By: Evangeline Politis, Communication Specialist, Loyola University Chicago
Last June, Loyola University Chicago hosted more than 300 university professionals, city managers and mayors from dozens of cities across the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. All were participating in the International Town & Gown Association’s 11th annual conference, connecting people from around the world to discuss topics ranging from neighborhood redevelopment to community partnerships.
Loyola was chosen to host the conference this year because of its longtime involvement with the town-gown movement, said Summur Roberts, director of Community Relations for the University.
“At Loyola, we really embrace the connection between the campus and the community,” Roberts said. “I talk about it as one phrase: ‘campus-community.’ It’s not ‘the campus’ and then ‘the community.’ It’s all one thing.”
The University’s commitment to the communities around its campuses is well documented and a primary focus of its Center for Experiential Learning. The center places interns in service positions around the community, including at Catholic Charities and Misericordia, a community of care that maximizes potential for persons with mild to profound developmental disabilities. Since 2007, Loyola students have also participated in Labre Ministry, forming relationships with downtown Chicago’s homeless and providing food and friendship.
Now, under Loyola’s current strategic plan, “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” the University is taking an even more active role in the neighborhoods surrounding its three Chicagoland campuses.
Last spring in Maywood, IL, home of its Health Sciences Campus, Loyola hosted its first-ever Health-EQ Conference. The daylong event gathered leaders from organizations around the community to set priorities to address critical health disparity issues in the area.
Participants determined that leveraging the many resources and areas of expertise that Loyola already has in place is most important. Attendees identified the main issues as environmental exposures, the stress and trauma of violence, housing inequality and mass incarceration. They plan to develop a Health Equity Collaborative and an associated strategic plan with a call for proposals from across the University. Together, Loyola and the surrounding community will put science and medicine to work for all, especially those who are the most vulnerable and marginalized.
Back in Chicago, Loyola launched Lake Shore Community Partners earlier this year propelled by a goal to develop an innovative community outreach program that improves the quality of life for residents through both economic and social efforts. Leaders from Loyola and the community identified four immediate priority areas: health, business, education and safety.
Partners for Health
The new Loyola Community and Family Services clinic is providing low-cost mental health services to families living in the Rogers Park and Edgewater neighborhoods. Developed by a number of University partners, the clinic aims to create stronger, healthier families in the community.
“There is a great need for mental health services across our city, but it is especially needed on the city’s far North Side,” said Richard Renfro, Ph.D., the clinic’s director. “Very few mental health clinics cater to marginalized families and children who are without the resources needed to seek health services. My hope is that this clinic sends a strong and positive message that Loyola is committed to the needs and well-being of our community members.”
Services include group therapy, psychological testing and evaluations, and school-based services and consultations. Located on campus, the clinic serves as a facility for training externs from the schools of Social Work and Education, who will provide services under staff supervision at local schools.
Partners for Business
Housed in the same building as the clinic is Loyola’s community partnership storefront and the first “tiny shops.” Supporting Lake Shore Community Partners’ business initiative, last spring Loyola offered all-inclusive, short-term license agreements to two local businesses—Third Coast Comics and Local Goods Chicago.
Loyola’s Department of Community Relations continues to work in coordination with the Rogers Park Business Alliance and Edgewater Chamber of Commerce to encourage economic development within “RogersEdge.” Together, goals will be set, an improved social media presence will be established, and a focus on increased attendance will be prioritized. The department hosts a variety of regular community programming, including Summer on the Plaza and the Loyola Farmers Market, in collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Sustainability. This summer, promotional street pole banners were also installed around the area where the two communities meet.
“I am passionate about economic development that respects the historic culture of our Rogers Park and Edgewater communities, while balancing incoming development into RogersEdge,” said Jennifer Clark, associate vice president of campus and community planning at Loyola. “Our local branding efforts and community programming will help put in place an economic infrastructure that will serve future generations.”
Partners for Education
Loyola’s partnership with these communities also extends into schools. The University is involved in more than 50 initiatives in K-12 schools, both public and private, and is actively working on new programs that can broaden and deepen its commitment to them.
Since 2012, Loyola has worked in partnership with local education leaders to develop Nicholas Senn High School in Edgewater into a quality neighborhood school and create a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate program. The University helped establish two four-year programs where students can focus on one of two concentration areas—digital journalism or global environmental studies—as they earn their diploma.
Senn has also benefited from the School of Education’s new teacher preparation program that places aspiring teachers in classrooms around Chicago throughout their four-year education, meaning even incoming freshmen get hands-on experience during their first semester.
The response from the school’s students has been notable, as 110 seniors applied to Loyola—an enormous increase from just eight applications four years ago. Last month, the school was also listed at #11 on Chicago magazine’s list of top 20 public high schools.
The University’s work goes beyond the classrooms. In July, nearly 100 faculty and staff members participated in a day of service at Eugene Field Elementary School in Rogers Park. Volunteers spruced up the school’s curb appeal with new landscaping and benches and brightened its interior by painting several vibrant murals. Loyola also donated and installed 20 computer workstations.
“As administrators, staff, parents and community partners work to make the lives better for Eugene Field students, Loyola's gifts will endure as lasting evidence that teamwork and collaboration can produce something awe-inspiring and beautiful,” wrote Cynthia Williams, the school’s assistant principal, to the volunteers. “Because of your contributions and outpouring of support, our school has been forever changed.”
Partners for Safety
The Partners for Safety initiative launched last February with a State of the Neighborhood Forum open to students, faculty, staff, and community members. Loyola’s Campus Safety department joined Alderman Joe Moore and representatives from the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Transit Authority to discuss existing safety initiatives and address questions from the audience. Loyola is planning to host these forums on a bi-yearly basis, and is focused on developing programmatic priorities for the upcoming academic year.
For more information on Lake Shore Community Partners, visit LUC.edu/lscp.