Daniels: Urban universities can transform local communities

The new issue of SAISPHERE, which explores the theme "Cities Lead the Way for Global Change," includes an essay from President Ronald J. Daniels about the vital role Johns Hopkins will play in strengthening Baltimore now and in the future. "No longer islands of privilege in a sea of need," the essay's subheadline reads, "urban universities are using their talent and treasure to transform local communities."

Daniels acknowledges the challenges brought on by a half-century of urban decline—not just in Baltimore, but in urban centers across the country—but sees a city poised for a 21st century renaissance.

"In a city such as Baltimore, it is not hard to see the decay," Daniels writes. "Today, Baltimore is one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, and its poverty rate is more than double the statewide average. The scourge of drugs has taken its toll, and vacant properties pockmark the neighborhoods. But in Baltimore, it is also not hard to see progress. Despite its enormous challenges, the city has made tremendous advances in transitioning to a knowledge- and service-based economy. Civic leaders drove the rehabilitation of downtown spaces, compelled massive public and private segctor investment, and transformed a port area that had been left for dead into a thriving center for tourism and commerce."

Daniels cites the University of Pennsylvania as "a shining example of university engagement" for its efforts to ensure "safer streets, a sounder housing market, revitalized economic activity, and dramatically improved public education" in West Philadelphia.

In its own way, Johns Hopkins can play a role in helping Baltimore solve its complex problems, he says. The East Baltimore Community School and the Homewood Community Partners Initiative, for example, highlight "the way the university can employ its talent and treasure in a strategic and concerted effort to transform a community."

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