Campus News

How Universities Can Help Shape Communities


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 14, 2011) − The University of Kentucky Gaines Center for the Humanities will present the 2011 Lafayette Seminar "Town and Gown III: The University-Neighborhood Connection" Feb. 16 and 23. This year's two-part seminar, which is free and open to the public, will look at how universities and colleges can help shape the communities they call home.

The 2011 Lafayette Seminar will open with the talk "How Great Universities Can Shape Great Cities" by Omar Blaik, president and CEO of U3 Ventures LLC, a real estate development and advisory firm solely focused on developing the university market. This free public talk is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, at the theatre at Lexington Public Library - Central Library. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session.

Omar Blaik founded U3 Ventures in 2006 with the belief that anchor institutions hold the key to sustainable community and economic development in many cities across the country. He has led the advisory efforts of U3 Ventures over the past five years working with university leaders, cities and municipalities, state governments and foundations. Blaik's advisory work focuses on institutional strategy, campus edge planning, deploying economic activity for local benefits, real estate strategy and economic feasibility. U3 Ventures specializes in leveraging economic capacity, integrating institutions with their surrounding neighborhoods, and creating opportunities for vibrancy around urban universities.

Prior to forming U3 Ventures, Blaik was the senior vice president at the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the university in January 1997, and served as the chief planning and real estate officer, with responsibility for planning, design and construction, facilities operations and maintenance, utilities management, and real estate development. Blaik’s leadership in forming a model of constructive town-gown interaction and partnership and revitalizing neighborhoods surrounding the university is described in Judith Rodin’s "The University and Urban Revival: Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Streets."

In response to Blaik's presentation, seminar participants will reconvene the following week to discuss the ideas Blaik presented in a local context at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the William T. Young Library Auditorium. This panel discussion, "University – Community Engagement Models," is also free and open to the public. Members of the panel are:

- Leah Ashwill, director of Western Kentucky University (WKU) ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships;
- Nadia De Leon, the community engagement coordinator of the WKU ALIVE Center;
- Paul Markham, co-director of the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility and assistant professor of honors interdisciplinary studies;
- Terry Shoemaker, program coordinator at the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility;
- Katherine McCormick, the James W. and Diane V. Stuckert Service Learning Professor and an associate professor in interdisciplinary early childhood education at UK;
- Bob Kelly, architect, adjunct faculty at UK College of Design, co-chair of the University Neighborhood Advisory Council, and founding member of the Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government Town and Gown Commission;
- co-leaders of Transylvania University's Community Engagement through the Arts Course, Kurt Gohde, professor of art, and Kremena Todorova, assistant professor of English;
-and student respondents.

The panel discussion will include also include a question and answer session.

UK's Gaines Center for the Humanities is designed to enrich the study of the humanities as an intellectual activity and as a means to self-betterment. The center offers courses and sponsors activities that appeal to faculty and students in all disciplinary fields. Annually, the center hosts the Lafayette Seminar in Public Issues, an opportunity for Lexington community members, elected officials, and faculty and students to discuss issues facing the community, such as the local economy, community gardening, public art and the creation of successful downtown spaces.

For more information about the 2011 Lafayette Seminar "Town and Gown III: The University-Neighborhood Connection," contact the Gaines Center at (859) 257-1537.