by Nick Valla, student chapter president, Villanova University
On November 2, 2017, Villanova University’s Department of Public Administration and ICMA Student Chapter partnered with the nearby municipality of Norristown, Pennsylvania, to host a meet-and-greet between residents of the area and councilmembers. There, students got the chance to witness the power and importance of a relationship between residents and government and the borough's ongoing effort to nurture that relationship by embracing education through face-to-face interaction.
In an effort to promote citizen engagement, the borough of Norristown hosted its fourth annual Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA), an eight-week program geared toward residents and business owners in and around Norristown who want to learn more about the aspects of city management and develop community leadership skills. Throughout the course of the program, municipal staff members conducted a series of sessions with an emphasis on three major themes: education, leadership development, and communication dynamics.
Villanova's event took place the night before the program ended, with a networking session that included students, CLA participants, and Norristown municipal councilmembers and administrators, some of which were meeting for the first time. It continued with introductions and a Q & A session, where the council shared roles and responsibilities and their perspectives on working as elected officials. Councilwoman Heather Lewis, a graduate of CLA and an example of how the course can create new leaders within a community, attended and offered her unique perspective. The night ended with CLA participants presenting their ideas to senior staffers and the municipal council on tackling issues of sanitation, community engagement, and a community center.
Villanova University's ICMA Student Chapter was chartered in 2010 and currently has more than 30 students from its graduate, undergraduate, and online communities.