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Published: Saturday, 2/14/2009

2 Bowling Green State University community centers will be shuttered

BLADE STAFF

BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University is closing two centers that engaged the university with the community through partnerships and collaborative activities.

Partnerships for Community Action and the Center for Innovative and Transformative Education will end at the culmination of the school year.

"The two offices had very similar missions; in fact, they were overlapping, which was part of the decision to discontinue them," interim Provost Mark Gromko said. "In this time of budgetary crisis, it was inefficient to have redundant centers."

Those involved said the programs were becoming more self-sufficient, bringing in additional grant money, and should not be closed because they fulfill the community outreach vital for a publicly funded university.

"There are many opportunities that will be lost," said Kathy Farber, director of Partnerships for Community Action.

Partnerships, created in 1996 under the direction of former BGSU President Sidney Ribeau, aimed to redefine the university's relationship with the community with reciprocal partnerships. It provided grants and support for projects that the university and community agencies would work on together.

The Center for Innovative and Transformative Education did similar work, but focused on education collaborations for school reform. It started in 1999.

A large portion of the work included the Gaining

Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, which paired colleges with schools in low-income areas to improve student performance and encourage them to pursue postsecondary education.

According to information provided by BGSU, the university provided $171,614 to the Center for Innovative and Transformative Education this year and $173,416 for Partnerships in Community Action.

That $345,000 went toward the centers' operating budgets and BGSU's share of salary not covered by grant money.

The university said that does not include additional money BGSU provided in matching funds for some of the grants.

Mr. Gromko said both programs did great work in the community, but in a difficult economy BGSU needs to be better organized in its outreach.

BGSU must seek partnerships and collaborations where there is a benefit to both the community organization and BGSU, Mr. Gromko said, citing as an example its sponsorship of the Toledo School for the Arts.

The school can benefit from BGSU's expertise in the arts, and BGSU students studying music education or art education can directly benefit from interacting with students at TSA, he said.

Bill Armaline, director of the Center for Innovative and Transformative Education until he retired in December, countered that the programs were self-sufficient or nearly so and provided opportunities for BGSU as well as the community.

"I think it's a huge mistake on the part of the university not to continue these centers," Mr. Armaline said. "I think it is vital not just as a community citizen, which I think a university needs to be, but also as scholars to provide these opportunities."

Ms. Farber said she has faith the agencies will continue their good work but is sad to see the university close the centers because as a public university, "we have a social contract."

"Opportunities for our students and faculty are lost," she said.

- Meghan Gilbert



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