Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Xavier outlines Evanston strategy

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EVANSTON - Xavier University will expand its involvement in the Evanston community this year as part of its strategic plan, the school's president announced Tuesday.

School administrators and faculty have been talking with neighborhood leaders for years about how to improve education, housing and economic development in the area, but President Michael Graham, S.J., said the institution is ready to take action.

"We don't have the deep pockets that a larger public school would have, so our approach to community work cannot be what theirs is," Graham said. "Instead, the way we have to operate is through helping to enhance the human infrastructure of a place."

Using the research expertise of faculty, the volunteer hours of students and input from community members, Xavier hopes to help the community grow into a safer, more sought-after place to live.

"Two years ago, Father Graham upped the ante," said Byron White, director of the Community Building Collaborative at Xavier, the university office that coordinates faculty, student organization and alumni involvement in the community.

"He said, 'This is great, but let's (have more impact) in the community.' It's starting to go beyond the conversation and dialogue and commitment to action."

White and others at Xavier are working with community members to retain long-term homeowners and attract new ones who want to live in a racially and economically diverse neighborhood. The university could soon include financial subsidies to encourage faculty, staff and recent graduates to move to Evanston.

And, Graham said, Xavier may introduce a scholarship program targeting students who live in Evanston.

Another example is Xavier's newly formed partnership with Hoffman Elementary School. Liz Blume, associate director of the Community Building Institute - a partnership between Xavier and the United Way - is coordinating the relationship with Hoffman, a 450-student, K-8 school.

There is potential to use Xavier's education department - one of the most active colleges on campus - to develop an adult education program, for example, something community members have said they want, as well as teaching, mentoring and tutoring programs.

Drew Asimus, chairman of the Evanston Business Association, said he is pleased with Xavier's involvement in the community and plans to extend it further.

"They seem to be continually searching for new ways they can assist the community," he said.


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