Town and Gown committee

Planning Committee (L-R): Barb Harrison, Paula Horan Moseley, Jennifer Kirksey, Todd Kamenash, Beth Bagwell, Dilnavaz Cama, Chris Knisely, Emily Mason, Jenny Hall-Jones

Photographer: Janice S. Haynes

Town and Gown committee

Attendees focus on the speaker during one of the sessions

Photographer: Janice S. Haynes

Ohio University group

Ohio University contingent (L-R): Emily Mason, Jenny Hall-Jones, President Roderick J. McDavis, Jennifer Kirksey

Photographer: Janice S. Haynes

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University and City of Athens officials participate in inaugural Town and Gown Summit

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis and City of Athens Mayor Steve Patterson were among the more than 115 people who participated in the inaugural Town and Gown Summit on July 20. They provided the welcome speeches to the attendees.

The event, which was held at the University’s Pickerington Center, brought together a variety of elected community officials, city planners, safety officials, city administration, community ambassadors, higher education professionals and college students to discuss important topics related to community and university relations.

Attendees were invited to participate in constructive conversations with colleagues, establish new professional connections, and create strategies for a cohesive and thriving community. The discussions were designed to strengthen the relationships between Ohio higher education institutions and their respective municipalities.

In addition to Ohio University, other Ohio universities and colleges represented included: Ohio State, Miami, Dayton, Bowling Green, Kent State, Marietta, Denison, Otterbein, Ashland, Shawnee State, Notre Dame, Oberlin, Art Institute of Cincinnati, Columbus State Community College and the Northeast Ohio Medical University.

President McDavis said he is very optimistic about the potential of the summit to improve the relationships between Ohio’s universities and the cities that surround them. 

“It is such a pleasure to be here today representing Ohio University in this most recent step to strengthen our relationship with the towns and cities our students, faculty and staff call home,” President McDavis said.”

President McDavis told attendees that the Summit is a celebration and that working together best serves the interests of both the university and the city and their constituents.

“Creating new partnerships is a win-win for everyone, and we have a lot to be proud of right now,” President McDavis said. “This conference offers an opportunity for us to reflect on the progression of our partnerships and brainstorm ways to further our collaboration.”

President McDavis highlighted a few examples of the University and city working together during his 12 years as president. These included:

  • Working together when a fire destroyed multiple buildings in Uptown Athens
  • Creating joint safety patrols to keep order during high-traffic portions of the year such as Halloween and the Spring Fest season
  • Creating a memorandum of understanding that codifies the partnership between the University and city for future generations of students and residents

“These collaborative efforts are a result of creating new lines of communication and a willingness to accept that we are stronger together than apart,” President McDavis said.

The President of Athens City Council, Chris Knisley, said the summit was important to Athens because it provided a platform for all the town and gown communities to shine a spotlight on the issues they face and discuss possible solutions. The challenges and outcomes presented allowed those in attendance to localize it to their own city for better comparison

“We also got to hear about best practices of successful programs in other communities - with details on who initiated these projects and how they were implemented,” Knisley said. “Of particular interest was the joint community/university revitalization of downtown Kent. Another positive venture is between The Ohio State University and landlords, with monthly meetings of 40-50 Columbus landlords in conversation with the OSU Office of Student Life.”

Knisely said she hopes future events will expand the participation from other college and university towns throughout Ohio to build a more in-depth conversation.

“I think the first summit was a spectacular success. Of the three Town and Gown Summits held specifically for individual states, ours had the largest attendance,” she said.

The idea for the Town and Gown Summit originated when representatives from Ohio attended the 2015 International Town and Gown Association (ITGA) conference at George Washington University and returned with the notion to initiate a similar event in Ohio.

The theme of the first summit was “Breaking Ground” with the aim of inspiring those in attendance to build deep, meaningful interactions with one another and create new partnerships while providing new perspectives. Assistant Director for Off-Campus Living Barbara Harrison said it provided her with a good frame of reference to compare the services being offered at OHIO with that of other college campuses.

“As the only full-time professional charged with this task here at OHIO, it was inspiring to meet with colleagues who are part of more robust programs such as The Ohio State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder,” Harrison said. “Talking with these colleagues provided me with two exemplary programs to compare to our current services.”

Ohio University Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones, who was a member of the event’s planning team, shared her thoughts on the summit.

The day’s events included sessions on “Engaging the Students with the Community, and the Community with the Students” and “Town and Gown Partnerships in ‘Party’ School Environments” with multiple opportunities to network. It provided an outlet for those across Ohio to discuss common struggles and triumphs, Hall-Jones said.

“We are lucky to live and work in a region filled with people with expertise, and I personally enjoy spending valuable time networking and learning from each other. I was so pleased that the City of Athens and Ohio University were able to provide this opportunity for our peers,” Hall-Jones said.

The event was sponsored by the Ohio College Personnel Association, the International Town Gown Association, and the planning team of:

  • Luke Ahrens, OCPA four-year private member at-large
  • Beth Bagwell, ITGA executive director
  • Dilnavaz Cama, The Ohio State University department manager for off-campus and commuter student services
  • Jenny Hall-Jones, Ohio University dean of students
  • Barbara Harrison, Ohio University assistant director for off-campus living
  • Paula Horan Moseley, Athens safety service director
  • Mitch Joseph, OCPA careers in student affairs conference
  • Todd Kamanesh, Kent State University assistant dean of students
  • Jennifer Kirksey, chief of staff to the president at Ohio University
  • Chris Knisely, Athens City Council president
  • Bowen Marshall, OCPA president
  • Emily Mason, Ohio University graduate assistant
  • Erin Nunn, Case Western Reserve University assistant director for experiential learning