Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed September 28, 1998
Contact: Kristen Lans

Cianci Urban Scholar

Study examines Brown University - City of Providence school partnerships

Brown graduate Lucia Trimbur's 40-page report examines why partnerships between the University and local public schools succeed or flounder. Trimbur, the first Cianci Urban Scholar, grew up in Cranston and is a member of the Brown Class of 1997.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A new study by Brown University graduate Lucia Trimbur says successful partnerships between the University and local public schools are those that are conceived jointly for a mutual benefit. Titled Successful School-University Partnerships at Brown, the report contains information from interviews Trimbur conducted with more than 40 people involved in 15 education programs.

Trimbur's study was supported by the Vincent A. Cianci Jr. Urban Scholarship, created last year by former Brown President Vartan Gregorian. The Cianci Scholarship is designed to honor Mayor Cianci and strengthen vital ties between the University and city. Trimbur presented her findings to Brown President E. Gordon Gee and Cianci earlier this month.

Elements of successful programs, Trimbur found, include those that recognize the importance of long-term thinking, model the process instead of the structure of other programs, establish solid and realistic commitments among all parties, treat teachers as intellectual partners, and are motivated by shared and coherent goals, not available funding. They are partnerships that set high standards and expectations for participants. They are collaborations not consultations, and involve Providence teachers in planning and implementation.

Programs are less successful when students are unable to follow through on their time commitments, when teachers will not devote extra hours beyond the terms of their contract, and when Brown faculty members are more interested in "studying the community" rather than designing a program to benefit the partners.

Problems also arise from the perception that Brown is a wealthy institution which should be giving the school resources or from perceptions that teachers who want to continue their education will find University barriers to parking, library privileges and appropriate course work.

The report recommends that Brown consider access issues including provision of library cards to Providence school teachers or those who are affiliated with the University. It also asks that Brown explore the idea of giving school collaborators University titles and evaluate opportunities for educators to use Brown's resources for continuing education courses.

Other recommendations included establishing a University-school coordination system. That step could involve a staff position, committee or organization which would cultivate, coordinate and document the programs. It could also mean the creation of a "University vision" to publicize Brown's work with the schools, encourage new partnerships and unify programs on campus.

Cianci called the information in the presentation "compelling and provocative." Gee said he plans to review the report with other educators on campus, including Provost William Simmons, and to plot out the next steps in terms of Brown's relationship with Providence schools.

"Lucia has done Brown a real service," said Gee. "The depth of her research for this project and the compelling, action-oriented nature of her findings set a high standard for the Cianci Urban Scholars who will follow her. This report shows that our faculty and students are making unbelievable contributions and that we have the opportunity to do even more."

Directors of three Brown departments advised Trimbur on the report: Chris Amirault, director of the Institute for Elementary and Secondary Education; Christine Heenan, director of Community and Government Relations; and Peter Hocking, director of the Swearer Center for Public Service.

Trimbur grew up in Cranston, R.I., and graduated from Brown in 1997.

Examples of successful partnerships cited in the report: