Town gown compact to launch new partnership between Dartmouth and UMass

Feb 25, 2019

Although the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is nestled into the heart of the town, collaboration between the school and the town has been limited. Officials hope to change that by building a new collaborative relationship between the two through the launch of a “town gown” initiative.

The commitment to work together on projects both big and small is being formalized in a new compact. It will be signed by officials from the town and UMass Dartmouth on Friday during a community breakfast.

Although details about potential projects have not yet been announced, Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes said several broad areas have been identified to focus on.

They include economic development, teaching and learning, cultural and civic engagement, health and wellness, public safety and emergency management, and land and facilities management.

“We’ve never had a formal written relationship,” said Select Board Chairman Shawn McDonald. “I’m really excited. I’ve always felt we could do more for the college, and the college can do more for us. This is a unique and wonderful opportunity to solidify this relationship.”

It is an idea that has been talked about in the past. While town and UMass officials have worked on smaller projects, larger projects and a more formal relationship was never officially established.

With both MacInnes and UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson both new leaders - MacInnes began as Dartmouth’s town administrator in 2018, while Johnson was named chancellor in 2017 - officials began looking for ways to form a new partnership.

“In July, when I started, the [Select] Board here instructed me they would like to have more of a relationship with the university, and I thought that was a great goal to have considering they’re right here in town,” MacInnes said.

MacInnes met with university officials over the summer, and formalized a “Town Gown Group” last December, which is made up of officials from the town, school department, and UMass.

“We’re excited, and the best has yet to come,” Johnson said. “Anything we can do to help you, and help this town evolve, don’t hesitate to let us know.”

Johnson went on a listening tour of Town Hall last year, and has helped form the new partnership. He is planning to outline the first two or three initial projects soon, and more details about the partnership will be announced at the Friday breakfast.

“We both have similar goals to bring the community to the university, and bring the university to the community,” MacInnes said.