The Oakland Post

Imagining Rochester from the other side of the Atlantic

Nicole Morsfield

Nicole Morsfield

Laurel Kraus, Life Editor

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This year will celebrate 60 years of Oakland University, 40 years of the Oakland University Honors College and 200 of years of Rochester.

Born out of this look back at our history, the Honors College, West Middle School, Echo Cognito and Rochester Grammar School collaborated to create the book “Imagining Rochester” and develop the relationship between Rochester, Mich. and Rochester, Kent in England.

“It was also a misinterpretation on my part because I think maybe the original thing was ‘oh is this where it’s [Rochester, Mich.] connected to?’,” said Dean of the Honors College, Graeme Harper. “Because we’ve got a whole bunch of stuff in terms of the city seal that suggests a connection in a way, and it’s not really the exact connection at all.”

It turns out there are 19 Rochesters in the world, and ours links back to Rochester, NY. Nevertheless, Harper developed the idea of creating a book made up of poems, short stories and artwork, in which students from both sides of the Atlantic could imagine what it would be like to live in the other Rochester.

“You can kind of travel without traveling when you use your imagination,” Harper said. “The point was, can we get people to imagine what a different life would be like to their own version of Rochester.”

In 2015, at the time when collaborations between the two cities were just beginning, the then-Mayor of Rochester, Jeff Cuthbertson, traveled to England on a family vacation and visited Rochester, Kent in an effort to aid the growing relationship.

“I lovingly refer to Rochester in some ways as a bubble,” Cuthbertson said. “We live in, what I consider to be, a wonderful and charmed community and there’s a lot of strengths in that. You might argue that there’s some weakness in it if you’re not looking to the broader world around you.”

The two cities are now looking toward potential future collaborations which could come in any number of forms.

According to Harper, Rochester Grammar School has a world class choir which does an American tour each year, and this year, he hopes they may drop by Oakland.

There is also the possibility of an OU study abroad program to Rochester, Kent developing out of the relationship, as well as a type of exchange of festival activities between Rochester, Mich.’s Fire and Ice Festival and Rochester, Kent’s Dickens Festival.

“It’s kind of interesting of course to think of Matilda Wilson at the time, because there wasn’t much else except Rochester to link to, was so adamant about our postal address having the Rochester name in it, and you sort of think ‘that’s kind of cool, Matilda would probably like this’,” Harper said.

Free copies of “Imagining Rochester” can be found in the Honors College office in Oak View Hall.

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