Town and Gown

TOWN AND GOWN

CSU/FORT COLLINS COLLABORATION CREATES COMMUNITY SPIRIT

by Kay Rios (Ph.D. ’09)

Colorado State University has continually changed to meet the needs of its students, always with an eye on how the University interacts with the surrounding community.

Economic influence is one indicator, according to CSU President Tony Frank.
“CSU is a state university, but we’re also Northern Colorado’s largest single employer, which means we’re invested in our community in a substantial way,” he says. “CSU students alone spend more than $270 million in the community every year, and that translates to critical jobs, income, and tax revenues for the city.”
There’s more, Frank adds. “We’re also invested in less obvious ways around the overall health, culture, vitality and sustainability of the community as a whole. When Fort Collins thrives, it’s good for CSU, and vice versa.”
Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry agrees. “From an economic overall viability, the University plays such an important part. I know there are employers here because there is a world-class university that contributes knowledge, available talent, and skill sets needed in a global economy.”
“That parlays into opportunities for businesses and innovation to flourish in the community,” says Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell. “Look at the nnovations coming out of the University and in our community. It’s a triple helix with the public sector, private sector, and a research university. When we come together, we can accomplish things we couldn’t do alone.”

SPIRIT OF INNOVATION

Frank reinforces that idea. “Some of the most exciting developments on our campus in the last 10 years have been the direct result of community partnerships and the spirit of innovation that is so embedded in our culture. The new CSU Health and Medical Center, the University Center for the Arts, our renewable energy advancements, improvements in our transportation infrastructure – these have all been possible because we’re part of a remarkable, energetic community that is focused on the future. I give a considerable amount of credit for that culture to people like Darin, Wade and members of our city council who are so committed to the community and its well-being.”

A strong collaborative relationship between the University and the city starts at the top, says Gary Ozzello, CSU director for community outreach and engagement. “There is a concerted and intentional effort to strengthen the relationship and we have key leadership from both sides involved.”

Fred Haberecht, CSU campus planner, seconds that. “There is a mandate from the president of the University and the city manager that we all work collaboratively and find practical win-win solutions. It starts with the perspective with both sides acknowledging they would be less without the other.”

“That relationship is critical,” Atteberry adds. “We’ve had difficult issues these past two years, but through collaboration and communication, resolutions have been and continue to be developed.”

‘UNIVERSITY CITY’ RELATIONSHIP

Troxell believes it’s more than a town-and-gown relationship. “That term is used a lot, but usually in terms of tolerating each other. I prefer the term University City. It’s a special kind of community and I think what we are doing is something special.”

The efforts to communicate regularly make it work, Haberecht says.

“In part, the on-campus stadium pushed both parties to become very serious about early coordination and sharing information, but the effort has always been there,” he explains. “Every year, I go before the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and talk about what are the upcoming projects. We also work with the city’s Neighborhood Services and make ourselves available at city council meetings.”

Haberecht acknowledges that there can be tension. “We put pressure on the neighborhoods and we have unintended consequences, but the big message is that there is a willingness to work together.”

Ozzello adds that sometimes it’s a hard sell. “You won’t please everyone every time but we recognize, as an institution, we need to do the best we can in every case. We are a model community and that’s witnessed by awards that both have enjoyed.”

Fort Collins is showcased in the Smithsonian Instituion in Washington, D.C., as one of six communities that demonstrate what happens when people, resources, and surroundings come together to foster invention and innovation. This was based on the clean-energy innovations created by the campus and community for a greener planet.

The bottom line, Ozzello says, is the personal connection. “Like many others, although I work at CSU, I live in Fort Collins. When we go home at night, we want to make sure we’ve done our best – not just for CSU but for our community.”

Series Navigation<< In Memoriam: Melissa TrifilettiThe enduring legacy of Libby Coy-Lawrence >>