Campus-community partnerships have emerged over the past two decades as a powerful tool for revitalizing communities and meeting persistent community needs. Universities are often the most talented and committed institutions left in our core cities or in declining rural areas. Increasingly, communities are turning to these powerhouses of human talent and ingenuity to forge collaborative efforts to achieve results what neither the university nor the community by itself could achieve. Thus, the mission of many universities, including Mercer, has expanded beyond the traditional goals of academic learning and scholarship. Part of this public mission has become civic transformation through community partnerships.
In 1996, Mercer joined forces with the city to reverse the decline of the neighorhoods adjacent to Mercer’s Macon campus. The results have been substantial, as more and more community partners join the effort and more and more faculty and students discover how they can be part of this transformation. Close to 100 homes have been renovated or constructed in the Beall’s Hill and Huguenin Heights neighborhoods over the last 20 years. Many of those homes are owned by Mercer faculty and staff.
From 2008 through 2015 Mercer partnered with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to transform a two-mile area between the University’s Macon campus and downtown. The College Hill Corridor initiative – born in a Mercer senior capstone class – leveraged more than $150 million in public and private investment that revitalized an historic area of the city, bringing new businesses, residents and amenities to a once declining area.
The successes in Beall’s Hill and the College Hill Corridor have attracted wide acclaim, earning awards from the International Economic Development Council and drawing interest from city leaders throughout the country.
The University also has partnered with the United Way of Central Georgia and the Peyton Anderson Foundation to implement Read2Succeed, a comprehensive initiative to have all third graders in Bibb County Public Schools reading at grade level by the third grade.