"Since our founding in 1845, Springfield has played a pivotal role in our success, and we have worked diligently to strengthen our relationship with Springfield," Erickson said. "Today we write a new chapter in the relationship between Springfield and Wittenberg as we unveil a true model for partnership between a liberal arts college and its community.
"All of us at Wittenberg are energized and excited that this day has arrived because we believe in the magic that can occur when communities and higher education institutions work together – a magic that will result in significant, lasting and positive impacts for both Springfield and Wittenberg."
In addition to bringing together community leaders, faculty, staff and students to build upon the opportunities and address the challenges facing the Greater Springfield area, the new center will also provide students with exciting and expanded opportunities for experiential learning.
"This is a great day for Springfield and Wittenberg," said Warren Copeland, Springfield mayor, Wittenberg professor, director of the urban studies program, and the newly named faculty director of the center. "For their entire four years here, students will now have a pattern of community engagement at even deeper levels. The university can also bring its resources to bear on groundbreaking initiatives to deal with important issues in the community."
"As a graduate of a liberal arts college, I am pleased that Wittenberg is opening The Center for Civic & Urban Engagement," added Fisher, who also serves as director of the Ohio Department of Development. Fisher, who was introduced by former teacher and mentor Jerry Graham, Wittenberg class of 1958, at the event, also noted how "this center aims to create and foster the kind of important relationship between colleges and communities that we believe is vital in enhancing and promoting the educational assets Ohio has to offer."
The center will be managed by a three-person team consisting of Copeland and two other individuals who were introduced at the event. Springfield native Stephanie McCuistion, former coordinator, scheduler and direct liaison in the local office of Congressman Dave Hobson, will serve as administrative director, and fellow Springfield native Matt Lynch, Wittenberg class of 2008 and founder of WittEnterprises, will serve as the assistant to the administrative director.
In order to gain perspective and community direction, the center has also established a Community Advisory Board, which has helped to identify four specific areas of focus for the center. The four initiatives include: Renewing the Core and the Creek; Strengthening After-School Programs; Preparing for Future Jobs; and Improving Housing Quality.
The first, Renewing the Core and the Creek, will not only explore how best to market the core of Springfield and the planned recreational use for Buck Creek, but also provide a live laboratory for both Wittenberg and local K-12 science course study.
The second initiative, Strengthening After-School Programs, will use Wittenberg's recently awarded federal grant aimed at improving after-school programs to examine how such programs are serving the needs of at-risk youth in Springfield.
For the third initiative, Preparing for Future Jobs, the center will help Wittenberg participate in current attempts by the State of Ohio to partner with colleges and universities to address education and training in areas of greatest demand in order to assist the transition from manufacturing to high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive work.
Lastly, under Improving Housing Quality, the center will play a significant role in gathering information that will help policy makers address the issue of housing quality in the area and in channeling volunteer efforts by faculty, staff and students.
"All four initiatives reflect The Center for Civic & Urban Engagement's mission: To promote responsible, productive and thoughtful scholarship, service and collaboration between Wittenberg University and the Greater Springfield area to create a more vibrant, cohesive community," McCuistion said. "We are very excited to be part of this grand endeavor, which will improve the quality of life in Springfield and strengthen community ties for generations to come."
Written By: Karen Gerboth
Photo By: Robert Gantt
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