In October 2017, CEO Dayna Del Val first heard Deborah Diamond from Campus Philly speak at the CEOs for Cities conference in Phoenix, AZ. The mission of Campus Philly is to “fuel” economic growth by encouraging college students to study, explore, live and work in the Greater Philadelphia tri-state region.” After listening to the incredible success this organization has had in keeping students in their region after graduation, Dayna knew this was something we needed to explore for our Metro as well.
TAP staff began to research and have conversations with Campus Philly. We called an initial informational meeting with university and college leadership as well as arts, business and government leaders. Then we began planning how to bring Deborah to the Metro. When Gate City Bank’s Steve Swiontek heard about this plan, he offered to fund bringing her to town in October!
We had a fabulous two-and-a-half days with Deborah and engaged a broad spectrum of the community’s leaders from across the business, economic, higher education, government and arts sectors as well as a number of college-aged students.
The funding from Fueling Our Future will cover a broad spectrum of activities and goals, including finding out what recent graduates need to be successful in a community, how to help them see the community as a viable place to settle, how to use the arts to engage them during and after college and more. More to follow. Thanks to Patrick Springer of The Forum for this write up. Thanks, also, to Gate City Bank and Steve Swiontek, Campus Philly and Deborah Diamond and the board of Fueling Our Future for seeing the tremendous potential of this program in the Metro.
By Patrick Springer, Forum writer
FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead metro area is a temporary home for 30,000 college students, most of whom head elsewhere to pursue careers after graduating.
Business leaders, struggling with chronic workforce challenges, want to change that.
The Fueling Our Future workforce initiative is backing a new effort called Campus FM with support of up to $250,000.
The aim of Campus FM is to identify what college students need and to remove hurdles in order to capture more graduates for the workforce, said Joe Raso, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp.
The program is modeled after Philadelphia’s Campus Philly, which has been operating for 20 years and increased retention of college students, with arts as the primary means of strengthening students’ ties to that city.
Dayna Del Val, president and CEO of The Arts Partnership, learned about the Philadelphia program in 2017. With assistance from Gate City Bank, she brought the head of Campus Philly to Fargo-Moorhead to meet with local business and higher education leaders.
Although Philadelphia is a much larger city, Del Val was struck by the similarities, including a similar proportion of students living in the two metro areas.
Back in 1999, Philadelphia was retaining about 25% of its college graduates — a situation similar to Fargo-Moorhead today — but kept 57% of its campus graduates in 2018, Del Val said.
Campus Philly made extensive use of arts programming and venues to engage its student population more in the community. For example, it hosted a large career fair in an art museum, she said.
“It’s really this idea of having college students think about where they go to school as a community they’re part of,” Del Val said.
Fargo-Moorhead actually has extensive arts and cultural programs and amenities, she said, but students aren’t always aware of those opportunities and are drawn by the allure of larger cities, to the detriment of employers.
“All the pieces are in place here,” but the community needs to do a better job getting the message out, she said. Two of the three local museums, for instance, have free admission. “But if the students don’t know that, they’re not going to take advantage of that.”
Photo credit: Gate City Bank’s Karin Rudd, Campus Philly’s Deborah Diamond, Gate City Bank’s Kim Meyer and TAP’s Dayna Del Val 2019.