UM recently launched Collegetown, an outreach program to bring families living near campus even closer to the University. The aim of this program is to improve university-community relations and make the university accessible to its neighbors.
“Our approach is to bring families into the University,” said Sarah Nesbitt Artecona, assistant vice president for media and community relations. “We have a beautiful campus, and there is no city park in this neighborhood, so we want the neighbors to consider the campus their park.”
According to Artecona, UM has never created a community outreach program like this before. In the past, the University relied on its Community Relations Committee to exchange information with neighbors. Now these relations will be taken one step further.
Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs and chair of the Community Relations Committee, said the University has been working on this project for a long time.
“I’m often asked how neighbors may access University classes and seminars or be notified about campus events,” Whitely said. “This program, which will offer special promotions just for our University neighbors, will keep them connected to campus happenings.”
According to President Donna E. Shalala, this outreach is essential to any university.
“Being a good community partner means opening your doors to your neighbors,” Shalala said. “This program gives our neighbors more opportunities to come to campus for a theatre production, athletic event or just to stroll around Lake Osceola.”
The program was launched late September, when a Collegetown packet was mailed to each household in the 800-home neighborhood radius bound by Red Road, Blue Road, Granada Avenue, and Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
The packet includes a letter from President Shalala, the quarterly Collegetown newsletter and invitations to the Lowe Art Museum and Festival Miami in the School of Music.
It also includes a community map that identifies the “Ibis walking trail”-a path for neighbors to use as a self-guided tour of campus. The trail leads neighbors to several spots, including the Gifford Arboretum, the UC, Lake Osceola, the Lowe Art Museum and the Wellness Center.
“The University is kind of hard to access, and it’s difficult to park, so we’re encouraging neighbors to walk to campus,” Artecona said. “They can jog, bring their kids, walk their dogs, form a walking group or go on a scenic stroll.”
According to Artecona, plans are under way to add to this scenic path by putting a butterfly garden in front of Eaton Residential College.
Also included in the packet is the community benefits guide inviting neighbors to take classes in the School of Continuing Studies. Furthermore, the Institute for Retired Professionals [IRP], sponsored by the School of Education, allows neighbors over age 50 to take courses taught specifically for senior citizens, such as how to use the Internet.
“At most universities, you have to be an alum to participate in programs like the IRP,” Artecona said. “We are opening it up to the community.”
Neighbors also received a ‘Cane Community Card, their equivalent to students’ ‘Cane Card. By showing this card, neighbors will receive a reduced neighborhood price for university events.
Artecona said a picnic and concert on the Green featuring jazz bands from the School of Music are planned for next semester.
For more information or to volunteer for community outreach events, contact Sarah Artecona at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at email@example.com.