Bridging the gap: OU/Pontiac partnership unites campus and city

OU students and faculty discussed student engagement issues at the town hall meeting in Pontiac Saturday, Nov. 15.

Representatives from Oakland University and the City of Pontiac held a town hall meeting Saturday, Nov. 15, to discuss the successes and strategies of the city-university initiative.

This partnership between the publicly funded university and its neighboring city has been in action for a year, focusing on growing community involvement and student experiential learning.

“Oakland University is claiming Pontiac, and Pontiac is certainly claiming Oakland University,” Mayor Deirdre Waterman said.

Along with Mayor Waterman, Oakland President George Hynd, members of the Pontiac City Council, and State Rep. Tim Greimel attended the event at Welcome Missionary Baptist Church on Oneida Street.

More than 170 people interested in the development of the initiative joined the discussion. This included OU faculty and students who were commended for their involvement in the partnership through political science, public administration and journalism internship programs.

Topics of conversation included identifying the city’s resources through asset mapping, the importance of growing the partnership and the Pontiac Moving Forward economic recovery plan.

Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor of Oakland County Economic Development, spoke about the six main pillars of Pontiac Moving Forward:

  • Educating and developing the workforce
  • Advancing strategic growth areas
  • Enhancing the local brand and image
  • Improving the local quality of life
  • Promoting priority areas
  • Aligning and empowering the implementers

Also discussed was the recent completion of the Diverging Diamond Interchange Project, which now connects Pontiac to OU across the University Drive bridge over Interstate 75.

The bridge was used as a metaphor for the partnership throughout the morning as the new span once again connects these two communities.

President Hynd, who has held his position at the university for 14 months, has made the OU’s involvement in Pontiac a priority since the beginning of his tenure.

“We should own our neighbors in our backyard, and that’s Pontiac,” said President Hynd.

According to Tom Kimble, co-chair of the Partnership Coordinating Committee, OU and Pontiac share three common needs.

“Friends, funds and freshman are the key to this dynamic partnership,” Kimble said.

This year, there are 23 Pontiac High School graduates in OU’s freshman class, according to Bob Maxfield, co-chair of the Partnership Coordinating Committee. The OU/Pontiac Initiative aims to increase that number in the coming years.

The meeting broke up into focus groups based on different areas of community needs, such as developing the workforce, promoting student engagement in Pontiac and reaching adults with educational deficits. These small groups of community members discussed ways to improve upon these areas through the partnership.

The meeting concluded with the opportunity for participants to share their thoughts with the committee via suggestion boxes.

The next OU/Pontiac Initiative town hall meeting will be held Saturday, March 5. The location is still pending, visit for more information.