Tuesday August 22, 2006

A Leader in Community Revitalization

In a new national ranking, UD tops all Catholic universities and places third nationally for sparking revitalization in its urban region.

In the Dayton region, the University of Dayton enjoys a longstanding reputation as a community partner that springs from its Catholic, Marianist mission.

In a new national ranking, the University of Dayton ranks first among all Catholic universities and third nationally in the "extraordinary efforts" it makes to contribute to the renewal and revitalization of its surrounding community.

Compiled by Evan Dobelle, president and CEO of the New England Board of Higher Education, the newly released "Saviors of Our Cities" list recognizes the top 25 universities and colleges that are "exemplary examples of community revitalization and cultural renewal, economic drivers of the local economy, advocates of community service and urban developers, both commercially as well as in housing."

Dobelle used 10 criteria to rank the schools. These included the institutions' longstanding involvement with their communities, dollars invested by the universities into their communities, faculty and student involvement in community service, sustainability of neighborhood initiatives and "qualitative esprit of the institution in its engagement." Dobelle, a former college president on four campuses and a nationally known expert in the field of higher education and cities, also gathered information from interviews with educators and public officials throughout the country.

"The extraordinary efforts of these and other colleges have made higher education one of the great growth industries of America and have given a sense of confidence and hope as well as stability to cities that would otherwise be struggling in a world of mergers, downsizing and global outsourcing that has eroded the traditional urban economic base," Dobelle said.

Daniel J. Curran, president of the University of Dayton, said he appreciated the measures Dobelle used to compile the ranking. "These are universities that invested real money and real energy into their communities," he said. "This ranking is an acknowledgement of the commitment UD has made to the Dayton community throughout its history. It's part of our Marianist mission to be builders of community. We're proud to be on this list."

At the University of Dayton, the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community initiates partnerships with urban neighborhoods, and the Center for Social Concern coordinates the activities of 30 student service clubs, but community outreach is an institutional commitment. Here is a sampling of some of UD's community revitalization efforts:

* As part of the Genesis Project, the city of Dayton, University of Dayton, Miami Valley Hospital, CityWide Development Corp., County Corp. and National City Bank invested $15 million to rebuild the Fairgrounds Neighborhood. Dozens of substandard houses were torn down, 23 new ones were built and another 11 were rehabilitated. This development encouraged other investment in the surrounding area, including the Brown-Warren Business Corridor.

* In June 2005, UD purchased 49 acres of land with buildings from NCR for $25 million to expand campus and spur commercial development by the river. It is believed to be the largest piece of developable land in the city of Dayton.

* The University of Dayton is collaborating with the Dayton Foundation to help transition four Dayton Public Schools' K-8 schools into neighborhood school centers. UD has worked with the four neighborhoods to identify a nonprofit partner for each school, with the focus on helping students achieve in the classroom and encouraging residents to use the new neighborhood facilities for after-school community activities.

* The University of Dayton has teamed with commercial developers on two new ventures: University Place, a two-story mixed-use development on the corner of Brown and Stewart streets that will include graduate apartments and retail outlets, and Courtyard by the Marriott, a hotel near UD Arena. It's believed to be the first hotel construction in the city of Dayton in two decades.

* The University of Dayton's Rubicon House on Brown Street serves as a neighborhood center. Faculty and students work with neighborhood leaders on numerous projects ranging from developing the area's assets for tourism to educational outreach efforts.

* Every fall, UD sends students "Into the Streets." Students paint houses, work in homeless shelters and volunteer their talents at dozens of other community service sites. Students in the Dayton Civic Scholars program are involved in an ongoing effort to connect their academic work to the challenges of community leadership. Another 20 students yearly take a semester off to work full time at area social service agencies. The newly launched Rivers Institute links faculty and honors students with the Miami Conservancy District and Five Rivers MetroParks to find ways to turn the Great Miami River Watershed into a stronger asset for the region.

The schools from one to 25 are: the University of Southern California; University of Pennsylvania; University of Dayton; Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis; Rhode Island School of Design; Case Western Reserve University; Clark University; Virginia Commonwealth University; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Emerson College; Trinity College; University of Chicago; Mercer University; Middlesex Community College; George Washington University; Carnegie Mellon University; Portland State University; University of Pittsburgh; College of Charleston; Springfield College; Emory University; Union College; University of Missouri-Kansas City; Miami-Dade College; and Creighton University.

Contact Amanda Krupkoski at akrupkoski@nebhe.org or 617-357-9620 x105, Evan Dobelle at edobelle@nebhe.org, or Dick Ferguson, executive director of the Fitz Center, at 937-229-5400.