Urban Colleges

There is a clear trend in my mind away from far traditional college campuses — set aside from the real world — and towards urban campuses. While attending the Univ. of Chicago B-School I took as many classes as possible at the Gleacher Center downtown (though the ‘original campus’ is only 5 miles or so down beautiful Lake Shore Drive) and now at George Mason I take as many at the Arlington Campus (minutes from DC) as I can, finding the Fairfax campus too far and a bit boring. Plus, it is too big. Who wants to park in LOT F and then walk 20 minutes across campus to get to class after driving 45 minutes? (This is of course is a working grad school student opinion, but that is a huge $$ market)

Here is a fascinating older article from the Washington Post about the role of urban campuses in stimulating economic and community development. While I appreciate their tradition use of urban (read poor), I view an urban campus as one that is part of the vitality and energy of a city. A net positive… ie DePaul in Lincoln Park or the University of London’s presence throughout London. From the article,

The sea change on city campuses comes when urban school applications are at an all-time high — up 14 percent since 2002 — as the children of baby boomers drift away from bucolic academic settings toward the action.

“The return to urban schools reflects a broad shift in popular culture — cities are cool again,” said Bruce Katz, urban expert at the Brookings Institution. Consequently, “there is a greater appreciation that a university’s fortunes reflect the place in which they are situated — there is no separating the interests,” he added. “They know they have to step up to the plate.”

Many schools have. Yale University — in the notoriously shabby downtown of New Haven, Conn. — has developed retail and office space nearby, offered financial incentives to employees to buy homes in the neighborhood, and joined with local schools to offer tutoring, internships and college advisers. Trinity College and local partners spent more than $100 million to turn a run-down area in Hartford, Conn., beset by drive-by shootings and condemned buildings into a 16-acre Learning Corridor with four local schools. Temple University, in a marginal neighborhood in North Philadelphia, is involved in running local schools and is working with developers to bring in restaurants and retail.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of action to be had on urban campuses for entrepreneurs. Bridging the town/gown divide mentioned above, helping students/faculty/staff get their needs met from the surrounding city, or networking throughout the city are just a few of the opps.


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