Using Higher Education to Strengthen Cities

Many large universities, land-grant and otherwise, reside in America’s largest cities. What is often overlooked is the impact that these universities can have on the communities that surround them. There are multiple partnerships with cohorts of universities that are using different methods to reach large audiences.

For example, seven universities have come together to “Collaborate for Change,” with the goal of sparking institutional reflection, engagement, planning, and redesign, making higher education more diverse and accessible. The seven universities in this example (the University of Akron is one) are located all over the country and are focused on building their cities up from within. Their work is framed within five areas of focus: To be collaborative, embedded, inclusive, accountable, and relentless with commitment (Urban University).

Downtown Columbus Ohio.(Jodi Miller)

Downtown Columbus Ohio. (Jodi Miller)

Ohio State is in a position to model this approach with communities, whether they surround its campuses or its various OSU Extension county offices. Ohio State is already a part of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) and Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), but individually, OSU has begun an effort to impact Columbus. A group of faculty, with one representative from each college (our CFAES rep is Julie Fox), has met over the last year to discuss the position that OSU has in the community surrounding the university, and in Columbus, with an emphasis on cross college collaborations to make the city better. This philosophy matches that of OSU Extension in the City’s and we hope to see it develop further in the near future.

(Submitted by James Stiving, Program Assistant, Extension in the City/Central Region)

Citation: Urban University
Urban Serving Universities Collaborate to Transform Higher Education, Strengthen Cities

Extension Technology in the City

Cities have been known as centers for innovation and progress for as long as they have existed. This is especially true in the technology sector, as cities often produce new methods of communicating and living with technology. Technology has become a very integral part of society, having something to do with virtually every aspect of our lives, in urban, suburban, and rural regions. As technology becomes more and more prevalent, the need to keep up with the technological changes grows as well. There are already many ways that Extension uses technology to disseminate information and knowledge, reach a larger audience, facilitate professional development, and communicate more efficiently with their local community (Typhinia).

Technology as a Form of Communication

Urban Extension programs have the most to gain from maximizing technology use for their various programs due to their large population base (Schneider). There are many innovative ways of using technology to better communicate with residents, and distribute knowledge on a larger scale, boosting Extension’s presence. There is also an opportunity to become more relevant with a younger generation who otherwise would not use Extension’s services (Typhinia). These connections can be made by social media use, as well as offering new programs that are more based around technology, that would facilitate greater interest among youth and young adults, as well as potentially connect Extension with other programs/partners who are interested in the tech side of youth development(Typhinia).

The Digital Divide

Digital Divide 2015-09-17Extension in the City is also in a position to address an ever increasing opportunity gap in the inner cities in America. Those who are often victims of the digital divide are disproportionately in five groups. Age, income/educational attainment levels, community type, people with disabilities, and language (Mapping the Digital Divide). In a brief released by the White House, the digital divide and how to map it were discussed. The unit of measurement consisted of internet access, educational attainment, age, and household income (Mapping the Digital Divide).

“Closing the gap—between those who experience these social and economic benefits from Internet use, and those who do not—will require further efforts to reduce barriers in affordability, relevance, and computer literacy.” (Mapping the Digital Divide 9)

This quote from the article speaks directly to what Extension can do in bridging this gap. By having adult computer literacy courses, and offering locations in which people without internet access can do things like apply for jobs, or work towards a GED or college degree are just a couple of the many potential programs that Extension can facilitate works towards a more equitable economy. (Full Article:

Potential Impact

Technology innovations give Extension the opportunity to impact the people, programs, partners, and presence of Extension in urban areas. Technology increases the ability to communicate with socially and ethnically diverse populations, assists in the accessibility of our programs, expands the variety of partners that we are able to work with, and increases the presence of Extension, both by name recognition, and physical locations. Maintaining a strong connection to technological changes will assist OSU Extension in the City to continue to be locally relevant, responsive statewide, and recognized nationally. Using this to improve marketing, programming, personnel through professional development, as well as creating new partnerships is necessary to have the type of collective impact that we are aiming for, while also laying the framework for years of Extension excellence in Ohio’s urban areas

(Submitted by James Stiving, Program Assistant, Extension in the City/Central Region)


  1. Kudryavtsev, Alexey, Marianne Krasny, Gretchen Ferenz, and Lisa Babcock. “Use of Computer Technologies by Educators in Urban Community Science Education Programs.” Journal of Extension5 (2007): n. pag. Extension Journal, Oct. 2007. Web. Sept. 2015.
  2. Mapping the Digital Divide.
  3. Schneider, Sandra, Donna-Jean Brock, Crystal Lane, Peggy Meszaros, and Barbara Lockee. “Using Information Technology to Forge Connections in an Extension Service Project.” Journal of Extension6 (2011): n. pag. Extension Journal, Dec. 2011. Web. Sept. 2015.
  4. Typhinia, Eli, Robert Bardon, and Laurie Gharis. “Collaborating with Your Clients Using Social Media & Mobile Communications.” Journal of Extension 53.1 (2015): n. pag. Extension Journal, Feb. 2015. Web. Sept. 2015.

Extension in the City: focusing on city priorities

Cities are booming. All across the United States, as well as the world, the urban population continues to grow at historic rates. Currently, 80% of Americans live in an area defined as “urban,” the same as Ohio. Over half of the people in Ohio live in the ten most populated counties, and even larger proportions of people are economically contingent on these urban areas. This creates peculiar urban-suburban-rural dependencies. The connection between these areas leads to an interesting network for Extension programming. Extension is traditionally known as an agricultural-based organization that operates mostly in rural areas, but tries to take a different, more applicable approach when working in urban areas.

Extension in the CityWith 11.5 million residents, Ohio is the seventh most populated state in the nation. Ohio’s six largest cities are Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and Dayton. Ohio’s ten most populated counties are Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Summit, Montgomery, Lucas, Stark, Butler, Lorain and Mahoning.

To reach more residents in Ohio’s largest cities, four primary working groups have emerged in Extension to focus on different city priorities. These areas of focus were identified through conversations with various stakeholder groups, supported through campus and national networks, and approached through multi-disciplinary teams and resources. The groups collaborate and discuss programming barriers they face in their cities, as well as new ways to address these issues. While every city in Ohio is unique, these working groups assist one another in more effectively impacting their area of focus.

  • Food & Agriculture in the City: Ohio communities are making the production, processing, distribution, preparation and celebration of food a catalyst for urban neighborhood redevelopment.
  • Health and Wellness in the City: Extension empowers Ohioans with the knowledge, skills and tools needed to make healthy choices, creating healthy people with healthy relationships and healthy finances at every stage of life.
  • 4-H Youth Development in the City: The OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development programming offers educational opportunities in a variety of settings for youth ages 5–19, catering to urban audiences.
  • Sustainable Cities: Extension specialists work with city leaders on economic, environmental and social drivers that impact life in the city.

As these working groups are creating ways to more efficiently reach potential participants, efforts are also being made to better equip our educators in urban areas with tools to reach more people. The goal is to provide them with ways to make their programs more applicable to residents in the cities where they work, as well as facilitating professional development to ensure they are being excellent ambassadors of The Ohio State University, the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and OSU Extension.

To learn more, visit This is an emerging effort and your comments, suggestions and participation are all welcomed. If you think you would like to join the OSU Extension in the City team as a core, affiliate/working group or informational member, please feel free to contact James Stiving ( or Julie Fox (

(Submitted by James Stiving, Program Assistant, Extension in the City/Central Region Office and Julie Fox, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, Director of Central Region and OSU Extension in the City)