PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island School of Design has been named one of the country’s top 25 “best neighbor” colleges and universities because of its positive impact on the local community.
Dr. Evan S. Dobelle, president of Westfield State College in Massachusetts and former head of Trinity College in Hartford, released the list Tuesday at the annual conference of the Coalition for Urban and Metropolitan Universities in Philadelphia. The rankings are an update of a list he first put together in 2006.
Dobella said the 25 institutions were chosen based on “their positive impact on their urban communities, including both commercial and residential activities such as revitalization, cultural renewal, economics, and community service and development.”
RISD placed 20th on the list. Liisa Silander, director of editorial services at the school, noted that it was both “the only college in New England and the only art school in the country to rank in the top 25.”
“Rhode Island School of Design supports a student driven public arts initiative, which involves students and faculty with important economic, social and cultural issues,” Dobelle said in his report.
Among other partnerships, Dobelle noted RISD has worked with the Providence Police Department on improving the design of squad cars and with the U.S. Coast Guard on fashioning new boats. “RISD continues to serve as the catalyst and anchor tenant in the revitalization of Providence for the past decade,” he said.
The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia topped the list, followed by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the University of Dayton in Ohio.
In addition to the top 25, Dobelle also created an “honor roll” of 100 other institutions making a difference in their communities, and both Brown University and Johnson & Wales University made that list.
Dobelle said the economic pressure on cities and towns caused by the recession has been driving more partnerships between schools and their surrounding communities.
“Increasingly, more sophisticated partnerships are emerging that are addressing complex issues such as homelessness and health care and are serving as catalysts for community change,” he said. “Colleges and universities are doing more and more to support their local communities, and it is a win-win situation for both.”