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Students Learn from Community
Students at Santa Clara University learn a lot in the classroom —but some of their best lessons come from working in the community.
The University now hosts six meetings per year of the Neighborhood University Relations Committee.
The next meeting of the Neighborhood University Relations Committee (NURC) is at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Schott Enrollment Services Building on the Santa Clara University campus. Come for a visit, a brownie or cookie, and a chance to witness a renewed spirit of cooperation between the University and the community. The city of Santa Clara introduced NURC in 1990 to foster the relationship between the city and the University. When Michael Hindery arrived at SCU in 2014 as vice president for finance and administration, it was a good time to re-evaluate and reboot the meeting’s procedures and goals.
Hindery immediately set out to change the structure and format of NURC to be much more cohesive. Meetings have doubled to six per year and have moved to the SCU campus, and meeting leaders and residents sit in a semi-circle and have a conversation. In addition to being more convenient for residents, hosting the meetings is a way for SCU to welcome the neighborhood.
“I want you to think of the Santa Clara campus as your park,” Hindery says. “We’re your park. Walk your dogs, bring your kids. This is a community resource.” Residents will always have an opportunity to bring any of their concerns to light at the meetings. However, in an effort to move action items forward more quickly, a subcommittee now sets a meeting agenda based on previous discussions. The subcommittee includes Hindery, three City Council members, the city manager, representatives from the University’s Associated Student Government, two neighborhood organizations, and a landlord association. During one meeting in 2015, a resident brought a complaint to the full meeting. Afterward, landlords talked to her in further detail and realized the solution was not to change policy but to reach out to one homeowner. Those are the kinds of interactions Hindery envisions becoming commonplace: simple, direct conversations that don’t often require new laws or other official interference.
“We want it to be an information-sharing session, but also a problem-solving session,” he said. “It won’t be perfect, it will probably never be perfect, but we can show some progress.”
At the August meeting, about 40 residents listened and many voiced concerns about parking, garbage, and excessive partying. City officials pledged to consider stepping up code enforcement, adjusting police patrols, and reducing the time allowed for compliance.
“We’re trying to make this more interactive than it has been in the past,” said City Councilmember and NURC Chair Lisa Gillmor. When issues arise, she said, “We are going to address them in a timely manner so they don’t explode.”