Around the world, communities are working to take advantage of the technology revolution now propelling the global shift toward an information-based society, in which knowledge is the new capital and higher education is the new machine. Jacksonville, even with some of the necessary machinery in place, needs to build its intellectual infrastructure, which includes everything from improving high school graduation rates to attracting more research dollars into the local economy. Despite the recent rapid growth of the community and its higher education institutions, neither the community nor its colleges and universities have worked together in a strategic, comprehensive way to position Jacksonville for the future.
The Town and Gown study committee began by identifying current and potential roles for both the community and higher education institutions in building the intellectual capacity of Jacksonville. In doing this, the committee reviewed the historical growth of higher education in the community. The committee then examined how higher education institutions were meeting the needs of the local community, and whether the community was supporting those endeavors. Lastly, the study committee identified successful efforts in other communities where strategic collaborations between institutions of higher education and the community have produced tangible results.
The committee found that Jacksonville has reached a critical juncture in its history. Nothing less than the future of the community is in question. On the one hand, the future can be shaped through a deliberate, thoughtful, and intentional focus on building a community that recognizes knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge as a valuable local commodity beneficial to every resident's quality of life. On the other hand, the community (town) and its colleges and universities (gown) can continue growing along separate paths and Jacksonville may lose the opportunity to own its destiny in a world increasingly driven by intellect, ideas, and innovation.
To compete globally and improve its quality of life, the Jacksonville community has to work locally with its higher education institutions to: develop sustained leadership in every sector of the community, including government, business, and higher education, to work towards building Jacksonville's intellectual infrastructure; create and implement a strategic vision that improves the quality of life in all areas of the community by co-opting the teaching, research, and service roles of universities for the betterment of Jacksonville as a whole; and build active collaborations between higher education and community institutions to carry out that vision as well as prepareJacksonville and its residents for meeting the opportunities and the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.