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Project Title:WKU’s Hill House Fosters Civic Renewal in Local Neighborhood Institution Name:Western Kentucky University Innovation Category:Research and Regional Stewardship Project Director:Terry Shoemaker, Program Coordinator, Institute for Citizenship and Social ResponsibilityContact Information:(270) 745-3217 , terry.shoemaker@wku.eduWebsite:http://wkuhillhouse.posterous.com
Project Description:

WKU’s Hill House provides graduate students with experiential learning opportunities to conduct applied/community-based research in various disciplines while living in the neighborhood. Through vital community partnerships, students learn the practical value of their academic training in becoming citizen professionals strengthening communities locally and beyond.

Hill House students host weekly Sunday evening potluck dinners for the community, providing the neighborhood with free space to gather, discussing contemporary topics, watching documentaries, and sharing meals. The students have partnered with community leaders, neighbors, the Bowling Green Neighborhood Action offices, classmates, and professors to organize involvement in their neighborhood and the larger community. 

  • Students gain a valuable graduate assistantship experience.
  • Students improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, revitalize the community, and conduct community-based research.
  • Build sustainable partnerships with neighbors, nonprofits, businesses, and city officials to create constructive solutions to public problems.
  • Extend WKU’s reach into the local community, empower students and neighborhood residents into active citizenry, and foster neighborhood camaraderie.
  • Students will produce community-based research that will be applied to public problems.
  • Students will lead in community discussions that foster cooperation and relationship building within the neighborhood.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:The success of the Hill House program is dependent upon the recruitment of the appropriate students. Finding the right students with the necessary qualities of self-motivation, leadership, compassion, and academic interests is the foundation of the program. Also, building the community’s trust of the program and the students has taken an extended period of time.  Students who are in a one-year graduate program may not have enough time to foster community trust.  Coordination of the program has had to be flexible and willing to mold and shift according to the students.
Evaluation Approach:Evaluation has been difficult because many of the objectives of the Hill House are difficult to evaluate. Much of the evaluation is done through conversations with neighbors and community partners of the program.
Potential for Replication:The Hill House program has much potential for replication. WKU has been contacted concerning the implementation of other Hill Houses in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The program would need to be tailored to the specific university or college and many aspects would have to be considered before implementation.
Additional Resources:WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility http://www.wku.edu/icsr 
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Gary A. Ransdell , Presidentpresident@wku.edu
(270) 745-4346
Date Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011