The ITGA is featured prominently in “
The New American College Town
" published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Among several ITGA references is a chapter on “Eight Leading Practices from the ITGA” by board member Michael Fox and executive director Beth Bagwell.
Regarding the book, co-author Jim Martin says, “We believed that with the creative work of ITGA, there was a need for an exploration of what college towns will become over the next generation and beyond. “
Below, a Q&A with Dr. Martin on “The New American College Town”
Why did you develop and write this book at this time? What prompted you to spend several years on this project?
As stated in the book’s preface, there had only been a single book-length study of college towns. We believed that with the creative work of the ITGA, as the most prominent national example, there was not so much a need for a history of the American college town but rather an exploration of what college towns
in today's society and, as importantly, what they
over the next generation and beyond. With this in mind, it was relatively easy to find a group of like-minded thinkers to contribute thoughtful chapters.
How did you begin to address a subject this broad and also historical?
It appeared to some of us that the idea of a “college town” had become so stereotyped in American life that many citizens, even those who had attended a school located in one, had very little sense of the powerful set of forces that are driving and shaping college towns today as well as the potential that they hold to improve the quality of life for their residents and those from outside who access them, whether for cultural, professional, or recreational purposes. As the initial plan became more clear, it seemed that the first logical step would be to contact your executive director, Beth Bagwell, and to ask for the organization’s thoughts about the project and whether members of its leadership might participate. From the start, Beth and her board of directors were tremendous supporters and committed to its success.
What are some key takeaways from the various chapters for college town planners, higher education administrators, and local civic leaders?
Three come to mind immediately, and there are probably fifty others of equal value. First, college “towns” are not simply towns anymore. As John Simon, president of Lehigh University, discusses in his chapter, college towns are now
economic drivers with significant influence beyond town lines.
Second, college towns possess
brand value and impact
that are often under-utilized and under-leveraged. The chapters by Kim Nehls about Las Vegas as an overlooked educational resource and by Kelly Cherwin and Andrew Hibel of HigherEdJobs about college towns as workforce developers examine this.
Finally, we learned in the chapter written by Kate Rousmaniere, mayor of Oxford, Ohio and professor at Miami University of Ohio, that growing numbers of locally elected officials are ready and willing to partner with college and university presidents to co-develop programs, services, and infrastructure if higher education leaders are willing to meet them halfway.
Looking toward the future, how will college towns look and feel 25 years from now? What should we expect?
Multiple chapters in the book offer predictions about the future identity of an American college town, starting with the book's first chapter that defines 20 characteristics of “new” college towns and what they mean. Overall, we can view future college towns, and cities, as more creative, collaborative entities that are constantly capitalizing on their proximity to campus-based pre-schools, seasonal schedules of fine and performing arts events, and invitations to place local retail enterprises on the ground levels of major residence halls, among hundreds of inter-connected opportunities that naturally combine educational, cultural, and commercial goals in order to enhance the lives of students ever more successfully.
Dr. James Martin is a senior consultant at The Registry and a senior contributor at HigherEdJobs.com.