Staff and faculty from the Middlebury Institute joined colleagues from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) to kick off “semester of relationship-building” with City of Gonzales to explore options for increased involvement, research and classes.
On Friday, February 21st, the city management team in Gonzales organized a full-day schedule of events to connect “Faculty Fellows” from both institutions with community leaders to promote meaningful collaboration. The faculty have made a commitment to take a deep dive this spring, and learn more about the city and its people, with the goal of exploring new ways to get involved with the community. Representing the Middlebury Institute were founding members of the Community Solutions Lab (Co-Lab), faculty members Netta Avineri and Kent Glenzer, Director of Immersive Professional Learning Carolyn Taylor-Meyer, as well as Institute Faculty Fellows Anne Campbell, Mahabat Baimyrzaeva, and Gabriel Guillen. Also in attendance was special guest, Dean of the Institute and VP of Academic Affairs Jeff Dayton-Johnson.
“Gonzales is one of the most innovative cities in California, and perhaps the U.S. as a whole, regarding youth development and smart economic development,” notes Glenzer. “It’s an ideal place to seek new kinds of collaborations between communities, students, and faculty.”
Gonzales is a small, tight knit city in the Salinas Valley, reliant on agricultural processing in Monterey County, approximately 34 miles from the Institute campus in downtown Monterey. Founded by faculty members and staff from the Institute, CSUMB, and Monterey College of Law, the CoLab seeks to build sustainable, long-lasting and impactful partnerships between local academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and city management in Gonzales.
“Salinas Valley is like the Silicon Valley for vegetables,” Gonzales Deputy City Manager Mark Hartunian told the group during roundtable discussions about the region’s strategic location for research and development. The agenda for the visit also included a bus tour of the town, presentations from the city management team about key projects and priorities, a lunch debrief session, site visits, a presentation from Youth Council members and alumni, and a networking social hour. The group left Gonzales with greater insight into the community, its challenges and successes, a filled with excitement for the future. As Sara Papineau-Brandt, recreation coordinator said: “In Gonzales, lots of things are not ‘impossible.’”
This initiative is made possible in part by the Claire Giannini Fund.