Since Lehigh opened its doors in 1865, it has been inextricably tied to South Bethlehem, the City of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley. Today, more than ever, the university continues to play a meaningful role as the local community transforms from a major industrial center to a diversified commercial region with stable residential neighborhoods.
Engagement in the community is a vital component of the university’s Strategic Plan, which envisions being a good neighbor and a partner in the renaissance of South Bethlehem. A Community Partnership Advisory Group (CPAG) has been formed at Lehigh and charged by President Alice Gast with developing an implementation plan for this strategic initiative. The group is chaired by Dale Kochard, assistant vice president for community and regional affairs, and Tom Hyclak, professor of economics.
“A healthy community is truly in Lehigh’s best interest,” says Kochard. “It’s important for us as an institution to make a commitment to building long-term, ongoing collaborations and partnerships throughout the local community that will help create positive, sustainable change for everyone.”
The goal of CPAG is to identify community needs whose solutions Lehigh could help achieve. The focus will be on four priorities: a clean and safe environment, educational partnerships, commercial vitality, and neighborhood revitalization.
A diverse group of Lehigh individuals will work with Hyclak and Kochard and with community and government partners to develop the plan. Members include Andrew Coleman from the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Roseann Corsi of C.O.A.C.H., Carolina Hernandez from the Community Service Office, Sandy Holsonbach and Steven Thode from the College of Business and Economics, Henry Odi from Academic Outreach, Arnie Spokane from the College of Education, and John Pettegrew, Silagh White and Al Wurth from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Engagement in South Bethlehem has been deemed a “Front Runner Initiative” through a parallel effort coordinated through the Provost’s Office. The initiative will take priority in the implementation of the Strategic Plan. A group of Lehigh community members will explore the addition of housing options for graduate students, faculty and staff near campus that could help with recruiting as well as benefit the community. The CPAG and Front Runner groups will collaborate on ideas and lessons learned.
Lehigh has a long history of community engagement. The Office of Community and Regional Affairs and the Office of University Communications and Public Affairs recently completed a report that describes current programs and partnerships between Lehigh and the local community that support the mission of community engagement.
The report, Partnering in the Renaissance of the Local Community, focuses on the four strategic priorities of engagement mentioned above and serves as an illustration of Lehigh’s commitment to the community.