UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State and State College Borough have been selected to host the 2019 International Town & Gown Association’s City and University Relations Conference, an annual event that brings higher education and government officials together for collaborative discussion on strengthening town-gown partnerships and communities. The conference will take place at Penn State’s University Park campus and in downtown State College from May 19-22, 2019.
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. The hosts of last year’s conference were Ohio State University and the city of Columbus.
“It is an honor to have been chosen to host this conference, which is dedicated to examining best practices and critical roles town-gown alliances play within higher education communities,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “Penn State and State College have a rich history of partnering to improve the lives of our students, faculty, staff, community members and visitors. We look forward to sharing promising town-gown practices, as well as learning from our peers about successes and solutions to the universal challenges we face in our efforts to grow thriving communities.”
The 2019 conference will give local government, municipal and higher education professionals the opportunity to learn about how the University and borough collaborate to boost community engagement and safety, create a diverse and welcoming community, address key challenges, and expand local entrepreneurial efforts and other economic and job creation initiatives. As part of the application process, Penn State and State College leaders created a video showcasing the University and local community.
“State College is excited to co-host this annual national gathering of community and university leaders with our friends at Penn State,” said Tom Fountaine, State College Borough manager. “This will be a great opportunity to showcase to the ITGA community the great work that is being done as a result of our relationship with the University. We are already working to ensure the 2019 ITGA City and University Relations Conference is the best one to date.”
Town and campus have grown side-by-side since Penn State was founded as the Farmer’s High School in 1855. Today, University Park campus enrolls more than 46,000 students and is the largest employer in the region. Penn State is considered one of the leading research universities in the world. In recent years, State College has received distinctions including Best Cities for Entrepreneurs, Best Cities for New Graduates, Best College Towns, No. 3 Safest Metropolitan Area in the Country and the No. 2 Smartest City in the U.S.
Representatives of State College and University leaders, staff and students meet regularly to discuss and address emerging community issues and future opportunities for growth. Over the years, the community and University have worked together to lead efforts to expand cultural and arts programming, build joint transportation and safety services, and more.
“Fostering collaboration and trust are critical to growing successful partnerships, which have enabled the University and town to adapt, face changing needs and meet challenges facing our own community, as well as many others in higher education,” said Barron.
Recent town-gown collaborations have focused on sustainability, student orientation, neighborhood relations, fraternity and sorority life, entrepreneurial initiatives and more. Key initiatives include:
- Establishing several partner projects to inspire entrepreneurs and foster economic growth in the area, including Invent Penn State, Happy Valley LaunchBox, New Leaf Initiative and Global Entrepreneurship Week.
- Addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through the Racial, Equity and Leadership initiative with the National League of Cities, Task Force on Policing Communities of Color and the grassroots Community and Campus in Unity, established in 2014.
- Adopting a comprehensive set of University measures in 2017 designed to promote student safety and curb hazing, dangerous drinking and other behaviors within fraternity and sorority life.
- Promoting quality of life, attracting new businesses, retaining alumni, and engaging the community through educational resources and recreational activities from the Borough’s Office of Community Engagement.
Local conference partners include Penn State, the Borough of State College, Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the State College Downtown Improvement District.
Conference activities will include keynote speakers, workshops and professional development certification classes. To learn more about the ITGA City and University Relations Conference, visit itga.org.