Universities have not always been the best of neighbours. Community members squabble with the schools over irritants like development plans, rowdy student parties and self-centred research practices.
That’s beginning to change as universities increasingly turn to local residents and non-profit organizations as allies, not adversaries. “There is a fundamental shift in universities across North America from the ivory tower to the public square,” says Diane Kenyon, vice-president of university relations for the University of Calgary, which added community engagement to its strategic plan in 2011. “There are no walls and no barriers between the university and its community.”
What’s driving the change? More importantly, is it for real? A $2.5-million, seven-year national study on universitycommunity
engagement, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), is investigating a proliferation of partnerships across the country for answers.