Four College Satellite Campuses Energize Their Downtowns

By Kathryn Royster on March 31, 2014 at 11:00 am EST
318 Commons in Rochester, MN

Downtown satellite campuses are infusing new life into both colleges and cities. Schools benefit from proximity to downtown resources, and citizens benefit from university programs. These four schools and cities, in particular, can teach the nation about mutually beneficial relationships.

Alabama Center for the Arts

The Alabama Center for the Arts – a collaboration between the city of Decatur, Morgan County, Calhoun Community College and Athens State University – opened in downtown Decatur in 2012. With both A.S. and B.S. degrees available, the center offers courses in sculpture, ceramics, painting, computer graphics and more. The center allows both Calhoun and Athens State to expand their reach, gives art students a new source of inspiration, and benefits Decatur through cultural events, art classes and increased traffic to local merchants.

New College Institute

Martinsville, Va., established the New College Institute in 2006 to improve college matriculation in the surrounding region. The institute serves as a central location where students can take for-credit courses from numerous partner institutions, such as Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University. With an expanded uptown campus scheduled for completion in summer 2014, the institute will also house the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. This new location should help the EDC draw more businesses, since investors will be able to visit with officials while seeing firsthand how the institute prepares high-quality workers.

University of Minnesota-Rochester

Established in 2007, the University of Minnesota's downtown Rochester campus specializes in health and biosciences. Roughly 750 students benefit from partnerships like the B.S. in Health Professions program, jointly operated by the nearby Mayo School of Health Sciences. UMR also partners with local businesses and nonprofits, which gain increased patronage while providing work-study and service-learning opportunities for students.

Perhaps the most striking partnership example, however, is 318 Commons, constructed by the city in cooperation with a local developer. The building provides housing and learning spaces for students but also benefits the community through the presence of a walk-in health clinic, two restaurants and a bank.

“UMR is a community campus and operates as a part of the community, rather than simply as a university existing within a community,” says Jay Hesley, assistant vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

University of Richmond-Downtown

The University of Richmond's downtown satellite campus follows a less traditional model. Established in 2009, the campus hosts programs that provide students with work, service and learning opportunities while also helping Richmond's citizens.

Examples include the Jeanette S. Lipman Family Law Clinic, which provides family law assistance and free social work for local families, and Partners in the Arts, which helps local K-12 teachers integrate the arts into their curricula. UR Downtown also hosts art walks, lectures and other free educational events.

“Our location enables students, faculty and staff from across the university to connect with the greater Richmond community,” says Kimberly Dean, UR Downtown's program director, “and our programming encourages the community to meaningfully engage in issues that are important to our region.”

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