Students Launch Community Partners Program

Springfield, Ohio – In keeping with Wittenberg University's tradition of community outreach, communication majors Amy Holden of Youngstown, Ohio, and Ashley Petersen of Cincinnati, Ohio, both class of 2007, have established a new university-sponsored program that capitalizes on the institution's urban setting and provides a win-win situation for students and the greater Springfield area.

Called the Wittenberg University Community Partners Program, the initiative strives "to foster beneficial partnerships between community organizations and the university to improve the quality of life in the greater Springfield area."

"Springfield provides a wonderful laboratory for students to explore some of the most pressing social issues facing urban communities across the nation and on a global scale," Petersen said. "We are confident that with support from area corporations and foundations, our program will be able to invest strategically in faculty/student research and projects that address community priorities."

Petersen and Holden have teamed up with Lin Erickson, director of government, foundation and corporate relations at Wittenberg, to ensure their program's success. The three are currently pursuing leadership-level gifts to kick-start the project, and Petersen and Holden will discuss the project during a Springfield Rotary meeting this spring.

"Ashley and Amy are shining examples of Wittenberg's motto, "Having Light We Pass It On To Others," and I'm proud to assist them in their endeavor as the benefits to both Springfield and Wittenberg are enormous," Erickson said.

Initially fueled by Wittenberg’s new strategic plan, specifically Goal F of the plan: Extend and cultivate the Wittenberg community, the project quickly came together following extensive research by Holden and Petersen. Together, they met with other college representatives who have had success with similar programs outside of Ohio. Holden and Petersen’s program would be the first formalized investment-oriented collaboration between an Ohio college or university and an urban community.

The seniors also examined previous informal collaborative efforts between the university and the community. Their research included reviewing a recent project with the Springfield-based Marriage Resource Center, which worked with Wittenberg faculty and students to conduct a geographic information system analysis of divorces in Clark County and the center’s counseling services to improve the center’s effectiveness. As a result, Wittenberg students made strategic recommendations, which netted the center a $2.5 million grant to target the most at-risk populations in the county. Other projects reviewed included recommendations made by graduate students in Wittenberg’s education department for the development of small learning communities in the new Springfield High School.

Historically, Wittenberg students and faculty have shared their light in service to their community as volunteers, philanthropists, teachers, leaders and project managers. Holden and Petersen's program would provide an opportunity for their expertise to be utilized more fully to affect social change.

"By investing in the program, participants will be investing in this community and its future," Holden said.

Among the possible partnering projects being considered for 2008 are urban revitalization, both in the downtown area and along Wittenberg’s eastern edge, a landscape curriculum project at Springfield’s new high school, community internships and professional development workshops.

"Our vision is to become the leading model for university-community collaboration in the nation," Holden said. "The ultimate impact will be improved quality of life in the region and the preparation of Wittenberg students to become responsible citizens shining the Witt light in their communities worldwide."

Written By: Karen Gerboth

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