New phase of community partnership program focuses on Oxford

Published 6:07 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

Projects include outreach to Spanish-speaking community, strengthening food security initiatives

By Erin Garrett

The University of Mississippi is partnering with the city of Oxford on a new phase of the M Partner program that aims to align university resources with city priorities to improve quality of life for all residents.

Email newsletter signup

“The university is grateful to call a place as special as the city of Oxford home, and we’re committed to partnering with the city to leverage our resources, share our talents and unite in efforts that benefit our community,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.

“We’ve witnessed the transformational impact of the M Partner program in communities across the state, and we’re excited to see those powerful results right here at home for this next phase.”

Boyce and Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill signed a formal partnership agreement Monday (Feb. 12).

Tannehill said she was “inspired” by the program when it was first launched by the university in 2018. “The University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford have always had a strong tie and it is exciting to find new ways to partner to improve our community,” Tannehill said. “I look forward to beginning work on the projects identified for Oxford and in seeing the community organizations find ways to expand their reach in improving the quality of life for our residents. I believe the sky is the limit when you pair talent and passion.”

A signature initiative of the Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and its work to partner with Mississippi communities to fight poverty through education, innovation and entrepreneurship, M Partner has a long history of supporting communities across the state. Since 2018, the program has completed nearly 120 projects in five Mississippi communities by engaging more than 50 faculty and staff, as well as more than 800 students.

Previous partner communities are Charleston, Ecru, Lexington, New Albany and Pontotoc. Projects in these communities were designed to improve quality of life by supporting small businesses, promoting tourism, advancing food security, offering educational enrichment, promoting community health, elevating local history and building capacity for nonprofit organizations.

In Oxford, proposed project areas include strengthening food security organizations like Lovepacks and the Oxford Community Market, conducting outreach to the Spanish-speaking community and creating marketing materials for Oxford-University Transit.

M Partner officials will meet on an annual basis with city representatives to determine goals and objectives for the coming year. The program’s collaborations typically last two years, although the university’s presence within the city of Oxford offers a more open-ended approach, said Laura Martin, M Partner director and associate director of the Grisham-McLean Institute.

Martin said that the university plays the role of an “anchor institution” in the regional economy.

“Anchor institutions can play a key role in serving low-income communities by better aligning their institutional resources – like hiring, purchasing, investment and volunteer base – with the needs of those of communities,” Martin said. “I realize that part of how our university can fulfill its public purpose is by embracing our identity as an anchor institution, and by harnessing our economic and human capital to benefit the long-term well-being of campus and the surrounding community.

“I look forward to the work and collaboration to come.”