UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than 350 higher education and municipal government professionals from around the world convened at University Park and in downtown State College from May 19 to 22 for the 2019 International Town & Gown Association’s City and University Relations Conference. Featuring keynote speakers, educational sessions, and professional development certification classes, the annual event promoted collaborative discussion on strengthening town-gown partnerships and communities.
The International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) is a nonprofit group that connects and helps municipal and university leaders address opportunities and challenges between higher education institutions and the communities in which they reside.
“It was rewarding to co-host the ITGA conference along with our good colleagues in the State College borough,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “The conference allowed those attending to learn from one another, reinforce partnerships, and commiserate in ways that will positively affect the quality of life in their communities and on their campuses. Every attendee left armed with new strategies for addressing the challenges and opportunities before them, and it was a wonderful chance to display the unusually successful relationship enjoyed by State College and Penn State.”
The theme for this year's conference — “Collaborate/Adapt/Change: Evolving Together to Grow a Thriving Community” — addressed a range of topics and invited stakeholders from colleges and universities, government entities, and community partners to share promising town-gown practices.
Sessions centered around fraternity and sorority life, the challenges of drugs and alcohol, social justice, crisis management, lessons learned, and sustainable planning.
Over four days, presenters from more than 50 organizations — including private and public universities, local governments and agencies, and nonprofits — shared insights on their experiences ranging from promoting civil dialogue, to reducing misuse of drugs and alcohol, to deploying new sustainable modes of public transportation, to boosting economic and entrepreneurial innovation, and more.
During a keynote address, Penn State President Eric Barron discussed efforts to foster economic development within the local community and across the state. As conference hosts, Penn State and State College have grown side-by-side since the University’s founding in 1855 and have continued to collaborate on a range of projects, including local entrepreneurial efforts and job creation initiatives. Since 2016, more than 1,700 entrepreneurs have been assisted, 150 startups formed and 107 jobs created with the help of Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.