Helping students to link with others

Consortium: Twelve colleges in the area are members of the Baltimore College- town Network, which has a Web site describing campus activities and events.

February 25, 2001|By Katie Arcieri | Katie Arcieri,SUN STAFF

When Goucher freshman Bethany Field wants to find out about what's going on Friday nights, she clicks on the Baltimore Collegetown Network Web site.

Created by the Office of Communications at Goucher College in September, the Web site was designed to enable students to see and "meet" other students at each of the Baltimore Collegetown Network's 12 member institutions.

At the click of a mouse, Field, 19, can find out about activities and events at campuses throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area, get information about shuttle transportation services and restaurant suggestions for Mexican, Thai and other cuisine.

And the user-friendly site, intended to build links among the area's 100,000-student population, features a rotating student profile that includes a picture of a selected student, the school, favorite Saturday night hangout and favorite course.

Each time the page is accessed, the profile changes.

"I'm from Maine," said Field. "I don't really know what the area has to offer, so it's a good resource that pulls it all together."

The Web site is a flagship project of the network, a consortium of 12 public and private colleges and universities that has been working since 1995 to get the Baltimore area the recognition school officials believe it deserves as a hub of collegiate activity.

Participants include Baltimore Hebrew University; the College of Notre Dame of Maryland; Goucher College; the Johns Hopkins University; Loyola College; Maryland Institute, College of Art; Morgan State University; Towson University; University of Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Villa Julie College.

"All of the participant institutions have realized how powerful we are as a group," said Debra Rubino, president of the governing board of Baltimore Collegetown Network. "It's important for Baltimore to recognize the strengths of higher education."

A group of chief financial officers from the institutions began to meet in the spring of 1995 with ideas for how the schools could work to support each other and to increase opportunities for students.

They also were interested in highlighting the positive impact the institutions have on the area, including employment of more than 25,000 people.

The network grew out of these discussions. One of its first major projects took place in 1998, a transportation study conducted through a $150,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation of New York.

A shuttle system was developed in 1999 that allows students to take part in social events and classes at other schools.

The shuttle runs seven days a week, making stops at Towson Town Center, Goucher College, the Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, the College of Notre Dame and Loyola College.

The network also promotes Baltimore as a college town through contacts with local civic and business organizations.

It distributes laminated maps of the city and the surrounding area to the colleges for their use in admissions and public relations. And it started a cross-registration agreement in the summer of 1999, which allows students to take courses at other colleges at no extra cost.

Another major project is the Web site, which provides a public face for the network, and one that is increasingly popular with students.

Since its launch, the site - a redesigned version of one originally offered in 1996 - has logged about 8,600 visitor sessions a month, said Elizabeth Toole, director of the Baltimore Collegetown Network.

The most popular pages include the event listings, restaurants, museums and the student profiles.

"Here is this Web site where students can take advantage of all the wonderful things going on in Baltimore and at our colleges, too," said Toole.

The network makes an effort to involve students in the planning process for many of its projects, including the Web site.

A student advisory board, created in September, includes students from each institution who provide ideas on how students can get involved in events outside their home campuses.

"The students on the board tell us that getting together with other students from the other colleges fosters open-mindedness, knocks down stereotypes of people from other colleges, increases the number and diversity of activities and is a good base for networking," said Toole.

Michelle Campbell, 21, a senior biology major at the College of Notre Dame, said there are many advantages to serving on the advisory board.

Campbell meets with students from the other schools to talk about what's going on at campuses and to develop ideas for events.

"Right now, we are still trying to plan an intercollegiate event like having a concert," said Campbell. "It's still in the planning process, but we are looking for all college students to come and attend."

She said the rotating profiles on the Web site attract new students to Baltimore colleges.

"A lot of people don't think of Baltimore as a college town," she said. "It's good for prospective students to see a profile and say, `Oh, that person's just like me.'"

The address of the network's Web site is www.colltown.org.

More information about the network is available by calling 410- 337-6914.

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