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Oxford College hopes to connect more to Newton County

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Oxford College officials gave an update of its current and future projects to some Newton County leaders during a special meeting at the college this week. Pictured looking at a joint master plan between the City of Oxford and Oxford College, from left, is Rob Fowler, a member of the college's Board of Counselors; City of Oxford Mayor Jerry Rosenberry; Myra Frady, dean of Resource Planning and Chief Financial Officer overseeing the building program; and Joe Edwards, also a member of the board.

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Oxford College officials gave an update of its current and future projects to some Newton County leaders during a special meeting at the college this week. Pictured looking at a joint master plan between the City of Oxford and Oxford College, from left, is Rob Fowler, a member of the college's Board of Counselors; City of Oxford Mayor Jerry Rosenberry; Myra Frady, dean of Resource Planning and Chief Financial Officer overseeing the building program; and Joe Edwards, also a member of the board.

OXFORD -- Officials at Oxford College met with some Newton County leaders this week to discuss college developments and ways to connect it more with the county.

Some members of the college's Board of Counselors, including Pierce Cline, Joe Edwards and Rob Fowler, organized the meeting. Oxford College Dean Stephen Bowen, along with Myra Frady, dean of Resource Planning and Chief Financial Officer overseeing the building program, met with Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry and Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston and some members of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce to discuss current and future projects, as well as ideas to better connect the cities of Newton County.

"I'm just blown away at what Oxford (College) is doing," Fowler said during the meeting. "It's an incredible story and a commitment from the University, and a partnership with the town shows how much can be done."

He said the sustainable growth the college has is creating a place where people want to live and work.

"The Oxford College growth has been so great in the last few years that it's ready to play a different role," Bowen said.

He said many of his 930 students think they have no place to go outside of the college, except for Scoops ice cream shop or to the Atlanta Emory campus. He said there is now an opportunity to think of how to integrate the college more into Newton County.

Bowen said that since 2004, the college has been on an upward trajectory after Emory University research showed that many of its leaders began at Oxford.

He said the college has been through 50 years of neglect, so it's still catching up.

Over the next several years, Oxford College will complete its quadrangle restoration, finish up the Seney Hall exterior renovation, repair and replace the trusses and roof at Williams Hall, add onto and renovate Language Hall and the library, renovate the Branham East residence hall and add another science building to its campus.

Current projects cost $16.5 million, and future projects are estimated to cost $40 million; and the East Village residence hall that was built four years ago cost $28 million, according to Frady.

Roseberry said the college and city are working better together on projects, including joining together for a master plan, and he hopes that pedestrian projects like the trail system will better connect Oxford to Covington and Porterdale.

"Right now is the time we can interconnect," Johnston said. "It's a time we can break down those barriers."

He said the challenge will be for leaders to come together and drop the walls to decide what's best for the entire community.

Michelle Bryant-Johnson, chair of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, said that the college makes the community very inviting. That, in addition to growing industries, can make Newton County more marketable.

Bowen said that the college usually features several events per week that are open to the public and offers special programs from time to time that he hopes more residents will attend in the future.

Additionally, he said that Oxford students provided more than 15,000 volunteer hours two years ago in Newton County, assisting at schools and other community groups, and are continuing to do so each year.

The group plans to meet again in the future to discuss more plans and ideas.