Thursday, August 1, 2013

Q&A: PSO on the Ground in Hart County

Archway Professional Ilka McConnell joined the Archway Partnership in Hart County in 2008. For the past 5 years, she's worked diligently with community members and representatives to help solve some of their most pressing issues. Her experience makes her the perfect person to give us a snapshot of what it's like to be on the ground as an Archway Professional.

What is the process for identifying needs within an Archway community? 
Needs are identified initially through a series of town-hall style meetings where people share their ideas and thoughts. Each community selects several key priority issues on which to focus Archway efforts. In Hart County, the key priorities are education, planning and visioning for the future, tourism development and community leadership development.

What benefits do you feel communities have working alongside the university? What impact have you seen as a result of this?
Both the university and the community benefit from working together. Archway helps connect interested faculty with communities around community-identified issues. Student learning is enhanced through opportunities to apply what they're learning in the classroom in a real-world setting with high-priority community projects and real clients they can interact with and learn from. The community benefits from the ideas and energy from students and faculty. The collaborative nature of Archway helps community leaders address larger issues that span the scope of their organizations by offering a neutral forum and regular meetings to discuss them.

What do you enjoy most about working with students and faculty at UGA?
It's a treat getting to know and work with students and faculty at UGA. Community partners always compliment the creativity, ideas and energy of the students that work with Archway projects. Mentoring students has truly been an honor. Also, UGA has so many dedicated teaching and public service faculty members who are passionate about what they do and willing to share their knowledge with others. It's a privilege to partner and connect them with opportunities to work with communities.

What projects are currently underway in Hart County? 
Several coming to fruition are the development of Hart County Recreation Department's first-ever long-term master plan and the Hart County Quilt Trail, which is focused on attracting visitors by highlighting tourism, agri-tourism and historic locations in Hart County using wooden quilt block signs painted in traditional designs. Another project with the College of Environment and Design has focused on developing designs for a comprehensive downtown signage for Hartwell's art scene and history. We're also partnering with Hart County Cooperative Extension to host a series of regional agri-buisness development workshops.

What is a typical day for an Archway Professional?
There is no typical day! Every day is different, which I really enjoy.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 
There is always something new to learn. My job is to understand the various silos of information, interest and expertise in both our community and at UGA, and how they might work together to address community issues and opportunities. The process is addicting; it takes a lot of patience, but the outcomes are very worthwhile.

To learn more about the Archway Partnership, visit 

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