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UofL named one of America's Top 25 'Best Neighbors'

by UofL Today last modified Nov 12, 2009 08:59 AM

For more than 200 years, the University of Louisville has had a major impact on the economic and social welfare of the Louisville community. A national study released this week now recognizes the university as one of the nation's best at community engagement.

UofL ranked 12th in the “Saviors of Our Cities: A Survey of Best College and University Civic Partnerships” survey unveiled at the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) meeting Oct. 12 in Philadelphia.

Conducted by Evan S. Dobelle, president of Westfield State College in Massachusetts and former president of the New England Board of Higher Education, the survey highlights programs that “have demonstrated and documented long-standing cooperative efforts with community leaders to rehabilitate the cities around them, to influence community revitalization and cultural renewal, and to encourage economic expansion of the local economy, urban development and community service.”

Joining UofL at the top of the list are such schools as the University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Dayton University and the University of Pittsburgh.

A comprehensive questionnaire was distributed widely to colleges and universities with assistance from the American Council on Education (ACE) and Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU).

The survey first was compiled in 2006. Criteria for assessment in the 2009 survey remained consistent with the earlier survey, providing benchmarks for the development and growth of the original institutions and serving as comparators for new additions to the rankings. The criteria include the following:

  • Length of involvement with the community
  • Real dollars invested
  • Catalyst effect on others
  • Presence felt through payroll, research and purchasing power
  • Faculty and student involvement in community service
  • Continued sustainability of neighborhood initiatives
  • Effect on local student access and affordability to attend college through K–12 partnerships
  • Qualitative esprit of the institution in its engagement
  • Quantifiable increase in positive recognition of the institution
  • Increase in student applications and resources raised through renewed alumni giving
  • Recognition of the impact of these institutions within their community

“The recognition affirms that UofL is truly making a difference in our community--not just in one area, but across the board with many university/community partnerships that have a positive impact on K-12, health care, economic development and other quality of life factors,” said Dan Hall, vice president for community engagement.

Hall mentioned that the Signature Partnership, UofL’s effort to help develop the economic, social, health care and other areas in Louisville’s west side, has clearly played a role in building the university’s reputation as a good neighbor.

“But the Signature Partnership is just one of many programs that set us apart,’ he said. “We could go on and on … Scholar House, Ideas to Action, neighborhood revitalization with the Province, etc. The award reflects our institutional commitment to being a good neighbor on many fronts.”

Programs like those UofL presented are important throughout the country, Dobelle said.

 “Colleges and universities, as well as the towns and cities in which they are located, are now under severe economic pressures,” Dobelle said. “The positive financial impact of higher education on local communities is well-documented. Increasingly, more sophisticated partnerships are emerging that are addressing complex issues such as homelessness and health care and are serving as catalysts for community change. Colleges and universities are doing more and more to support their local communities, and it is a win-win situation for both.”

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