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UK Students Receive a Lexington Primer

By Erin Holaday Ziegler

downtown lexFour years of college is four years of finding yourself socially and [sometimes] academically for many students enrolled at the University of Kentucky. The city in which a student goes about pursuing the next chapter of his or her life doesn't always come into play.  However, a new course at UK wants to change that.

UK geography professor Richard Schein hopes to shed some local, Lexington light on students this fall with a Community 101 class being offered to university students through UK's College of Arts & Sciences.

"We've been an urban society since the 1920s," said Schein. "It's important for our students to become urban citizens, understanding gentrification, immigration, school districts and other city issues."

The class, which began a day after UK's drop/add period, is a "win-win-win situation," according to Schein and already at its 200-student capacity. "Not only will this class provide a great way for students to pick up a couple of missing credit hours, but this is about the university being a good neighbor and our job as a land grant institution in the 21st century."

The first class introduced students to the city, but that will most likely be the only lecture from Schein, who hopes to incorporate local field trips, class visitors and panel discussions into each week of class.

"I'm thinking of inviting some of our nearby neighborhood association presidents, Mayor Gray and Lexington's chief of police, to name a few," said Schein. "It's important for students to understand these local entities and to hear how the city views UK students."

Topics will change, depending on student interest and guest availability, but Schein hopes to have students traveling to the Lexington Farmer's Market, the Lyric Theatre and local historic homes such as Ashland and Waveland.

"Food, culture and the arts in a community are really important," said Schein. "A building like the renovated Lyric Theatre plays a huge role in neighborhood identity."

Schein, whose cultural landscape research has included sites in Lexington for almost 20 years, was tapped by A&S Dean Mark Lawrence Kornbluh to help develop the pilot course.

But with all the talent within the college, Schein sees the potential for professors from a wide array of disciplines to bring in their own experience in the future.

"We have many other professors that work locally, from Patrick Mooney in sociology and his work with food, to political science professors in state politics and archaeology too," said Schein. "We hope that this class really galvanizes this faculty group and continues to press on with the community and campus connection."

Schein wants to do more than just promote good citizenship to UK students. He wants to show students how. "If you want to volunteer in your community, where do you go and who do you talk to?" he asked. "I want to build that bridge and make our students aware of nonprofits and volunteer opportunities in the area β€” how they can get involved."

Schein's Community 101 is just one aspect of Campus & Community, a college program developed by Kornbluh as a part of the college's Envision 2020 initiative that encourages student participation in outreach programs linking their studies with specific community needs.

The community has come through with its own support as Kip Cornett, president and owner of Cornett-IMS, made a $50,000 donation to the A&S Campus & Community initiative which includes the Community 101 class.

"The College of Arts & Sciences has made it a priority to create opportunities for our students that expand their education beyond the classroom,” Kornbluh said. β€œThe Community 101 class is a perfect example of how we want to meld classroom topics with real life experiences in Lexington.”