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VOL. 9 | NO. 47 | Saturday, November 19, 2016

Editorial: CBU’s Vision Extends Beyond Physical Changes

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From East Parkway, the Christian Brothers University campus has looked the same for quite some time, but recent construction and a new master plan are changing that. At the same time, less-visible changes hold great promise for energizing students as well as the community.

The university recently unveiled the second phase of its $70 million capital campaign, which calls for a complete reconfiguration of the campus to create more inviting places for students to gather and study together.

With the backing of his board, CBU president John Smarrelli’s goal is to have some kind of construction project in progress at all times – at least one crane on the campus, he says – as this transformation takes place.

But Smarrelli and his board, led by alumnus and capital campaign co-chair Richard Gadomski, are thinking well beyond the physical changes on the 75-acre campus.

And it’s those non-physical changes – the ones that line up with the university’s mission to teach its students to serve – that will have the greatest impact outside beyond the campus at the corner of East Parkway and Central Avenue.

Programs already underway show what’s possible.

A little more than a year ago, CBU partnered with Latino Memphis to create the Latino Student Success Program, a privately funded scholarship and loan program that, coupled with the student-led organization Hola CBU, seeks to give more Hispanic students the chance to attend and succeed in college.

The school also is working with students at nearby Middle College High School, bringing them on campus to take Advanced Placement courses for college credit. The initiative not only helps public school students prepare for continuing their education, it also demystifies the college experience, which can be one of the barriers to ultimately attending college.

Smarrelli recently told The Memphis News editorial board he wants to “blow up” his education program and chart a new path.

The relationship CBU has with Middle College High School will expand going forward, and another public school still in the making will become a laboratory of sorts, he says, for making sweeping changes in the way teachers teach and students learn.

Smarrelli is chairman of the group planning a new high school in Crosstown Concourse. Crosstown High School, which is approved as a charter school and could become a contract school with Shelby County Schools, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

Smarrelli wants to develop project-based learning – teaching to a student’s strength – and he hopes Crosstown High will become a training ground for this modern teaching method that ultimately will benefit area students at the high school and college levels.

As much as CBU’s campus expansion, the university’s desire to be a more influential community partner for the benefit of Memphis public school students makes this master plan a model to be copied, and one the Memphis community should be happy to support.

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