Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Panel Will Discuss College-Town Culture and Town/Gown Relations Nationwide

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Town/gown relations will take center stage on Thursday, November 18 when geographer Blake Gumprecht, author of the widely-praised 2008 book The American College Town, comes to Chestertown to highlight a wide-ranging panel discussion about college towns and the people – young and not so young – who live in them. "The College Town: A Conversation" will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Norman James Theatre on the Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.

View photos from the event.

Comprised of both townsfolk and gownsfolk, the panel – which includes Gumprecht, three Chestertown residents and a city planner from Newark, DE – will explore some of the enduring questions about college towns. Is every community with an institution of higher learning a “college town”? How do college towns differ from their surrounding communities, or from urban areas with similar amenities? How do college towns negotiate the sometimes conflicting needs and interests of students and permanent residents?

Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, will moderate the conversation, which will include open Q&A time with the audience and touch on some questions unique to Chestertown.

“The Starr Center is delighted to sponsor this conversation about what makes college towns uniquely vibrant communities,” said Goodheart. “As Chestertown and Washington College both face decisions for the future, we hope that the discussion will help us to see our own community in new ways.”

As a geographer, Blake Gumprecht’s interests lie in the “personalities” of different places. Using examples from across the country, his book examines what makes a college town a college town and what characteristics separate it from other kinds of communities. In the process of writing the book, Gumprecht conducted research on 60 very different college communities, eventually settling on 8 to profile extensively.

Published to rave reviews, The American College Town won the 2008 J.B. Jackson Prize from the Association of American Geographers and was selected as the Outstanding Academic Title in 2009 by Choice, a magazine published by the Association of College & Research Libraries. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted, “There are red states and blue states, and then there are college towns – a universe of their own, anomalous political creatures. This brilliantly worked-out idea by a University of New Hampshire geographer is that rarest of things – the first full-length study of its subject.”

During the panel’s discussion, Newark city planner Roy Lopata, who was profiled in Gumprecht’s book, will provide an “outsider’s” perspective on the nature of college towns in general. Chestertown residents rounding out the panel will be Chris Cerino, chair of the Chestertown Planning Commission; Dave Wheelan, a Washington College alumnus, former college administrator, and current publisher of The Chestertown Spy; and Carla Massoni, the civic-minded owner of a downtown art gallery that bears her name. They will offer their observations on how residents, students, and tourists interact in Chestertown’s college-town setting.

“The College Town: A Conversation” is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow the event. The conversation is cosponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College and The Chestertown Spy.

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About the C.V. Starr Center

The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience supports the art of written history and explores our nation’s past–particularly the legacy of its Founding era–in innovative ways through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach. From its base in the circa-1746 Custom House along Chestertown’s colonial waterfront, the Center seeks to bridge the divide between past and present, and between the academic world and the public at large. It also serves as a portal onto a world of opportunities for Washington College students. For more information on the Center, visit

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