Town and Gown conference: Leaders encourage interaction in community

James Heggen

Brian Phillips, graduate student in political science and intern at the city manager’s office, led a panel discussion about the city’s efforts to create partnerships with the students of Iowa State.

The session was part of the 5th Annual Best Practices in Building University/City Relations Conference held this year in Ames.

The conference is put on by the International Town and Gown Association, an organization of university cities for discussing issues unique to these types of cities.

The panel included Matthew Goodman, city council member; Matt England, junior in aerospace engineering and ex-officio student representative on the Ames City Council; Sheila Lundt, assistant city manager; Dione Somerville, dean of students; Chandra Peterson, senior in political science and former vice president of the Government of the Student Body; and Luke Roling, senior in chemical engineering and GSB president.

Phillips highlighted a number of the programs in place to foster relationships between students and the city. He said the ex-officio position was created as a way for a student voice to be heard in city issues, as well as the student affairs commission being created to review issues that affect students. Events such as the welcome back event put on by the city is also a way to foster relationships with the city and students.

Goodman talked about his time on city council and how much he has seen city and student relationships improve during his tenure.

“I think now in Ames is the golden age of relationship between the student population and the citizens of this community,” he said.

He said one of the biggest reasons for that is “lifestyle integration”

Lundt talked about the role students play in the community and how many volunteers the city has that are in fact students. For example, many are part of disaster response.

“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to work with students and help them succeed in the events that they’re planning,” she said.

Peterson talked about how well the structures in places have worked in her opinion. She said the atmosphere has been very welcoming and accepting of students and their opinions.

Somerville said the city has done a good job of recognizing issues that affect students and the university and getting student input on these issues.

Lundt also mentioned that although students don’t always vote in high numbers, they are willing to engage with the community.

“Sometimes people don’t give the students enough credit,” she said.