Sidney Ribeau

President Sidney Ribeau addresses guests at the Community Collaboration Day celebration.

Campus, community leaders celebrate collaboration

Leaders from campus and the Bowling Green community gathered Sept. 19 at the University House on Wintergarden Road to celebrate what they hope will become an annual observance of collaboration.

University President Sidney Ribeau and his wife, Paula, hosted the event where community leaders signed a proclamation recognizing “that our joint efforts contribute to a better quality of life for all.”

While those attending regularly work together on a variety of projects to improve the community and resolve local issues, it is thought to be the first time leaders have met to formally recognize that mutual cooperation and how it benefits the region.

Among those signing the proclamation were Bowling Green Municipal Administrator John Fawcett; Elaine Skoog, director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce; Paul Windisch, president of the Bowling Green Board of Education; Tom Blaha, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission; Sue Clark, executive director of the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation; State Sen. Randy Gardner of the Second Senate District, and State Rep. Bob Latta of the Sixth House District. Ribeau signed on behalf of the University.

The proclamation notes that BGSU “enjoys working in concert with business and civic leaders to add to the vitality of the community through teaching and research, the arts and public service initiatives”—a sentiment the president echoed in his comments.

Citing several examples of collaborative efforts, including Welcome Week activities, the Wooster Street widening project and Buckeye Boys State, Ribeau said “the heart and soul of any successful organization, of any successful city, is a collaborative spirit.”

He acknowledged a “flash point” between the University and the city last year over zoning issues, but added that they were able to resolve their differences. Such “bumps in the road” are inevitable, he said, but the key is how they’re overcome, and that’s more easily done if the parties also celebrate all they accomplish together.

Ribeau pointed out that the Sept. 19 celebration was held at his and his wife’s new residence to symbolize the University’s mission beyond campus—to schools and the business community, among others.

One new initiative the president mentioned is that he and Blaha plan to host luncheons with area business CEOs to discuss how BGSU can work with them to stimulate economic growth and create jobs and opportunities for young people. The so-called “brain drain” from the region isn’t the result of young people anxious to leave, but having to do so because they can’t find jobs here, Ribeau maintained.

Latta also noted the importance of high school and BGSU graduates wanting to stay in the area, and specifically cited the BGeXperience program for creating community on campus.

State Sen. Randy Gardner signs the collaboration proclamation while Bowling Green Municipal Administrator John Fawcett (left) and State Rep. Bob Latta look on.

His colleague in Columbus, Gardner, is vice chair—and Ribeau is a member—of the Higher Education Funding Study Council, which Gardner promised will do “positive things in the next 12 months for higher education.”

Blaha recalled that Ribeau used the word “community” several times during his first public appearance locally after becoming president 10 years ago. “He’s continued to cultivate that idea” through his outreach to the business community, according to the economic development director.

Having a resource like BGSU makes his job easier, Blaha said, who noted that the University is “a jewel in the crown of economic development in the county.”

The proclamation is in keeping with “what we feel our mission is,” added Skoog from the Chamber of Commerce. “This only strengthens what we see as our position economically.”

Fawcett, the municipal administrator, compared the city-University relationship to the one between he and his two brothers. Strong wills are involved in both cases, he said, but the common theme is bettering the community or family.

The city schools have a long history of serving as a “dual laboratory” for the benefit of both their pupils and the BGSU students who have worked in the schools as student-teachers, Windisch pointed out. “It continues to be expanded as we speak,” the school board president continued, explaining that within the next two weeks, 150 University students will be in city classrooms reading to students.

Ribeau referred to BGSU students, faculty and staff as “change agents” in the community. “These are the people who really make things happen,” he said.

For example, a collaborative effort among the Administrative Staff Council (ASC), Classified Staff Council and the BG Gives Back campaign raised $4,290 for Hurricane Katrina relief at the Sept. 9 Campus Fest.

“To see the groups organize it so quickly--it was great to see happen,” said ASC Chair Lona Leck. She added that her constituents and other BGSU staff “try our best to make Bowling Green a great place to work and live.”

Student leaders were among the guests at the Sept. 19 event, and students representing the President’s Leadership Academy assisted in greeting guests. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau noted that events such as the celebration help students learn how to become involved in the larger community.