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Thursday, May 24, 2012

EKU to host more than 200 officials at International Town & Gown conference

Municipalities and universities nationwide and beyond are struggling to do more with less.

For one week this summer, more than 200 city and campus officials from throughout the U.S. and several other countries will converge on the Eastern Kentucky University campus to explore ways they can pool their resources and work together to meet current and future needs.

“Town and Gown Partnerships for the Present and Future,” the theme for the International Town and Gown Association’s seventh annual University-City Relations Conference, to be held June 4-8 at EKU, will be the subject of numerous presentations and breakout sessions.

Keynote speakers for the week-long event include Muriel Howard, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities; Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board; Sixth District U.S. Congressman Ben Chandler; and Mary Pat Regan, president of AT&T Kentucky. AT&T is the presenting sponsor of the event. (Other sponsors are Kentucky League of Cities, FMB Advertising, Media Networks, Robert Charles Lesser & Co., Pepsi, City of Richmond, Madison County, Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, Blue Grass Airport, Meijer, EKU Student Government Association, and the EKU Center for the Arts.)

Attendees are expected from dozens of states, from as far away as California, as well as Canada, Great Britain, Italy and possibly Australia and China. Municipal representatives include mayors, city managers, public safety officials, city council members, tourism officials, and others. University representatives include presidents, vice presidents, deans, community relations officers, campus safety officials, and others.

Many of the breakout sessions feature city and/or university officials discussing collaborative initiatives that have advanced the town-gown relationship and benefited residents and campus communities alike, such as the EKU Center for the Arts. The week also includes evening entertainment, including comedian Carl Hurley, a former EKU Professor; a June 5 concert at the Center by The Coasters, Drifters and Platters; and “Pops at the Ravine,” featuring the Madison Community Band. The “Pops” event, 6-8:30 p.m. on June 6 in EKU’s Van Peursem Amphitheatre, is free and open to the public; attendees are encouraged to bring their blankets and lawn chairs.

“This conference is significant in the fact that so many city and university officials are coming to the university at the same time,” said Marc Whitt, associate vice president for public relations at EKU and conference chair. “The economic downturn has caused cities and universities to look more closely at how they might better work together and use resources in a more effective and efficient manner.”

Whitt added that more mayors and college and university presidents are planning to attend than in previous years of the conference.

“As we face some of the toughest challenges within every layer of our economy, how we engage collectively will determine if the challenges bring us together or pull our economies apart,” ITGA Executive Director Kim Griffo said.

The International Town and Gown Association strives to become the primary information resource point for common issues between institutions of higher learning and the communities in which they reside, bringing together practitioners from varying fields to address immediate issues and future opportunities. The ITGA provides a network of resources to assist civic leaders, university officials, faculty, neighborhood residents and students to collaborate on common services, programs, academic research and citizen issues, creating an improved quality of life for all residents, students, visitors, faculty and staff.

Since 2006, ITGA annual conferences have been held at the University of Florida, Texas A & M, Murray State University, Iowa State University and the University of Colorado.

Members of the 2012 Conference Planning Committee include President Doug Whitlock, Marc Whitt, Charles Hickox, Debbie Hoskins, Lori Beth Miller, Jill Price, Caelin Scott, Mark Jozefowicz, April Barnes, James Street, Mark Welker, Rich Middleton and Erica Childress, all of EKU; Mayor Jim Barnes, Jimmy Howard, Lori Murphy-Tatum and Donna Baird, all of the City of Richmond; Mendi Goble, of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce; Louise Bowden and Amy Caudill, Blue Grass Airport; Belle Jackson, City of Berea; Gary McCormick, Berea College; and Melissa Gross, Kentucky River Foothills.
From EKU