University partners with city to promote 'shared prosperity' for residents

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University President Edward Montgomery and Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell have signed an agreement formalizing WMU's collaboration in Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo, a bold new city initiative to reduce poverty and promote more broadly shared prosperity in the city. 

The memorandum of understanding, signed July 9, designates the University's Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations as primarily responsible for coordinating WMU's involvement in the initiative. 

According to the memorandum, the agreement "provides a unique opportunity for WMU faculty, students and staff to engage in community-based research, service and service learning in support of SPK, and to make Kalamazoo a national model of civic transformation." 

Dr. Don Cooney, Kalamazoo city commissioner and Walker Institute associate director, and Dr. Tim Ready, Walker Institute director, played leading roles in the development of the initiative adopted by commissioners in March. Cooney, a WMU associate professor of social work, and Ready, a WMU associate professor of sociology, continue to serve on the initiative's organizing committee.

Last April, the Walker Institute sponsored a workshop that brought together nearly 100 faculty and community leaders to discuss research and service in support of the initiative.

According to Ready, "The Success of SPK depends on simultaneously making progress on all three of the initiative's goals—the healthy growth, development and learning of children; strong, secure families; and improving access to well-paying jobs. WMU students and faculty experts in a variety of disciplines have much to contribute in identifying best practices, understanding the complexities of community change and in evaluating outcomes."

Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach, added, "It is more than just being a good neighbor or volunteerism. The University's involvement in this initiative aligns with WMU's core mission."

Internships, service learning and the WMU Signature Program, which encourages students to explore and develop their interests through out-of-class learning experiences, are some of the tools to be used to engage students in active learning in support of the initiative. 

Efforts to achieve the goals of Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo are singled out for support by the newly created Foundation for Excellence, which oversees a fund expected to reach $500 million to address various city needs. The initiative also has received significant funding support from the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Learn more about the Walker Institute.

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