Freedom Festival returning, new programs beginning with town-gown compact

Mar 4, 2019

A rejuvenated partnership between Dartmouth and the University of Massachusetts is kicking off with a bang with the reestablishment of the Freedom Festival.

The July 4 fireworks spectacular, previously hosted at UMass Dartmouth, has not been held since 2015 due to construction projects and budget constraints. As part of a town-gown compact between the university and town, university officials announced the event is returning in 2020.

It is one of several new initiatives announced at a community breakfast on March 1, held to celebrate the signing of a town-gown compact.

The new compact, announced by Chancellor Robert E. Johnson at the breakfast, outlines a commitment between the university and town to work together on tackling issues, collaborating, and bridging the university and town.

Specific to Dartmouth, the task force will better inform residents about free and low-cost public events at UMass Dartmouth, form a internship program with town government, provide professional development for town employees, examine public safety and emergency management procedures, and establish a land use committee, and engage students with the business community.

The compact officially outlines three goals: Establishing and maintaining a Town/Gown Task Force, collaborating to implement mutually beneficial activities, and issuing an annual Town/Gown Task Force Report.

At the March 1 breakfast, professors and university officials spoke about collaborative work already underway, and announced several new initiatives in addition to the Freedom Festival.

Dr. Alex Fowler, Associate Provost for Research and Economic Development, announced the launch of a new Community Engaged Research Initiative, which will connect university researchers with the community to solve problems.

“We’re going to bring a group of faculty together, to partner with the community, and find ways to help the community, help groups in the community to address and understand the challenges that they face, that they want to deal with,” Fowler said.

The new initiative will be lead by a group of researchers and professors from varying disciplines, including English, nursing, sociology, public policy, education, and operations management.

Building projects could also get a boost from students. Architecture professor Dr. Rose Mary Botti-Salitsky and her students gave a presentation about a library design the students created for Carney Academy. The project both helped the school, and her students through service learning. Her students will also be working with the Meeting Street School in Dartmouth.

With a crowd of town officials in the audience, many left the breakfast excited for the future. Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes noted students are already active in town through community nursing programs at the Council on Aging and other, smaller programs.

“There are some projects, but we wanted to make it more consistent,” MacInnes said.

Dartmouth Police Chief Brian Levesque intends to meet with UMass Police Chief Col. Emil Fioravanti to discuss public safety partnerships. The two departments already have a collaborative relationship supporting major events and crowd control.

“We’ve very excited about the possibilities,” added Superintendent Bonny Gifford.