CARBONDALE - Eugene Trani worked to improve the symbiosis between Virginia Commonwealth University and the community of Richmond.
Trani spoke at SIUC on Tuesday about town-gown relations, fostering social and economic development between a university and surrounding community. The former SIUC professor served as the president at VCU for nearly 20 years and retired in 2009. He authored the book, "The Indispensable University." The event was sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
David Yepsen, executive director of the institute, said with Carbondale facing an open race for mayor and 16 city council candidates, the town and gown issue should be at the top of all the candi-dates' agendas.
Trani said in an interview before the event that he believes the relationship between Carbondale and SIUC can become "even more mutually advantageous."
He said when he became president at VCU there was a plan to expand to southern Richmond, but he decided it would be more advantageous to move toward the north which was not as economically successful. Trani said the university put $100 million into construction of buildings such as a new athletic facility and stu-dent apartments.
The city followed suit with $120 million in development that included a new Kroger store and a new Lowe's. He said the result was an increase in enrollment at VCU.
"It looks like (the strip) hasn't changed much since the 60s," Trani said. "How does Carbondale work to make that much more attractive?"
He said he also offered faculty the opportunity to teach one less course and use that time to work on projects in the commu-nity.
Trani said the community should be willing to embrace the student population because more students mean a healthier commu-nity.
"(The students) are lifelong advocates of Carbondale and Jackson County," Trani said. "The question of enrollment is not just an SIU problem, it's a community problem."
Source: The Southern