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Planning for Higher Education Journal

Engaged Institutions, Responsiveness, and Town-Gown Relationships

Why Deep Culture Change Must Emphasize the Gathering of Community Feedback
Journal Cover
From Volume 43 Number 4 | July–September 2015
By Stephen Gavazzi

Colleges and universities typically do not gather routine feedback from community stakeholders, despite the fact that various organizations dedicated to the advancement of higher education continually have clamored for campus representatives to be more responsive to members of host communities. Recent petitions for “deep culture” change within academia—in combination with recent methodological advances in efforts to understand town-gown relationships—provide a comprehensible set of motives and details for institutions to become more fully engaged in the process of collecting systematic information from community members. A review of recent efforts to conceptualize and measure town-gown relationships using a tool known as the Optimal College Town Assessment (OCTA) is provided. After reviewing results from a previous study that piloted the OCTA tool, qualitative data gathered from a subset of community stakeholders in that original sample are presented and analyzed. The resulting themes are described and discussed in the context of enhancing evidence-based campus planning efforts that meet the call for greater higher education responsiveness.

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