In the 365-seat auditorium surrounded by the trees on the woods-like Esri campus, community members chatted with neighbors and friends while they waited for the return of the much-anticipated Town and Gown event.
The Town and Gown lecture series started a little over 10 years ago when Jack Dangermond, owner of Esri, Char Burgess, former dean of external affairs at the University of Redlands, and Shelli Stockton, current director of alumni and community events at the U of R, realized that “the world comes through these doors” as notable speakers, educators and lecturers came to Redlands to meet with Dangermond.
Tuesday’s community forum, the start of the 2022-23 series, brought a more local speaker to the stage. Krista Newkirk, president of the University of Redlands, and Danny Anderson, recently retired from academia, spoke to about 200 people about the “Future of Higher Education and the University of Redlands.” The forum was offered both in person and online.
Blending personal stories, stories about U of R stories and facts, Newkirk spoke about the future of education and the connections between the U of R and Redlands. After working as a lawyer for years, she moved to academia, where she served as president of Converse College in South Carolina. A bit of nudging had her investigating the possibilities of moving to Redlands.
She discussed the University of Redlands, and its ties to the Redlands community along with the direction higher education will go in the future. A sharp decline of 18 year-olds following the 2008 recession will force universities and colleges to compete for more students among the shrinking population.
California in particular, especially the larger and more expensive cities, faces a shift as more people leave those areas. San Bernardino and Riverside counties lost many of their residents, but families further west moved inland, balancing out the Inland Empire.
Even with those woes facing higher education, Newkirk spoke optimistically about the University of Redlands and what it brings to the table, not just in terms of education but also in the community.
The train “is a game changer” she said, noting that the train will allow for more commuters and more opportunity to be in the community, allowing for more connections. The main reason students drop out of school is they don’t have the family or community support.
She also touched on the University Village, which will include student housing, a boutique hotel and local businesses at the train station. A local contractor will oversee that project.
Other projects in the work are the tennis complex, which will allow the U of R to host national championships, with more games being played simultaneously.
Newkirk also discussed the Redlands promise, granting students in the Redlands area with specific grade-point average and family income to attend tuition free, and families above that financial threshold to not pay over $23,000 a year. Transfer students from San Bernardino Valley College and Crafton Hills are also guaranteed admission.
Tuesday night’s event fulfilled the original goal of the Town and Gown committee of bringing the community together, learning about what is going on in Redlands, and doing interesting things.
The forum runs from Sept. to June, with one to two events a month. The next speaker will be Garner Holt of Garner Holt Productions based in Redlands on Sept. 14.