A small town nestled in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Moundsville derives its name from the area’s many Adena Indian burial mounds constructed more than 1,000 years ago.
Now, a West Virginia University professor, the West Virginia Campus Compact and graduate students working toward their master’s degrees in public administration are collaborating with the community to address community and economic development opportunities.
Margaret Stout, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the WVU Division of Public Administration, has taken on a two-year project to help the town engage citizens in planning. The resulting comprehensive plan will guide all city policies and programs that have to do with social, economic and environmental quality of life.
“This type of collaborative project, addressing community needs, is part of our 2020 strategic plan,” said Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Jones. “Partnering to develop successful and healthy West Virginia communities is an invaluable way for our students to gain field experience and an important service component of our college and University.”
The project is divided into four separate courses, each of which will focus on one specific task of comprehensive planning. Initial research was completed last fall on the local and county governments, nonprofit sector resources, economic and natural resources in the region and demographics of the city, including factors like educational achievement, income, mobility and age. A Civic Index survey and set of Community Conversations were held this semester to learn about the community’s social and governance capacity and to mobilize participation. The planning and implementation portions of the project will take place next year.
“We wanted to choose an area to focus on that made sense,” Stout said. “Moundsville is close to our campus for easy traveling, and the town requested our help.”
During the organizing process, students met with key stakeholders in the community including government, business, nonprofit and school leaders. They also mobilized citizens through a variety of civic and volunteer groups. Each student is responsible for identifying a target demographic in the area ranging from tourism to government. They will act in an advisory capacity throughout the project so that they can engage in collaborative responses to issues and opportunities that are identified.
“I really wanted to bond with the community,” said Festus Manly-Spain, a master of public administration graduate and doctoral student in resource management and sustainable development in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “I’ve been working with the community on tourism and helping them to see the treasures within their community.”
Engaging youth has been an important part of the campaign.
“Currently I’m focusing on working with the youth of the town,” said Abigail Wheeler, a master of public administration candidate. “I hope the work we do provides a foundation for them to grow and develop. The project really gives young people a sense of possibility and community pride.”
The direct costs of the project are covered through a Campus/Community LINK program grant from Campus Compact, a national coalition of almost 1,200 college and university presidentsrepresenting some 6 million studentswho are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. Campus Compact promotes public and community service that develops students’ citizenship skills, helps campuses forge effective community partnerships and provides resources and training for faculty seeking to integrate civic and community-based learning into their curriculum.
For more information about the Moundsville community project, contact Margaret Stout, at 304-293-7978 or Margaret.Stout@mail.wvu.edu.
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