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When thinking of the typical college town, Upstate residents are likely to immediately think of downtown Clemson. However, with over 15,000 students attending the seven public and private colleges and universities in Spartanburg, the Upstate boasts a second full-fledged college town. As a result of this, the College Town Spartanburg Consortium was formed in 2003, and last March, the organization launched a new structure “to achieve mission-relevant work year-round,” says Naomi Sargent, director of College Town.
The College Town Spartanburg consortium includes Converse College, Sherman College of Chiropractic, Spartanburg Community College, Spartanburg Methodist College, University of South Carolina–Upstate, Wofford College, and Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM). Its mission is to “capitalize on the advantages offered by the large number of diverse colleges in order to create educational, social and service opportunities for students; to create economic and brand development opportunities for the City; and to create and sustain partnership advantages among the colleges themselves.” Originally a concept proposed by former Spartanburg mayor Bill Barnet and the presidents of the six colleges who originally comprised the consortium, College Town Spartanburg has four focus areas—social engagement, business engagement, community engagement, and marketing—that provide different means of fulfilling that mission.
As part of the social engagement focus, College Fest is the signature event that kicks off the new academic year. It provides an opportunity for students to sample free local food, enjoy good music, and meet other students from the seven colleges in Spartanburg College Town. Outside of that event, College Town provides other opportunities for students to enjoy the local community. “We’re trying to get students off campus into downtown and experience what life is like from a social angle. We want them to play in Spartanburg,” says Sargent.
In addition to providing opportunities for students from other universities to get to know one another, College Town Spartanburg’s business engagement focus aims to expose students to career opportunities in Spartanburg, encouraging them to stay in town after they graduate. To that end, a College Town Career Fair took place in February of 2017, and next February, the group plans to hold a career-exploration event called “Careers After Class.”
College Town encourages students to engage with the community by partnering with the United Way’s Martin Luther King Day service event, but, Sargent says, they don’t want the focus to be on single-day volunteering. “We are working on creating some cross-institutional community engagement opportunities,” she says, “looking for opportunities to put their learning in the classroom into action.”
And lastly, the consortium focuses on marketing Spartanburg as a college town as well as marketing Spartanburg to college students. The students receive a welcome packet from College Town that includes a coupon booklet for downtown businesses and a “Spartanburg bucket list”—both intended to get students to explore Spartanburg.
“We want to show Spartanburg residents that they benefit by having the colleges here,” Sargent says. “We want residents to take advantage of what’s happening on campus, and students to take advantage of what’s happening in Spartanburg.”
To learn more about the events taking place through College Town Spartanburg, please visit the consortium’s Facebook page or the City of Spartanburg web page. Additional questions can be emailed to Naomi Sargent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of College Town Spartanburg.