Why Universities Should Engage In Community Development

Columnist Neal Peirce highlights the University of Pennsylvania's efforts at improving its Philadelphia neighborhood -- and the resulting improvements for Town and Gown.

"Thirty-three armed robberies hit on or near the University of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia campus in September 1996. Broken glass, trash and sometimes discarded drug paraphernalia littered the area. Dark, empty streets made students and staff feel jumpy.

A month later Vladimir Sled, a 38-year-old Russian émigré and Penn biochemist, got caught in a scuffle with robbers. He was stabbed several times and died shortly afterward at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.

That was the decisive moment, the indisputable signal, writes Judith Rodin in her just-published book, "The University & Urban Revival," that the university she then headed would have to make a radical turn."

"It was a daunting task. Some faculty were highly skeptical, fearing diversion of scarce dollars from their staff slots and research. Others asked if community building was a university's job at all.

But Rodin (now president of the Rockefeller Foundation) insists a university worth its salt "has to show itself, its neighbors and its students it's willing to take on the thorniest issues of its time ... to put real skin in the game." "

Full Story: Community building 101


Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $14.95 a month
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.