A common characteristic of best places to live, work and/or do business is the location of a college or university within those communities. That should not come as a surprise to those of us living in Oshkosh who have witnessed UW Oshkosh/community relationships that began in the 1980s expand significantly in more recent years to high levels of collaboration.
Becoming an active participant, rather than an isolated oasis, within a local community is a necessity for an educational institution that wants to fully serve its employees and students. Universities simply do not have the option to relocate (unlike businesses or residents) if university leaders believe the surrounding environment limits the ability of the university to accomplish its mission.
It is in the enlightened self-interest of a university, such as UW Oshkosh, to strategically utilize its unique resources to become engaged with segments of the local community. This point has become increasingly important as many traditional forms of support for universities and local communities have become increasingly scarce and as the expectations of local governments and campuses have expanded.
Keys to building campus/community relationships that result in sustainable beneficial partnerships include: consistent, open, respectful communication channels between community and university leaders that result in identifying common goals and ongoing working partnerships; mutual recognition of the unique concerns and characteristics of the parties; willingness to share power, resources and credit for accomplishments; and patience to allow collaborations to evolve.
We are indeed fortunate that these characteristics are present locally and have already resulted in several strong collaborative efforts that have benefitted UW Oshkosh, Oshkosh and northeastern Wisconsin.