By Carrie Henderson
At a time when many communities are suffering from poor economic conditions, UNC-Chapel Hill, Appalachian State University and UNC Pembroke are taking action to assist struggling communities in North Carolina.
The Community-Campus Partnership (CCP) is a UNC-CH led initiative to help economically distressed communities in North Carolina to address the complex challenges they face in terms of economic development, leadership capacity, public health, education and environmental sustainability. Through CCP, faculty, students and staff are available to help local leaders and community organizations meet the needs of people in selected communities across the state, starting with Lenoir and Caswell counties.
With a grant from the NC Rural Center, CCP is also working with Appalachian State University (ASU) and UNC Pembroke to provide support from those campuses to several small towns in rural North Carolina, including Marion, Valdese, Robbins and Candor.
“Our mission is to help our community partners work toward improving their region in meaningful ways with assistance from the university. Working with Appalachian State University and UNC Pembroke allows us to expand the UNC system’s reach to economically distressed communities and to be an engaged partner with even more communities across the state,” according to Will Lambe, Director of CCP and Associate Director of the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government.
CCP began a two-year pilot phase – designed to determine how campuses can effectively collaborate with local partners – on July 1st of this year. UNC Chapel Hill partnered with Lenoir and Caswell counties, ASU partnered with Marion and Valdese and UNCP partnered with Candor and Robbins. These communities were selected on a basis of several factors, including level of economic distress, distance from each campus, experience working with the UNC system and the willingness of local leaders and state funding partners to work with universities.
Since July, representatives from CCP have been attending meetings, facilitating conversations between local leaders and the university, speaking at events in the community and sending in graduate student interns to work full-time assessing local priorities and getting projects off the ground.
UNC-CH faculty members are getting involved as well. Nichola Lowe, faculty from City & Regional Planning, is developing a spring graduate workshop in Lenoir County to focus on allied health care career ladders. Jason Jolley, adjunct faculty from Kenan-Flagler, is preparing an economic development reality check presentation for the Caswell County Commissioners and Alice Ammerman, faculty from public health, has prepared and submitted a grant to implement a major public health program on obesity and cardiac health in Lenoir County.
So far, the response has been positive: “From a staffing and elected official point of view, the work with CCP has been an energizing experience for our town. The graduate students from UNC have been extremely professional and brought with them fresh ideas to help with various projects in our community. As town manager of a small North Carolina town, it has been rewarding to see UNC -Chapel Hill use resources and expertise to assist our county,” explains David Parrish of Yanceyville in Caswell County.
The first phase of the pilot – which began this summer – is about building relationships, trust and momentum in each county. Following a kick-off event in each county, intended to highlight local requests and projects, phase II will begin. Phase II involves further goal-setting conversations between community and campus stakeholders designed to determine the nature of the CCP partnership for the future of the community.
CCP has received $1 million in funding from UNC -Chapel Hill, UNC General Administration and the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center to support the pilot. Looking forward, Will Lambe has high hopes for the future of CCP beyond the two-year pilot.
“What began as a response to the UNC Tomorrow initiative has turned into a system-wide effort to respond directly to the needs of economically distressed communities. In the long-term, we hope to continue to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with communities in our state.”
For further information, please contact:
Associate Director, Community & Economic Development Program
Director, Community Campus Partnership
School of Government
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill