How one university is turning its town into a university town

Clarksville, Arkansas—population: 9,500—is about 100 miles from both Little Rock and Fayetteville.

The University of the Ozarks is the heart of the town, and has been since it was founded in 1891. Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Nell Gluckman describes how the university is encouraging faculty and staff to live near campus and build a more vibrant downtown community.

Clarksville was, until recently, characterized by "empty storefronts and little traffic," writes Gluckman, based on an account by Steven Oatis, a history professor and the dean of the division of fine arts, humanities, and social science at the University of the Ozarks. University leaders had an idea: to make Clarksville a welcoming "home away from home" for students, especially since about half of them are from outside Arkansas, Gluckman writes.

A major piece of the revitalization effort has been the university encouraging its faculty and staff to live in the local community, Gluckman reports. The university began a homebuyer program, which campus leaders hope will nudge faculty, staff, and students to live near campus and get more engaged in both the university and the community after hours, Gluckman reports.

College town residents, meet your new neighbors

A "handful" of employees have already taken advantage of the program, Gluckman writes. In addition to the program, the town of Clarksville and the university have collaborated on upcoming infrastructure projects, including a traffic island on a street that goes through the campus. In addition, Main Street, a historic part of Clarksville, has attracted more visitors because of a new boutique store, sports bar, and a few restaurants, says John Williams, communications and marketing manager of the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce.

Similar efforts are underway at other universities as well. Colby College is working on a similar transformation in its home of Waterville, Maine. The project will include building a 200-student residence hall, hotel, and bank, Gluckman reports. In addition to the residence hall for students, condo-style housing will also be built for Colby College employees, according to David A. Greene, Colby's president.

Green points to other universities such as Yale University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania that have also worked to make their local communities more attractive places to live and work for their students and employees. For example, Yale and Penn homebuyer programs very similar to the one at the University of the Ozarks (Gluckman, Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/15).

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