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Loyola hosts annual town-gown conference

Loyola hosts annual town-gown conference

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses the crowd at the International Town & Gown Association’s annual conference on June 6. “Universities are a major driver, not only in talent, but also in the ideas they generate for the next economy,” he said. (Photo: Mark Beane)

More than 300 university professionals, city managers, and mayors attended the International Town & Gown Association’s 11th annual conference at Loyola on June 5-8.

The participants—who represented more than 100 colleges and universities, plus dozens of cities in the U.S., United Kingdom, and Canada—met to share insights and ways to improve campus-community relations. Topics included neighborhood redevelopment, off-campus housing, partnerships with K-12 schools, and more. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the event’s keynote speaker.

Loyola was chosen to host the conference because it has been involved in the town-gown movement for years, said Summur Roberts, director of Community Relations for the University. And under Loyola’s five-year strategic plan, “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” the University will have an even more active role in Rogers Park and Edgewater.

“At Loyola, we really embrace the connection between the campus and the community,” Roberts said. “I talk about it as one phrase: ‘campus-community.’ It’s not ‘the campus’ and then ‘the community.’ It’s all one thing.”

Roberts pointed to Loyola’s partnership with Senn High School and the Summer on the Plaza series as prime examples of how the University is working with the community. Earlier this year Loyola launched Lake Shore Community Partners, which builds on its existing relationships within Rogers Park and Edgewater. The initiative focuses on four priorities: health, business, education, and safety.

During his remarks at the conference, Emanuel talked about the important role universities play in their communities.

“Universities are a major driver, not only in talent, but also in the ideas they generate for the next economy,” he said. “Their capital investment is key to our economic structure.”

Emanuel also talked about what City Hall can bring to the table—whether it’s building a bike path or streamlining the permitting process.

“We’ll do things with you that help your neighborhood and also help the city of Chicago, so your capital investments and our capital investments have a multiplier effect,” he said.

For Loyola, those investments are not some fleeting fad or one-off project, Roberts said. They are long-term plans to help the entire community.

“We’re looking to directly engage in a meaningful and impactful way with the local communities,” she said. “We want to support those communities in every possible way. We are in, of, and for the community—at all times. Not just when we want something, but every day.”

This was the first time the ITGA conference was held in Illinois, and just the second time it has come to the Midwest. Next year’s conference will be in Eugene, Ore.


• Learn more about Loyola’s campus-community initiatives on the Community Relations website.

• Click here to get more information about the International Town & Gown Association.