Art of Town and Gown Relationships Reception Highlights Neighborhood Partnerships in Tuscaloosa, AL

By Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs, The University of Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Collegiate athletics rivalries were cast aside when members of the InterCity Leadership Visit group from Athens, Ga., networked with their University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa city counterparts to discuss building town and gown relationships during the Art of Town and Gown Relationships Reception on Aug. 31 at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. 
“Successful town and gown relationships require many conversations with partners across a community and having the opportunity to learn from other college towns about their challenges and opportunities provides those partners with ideas to bring home and adapt to fit the needs of their hometown,” said Alison McCullick, director of Community Relations for the University of Georgia.
The University of Alabama (UA) and University of Georgia are member institutions of the International Town and Gown Association (ITGA). McCullick said the idea for the intercity visit came about as the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce worked with Georgia Power to identify communities with major universities that have similar challenges and opportunities.
“There are so many very close similarities between Athens and Tuscaloosa and the University of Georgia and The University of Alabama, so what better way to try to leverage those connections than to get together to learn,” said David Bradley, president and CEO of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. 
During the reception, members of UA’s Neighborhood Partnership Committee (NPC) shared how the group was created in 2003 from a mutual effort to address community concerns with university students moving into the city’s historic district. 
“We have to look at something that provides a benefit and incentive to all the groups to let them rise above their own personal economic interests and look at what is best for the university and community as a whole,” said Robert Reynolds, who was part of the initial formation of NPC.
“Community engagement initiatives such as the UA Neighborhood Partnership Committee are extremely valuable and reflect campus and community commitment,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for Community Engagement and member of the Board of Directors for the ITGA. “It has been wonderful to highlight the art of developing relationships among partners in town and gown shared spaces.”