Art of Town and Gown Relationships Reception Highlights Neighborhood Partnerships

  • September 7th, 2022
  • in News

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

Collegiate athletics rivalries were cast aside when members of the InterCity Leadership Visit group from Athens, Ga., networked with their University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa city counterparts to discuss building town and gown relationships during the Art of Town and Gown Relationships Reception on Aug. 31.

The reception took place at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in historic downtown Tuscaloosa, where visitors were greeted with live music from the Alabama Blues Project and treats themed around the Crimson Tide.

“Successful town and gown relationships require many conversations with partners across a community and having the opportunity to learn from other college towns about their challenges and opportunities provides those partners with ideas to bring home and adapt to fit the needs of their hometown,” said Alison McCullick, director of Community Relations for the University of Georgia.

The University of Alabama (UA) and University of Georgia are member institutions of the International Town and Gown Association, a global nonprofit association dedicated to college campus and community interests.

McCullick said the idea for the intercity visit came about as the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce worked with Georgia Power to identify communities with major universities that have similar challenges and opportunities.

“Tuscaloosa and Athens and a lot of college communities are on the cusp I think of continued expansive growth, but that growth, if it’s not done strategically, you have winners and losers,” said David Bradley, president and CEO of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. “Let’s figure out to do it strategically so more people win.”

During the reception, members of UA’s Neighborhood Partnership Committee (NPC) shared how the group was created in 2003 from a mutual effort to address community concerns with university students moving into the city’s historic district.

“I got involved because our president at the time said we have to figure out how to make this work, and I’m so grateful that we were able to get it to work,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA vice president for Community Affairs.

NPC is composed of students, off-campus neighbors, business owners, community leaders, city officials, University police officers, city police, ABC Board officials and University administrators whose mission is to improve the relationships between students, law enforcement and off-campus neighbors.

“We all know the landscape of law enforcement across our country, the difficulty that we’ve been having over the past few years, so it’s been good for me to be a part of bridging the gap between us and, not just the university community, but Tuscaloosa as a whole,” said Daniel Mosely, community relations officer for the UA Police Department and member of NPC. “I really appreciate this opportunity. We all know that with dialogue, a lot of things can be accomplished.”

As Mosely highlighted, working to improve communication among neighbors, business owners, students and law enforcement officials can proactively address issues that are of mutual concern to sustaining town and gown relationships.

“We have to look at something that provides a benefit and incentive to all the groups to let them rise above their own personal economic interests and look at what is best for the university and community as a whole,” said Robert Reynolds, who was part of the initial formation of NPC.

“Community engagement initiatives such as the UA Neighborhood Partnership Committee are extremely valuable and reflect campus and community commitment,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for Community Engagement and member of the Board of Directors for the ITGA. “It has been wonderful to highlight the art of developing relationships among partners in town and gown shared spaces.”

As Bradley mentioned, the visit to Tuscaloosa provided an opportunity for one college town to learn from another through that dialogue.

“There are so many very close similarities between Athens and Tuscaloosa and the University of Georgia and The University of Alabama, so what better way to try to leverage those connections than to get together to learn,” Bradley said.

“It’s been a great experience as a student to hear from leaders across the city, but also on campus and to hear how we can work as a team,” added Madeline Martin, UA SGA president.