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Town-gown meetings benefit the collective community

September 12, 2016

Student, town, and university representatives to the town-gown committee.

Student, town, and university representatives to the town-gown committee stand on Main Street at the entrance to Virginia Tech.
Where town and university interests intersect: Student Kameron Mangin, Deputy Town Manager Steve Ross, and Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok lead efforts to promote strong collaboration between Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg.

It’s no accident that the 2017 Princeton Review ranked Virginia Tech first among colleges and universities in the nation for “Best Quality of Life” and seventh nationally in the category “Town-Gown Relations are Great.” Much of the recognition is due to the planning and purposeful dialogue facilitated by the town-gown committee, a group made up of Virginia Tech and Town of Blacksburg representatives.

Six times a year, the town-gown team holds monthly forums on issues that generate conversation across campus and throughout Blacksburg. The meetings are open to all interested members of the town and university communities.

“Town-gown meetings develop positive relationships among Blacksburg residents and Virginia Tech students through camaraderie, communication, and service for the betterment of the collective community,” said Deputy Town Manager Steven Ross. “These interactions are what make the town and the university special places.”

This is the eighth year Ross and Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok have co-chaired the town-gown meetings. They said the development and maturation of the town-gown relationship is intentional and ongoing.

“Strong town-gown partnerships don’t just happen; the trusted Blacksburg-Virginia Tech relationships result from the hard work and dedication of many people over decades,” said Shushok. “Town-gown meetings are a visible sign of our commitment to view our success collectively, to dream together, and to face problems collaboratively.”

Student voices are a key part of the meetings, with members of the Virginia Tech Student Life Council taking an active role in the discussions. Council chair Kameron Mangin, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, a senior majoring in physics in the College of Science, said town-gown meetings help the council fulfill its main directive to improve undergraduate life at Virginia Tech.

“Having students present at town-gown allows for an exchange of perspectives between residents and students, something that I believe helps foster a healthy relationship between the two groups,” said Mangin.

The 2016-17 schedule of six town-gown meetings will cover a wide range of topics:

  • Master planning a university in a college town on Thursday.
  • A conversation about safety, security, and policing on Oct. 27
  • Economic development and the town-gown relationship on Dec. 1  
  • Envisioning the future of Blacksburg, an interactive simulation on Feb. 16
  • When students and townies live together, a panel discussion on March 16
  • A community dialogue on race, religion, and diversity on April 20. 

All town-gown meetings are held at 6 p.m. in the Great Room of Ambler Johnston Hall on the Virginia Tech campus. Students, faculty, staff, and town residents are invited to attend.

Written by Sandy Broughton.

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