvement in their surrounding neighborhoods, Traina noted.

"If institutions do not stand up to the challenges facing urban areas today, those challenges are going to overrun universities," said the Clark president. "Our institution is going to prosper if our neighborhood is prospering."

Back to InfoEagle Home Page

Back to News and Information from Boston College