Big Idea #5: Creating a center for strategic community partnerships

President Christopher Dahl's fifth Big Idea, "Creating a center for strategic community partnerships," aims to establish a headquarters where partnerships are strengthened and opportunities for funding are created and explored.

"Rich and varied community partnerships are a signature strength of a great public liberal arts education in the 21st century and a strength that we need to build upon," Dahl wrote in his official charge to the task force. "The Center for Strategic Community Partnerships has the potential to initiate and foster myriad relationships that benefit student learning [and] build support for the College."

In an initial step, the task force surveyed all department chairs as well as the deans of the School of Business, School of Education and School of the Arts to identify existing partnerships and relationships with other communities.

The force used the results of its queries to identify potential funding opportunities from existing partnerships. Possibilities that have been explored by members of the task force include offering training seminars and collaboration on grant proposals between partners. The task force is also considering the merits of an adult "education adventure" program, tentatively titled the Geneseo Summer Institute.

"With the Summer Institute, instead of spending 'x' amount of money on a cruise, you could perhaps spend some period of time on a beautiful college campus engaging your mind," said Harry Howe, business professor and co-chair of the task force. "This would be a great way of generating revenue while building a deeper bond with alumni and the college."

Howe said he expects that the task force's final report, to be issued in December, will include results from an interest survey distributed to alumni and a preliminary budget.

"We are considering whether or not a Center is a desirable thing for the campus, and if it is, what model we would follow," Howe said. "We're looking at different types of centers at other schools. From my perspective as an accountant, we're also looking at the costs and benefits of a Center."

Comparison schools include Union College, Brown University, Swarthmore College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Northeastern University.

According to Howe, the structuring of the Center would depend largely on the services and resources it could provide. "It's possible that this Center could be a managed Web site with resources and ideas available for people to take advantage of, or it could be a physical building or office," he said.

The task force has additionally been charged with identifying necessary conditions for the creation and growth of new partnerships, but the completion of this initiative may be deferred until substantial completion of the other charges, since Geneseo already has many partnerships with neighboring communities.

The task force will make a recommendation to Dahl at the end of the semester, and the president will then decide if any actions should be taken.

Correction: Last week's article titled "Big Idea #4: Rethinking the course load" errantly suggested that faculty workload would increase permanently if the college were to move toward a four-course schedule. Task force chair Richard Finkelstein and President Christopher Dahl have both stated that they believe faculty workload will actually decrease once the initial transition is complete. A fuller analysis of the issue is found at