Oct. 20-26, 2000
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Connecting town-gown communities with technology
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Connecting town-gown communities with technology

By Charlotte Crystal and Ida Lee Wootten

Photos courtesy of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Public Service
U.Va. faculty and staff provide services that enhance the lives of Virginia citizens from youth to adulthood.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 18 unveiled two sites -- one physical and one electronic -- that demonstrate U.Va.'s increasing "connectedness" throughout the region, the state and the world. U.Va. is one of the founding partners of the Connected Community Technology Center, a public/private initiative to create a state-of-the-art community center that can help bridge the digital divide. The University also launched a new Web site, Outreach Virginia, so people connected to the Internet anywhere can find out about U.Va.'s services and programs, especially for the general public.

The Community Technology Center includes offices, classrooms and meeting rooms spread out in 11,500 square feet of a former industrial warehouse located at 999 Grove Street near the 9th-10th Street connector road in Charlottesville's Fifeville neighborhood.

The initial tenants include Computers4 Kids, a non-profit organization that provides refurbished computers to children who don't have computers at home; Piedmont Virginia Community College, which will operate two 25-station computer learning laboratories and a Biotechnology Training Center (moved from its previous location on West Main Street); the Charlottesville Area School Business Alliance; the CATEC Vocational High School's Virtual Information Academy; a prototype robotics manufacturing facility; and the Virginia Piedmont Technology Council.

The Biotechnology Training Center is a collaborative effort of PVCC, U.Va., the City of Charlottesville and the Weed and Seed Network.

The Connected Community initiative is a joint project of the Virginia Piedmont Technology Council, the City of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle, Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology and the Orange County Schools. Numerous private companies have also provided significant financial and in-kind support for the center. The Entrepreneurial Village, a non-profit organization, and Virginia Gateway, a U.Va. outreach program to encourage liaisons between the University and the region's businesses, helped establish the technology center in its new facility.

Outreach Virginia

A comprehensive list of the University's public service and outreach efforts

"The Connected Community Technology Center is the result of an innovative public/private partnership, committed to bringing the world of high technology to everyone," said David Kalergis, who chairs the council. "Located in the Fifeville neighborhood, adjacent to the University, the center is our model for the region, proving that communities can work together so everyone can reap the benefits of the new technological era." Kalergis has also been involved in the project through his position as director of Virginia Gateway.

Kalergis introduced Sen. Emily Couric before she gave the keynote address at the opening ceremony. Couric recently sponsored legislation that allows state agencies to donate computers to tax-exempt charities and public schools.

At Wednesday's event Gene Block, U.Va.'s Vice President for Research and Public Service, described Outreach Virginia, a Web site dedicated to communicating information about the hundreds of services and programs that the University provides. The Web site offers readers a comprehensive list of such outreach efforts as digital collections, medical care, demographic information, training opportunities, degree programs, public policy analysis and publications.

"We wanted anyone, particularly those in our local community and throughout the state, to see how the University of Virginia could help make a difference in their lives," Block said.

Posting descriptions of such programs in a comprehensive Web site was one of the early recommendations of the Public Service Commission that is part of the Virginia 2020 planning process.

Located at http://www.virginia.edu/outreach virginia/, the Outreach Virginia site allows readers to search for services according to the following selection criteria: interest area, geographic region, program type, audience, or a combination of such factors. People can also search the database by entering key words.

With currently about 300 entries, the site gives readers a good understanding of the breadth of programs and services U.Va. offers. For example, by clicking on "Commonwealth of Virginia," readers will see nearly 100 entries offering brief descriptions of such services as Bodytalk, Callaloo and the TEMPO Reading Outreach Program. More entries are being posted weekly as people at U.Va. post their outreach programs on the Web site.

The programs were identified through an inventory conducted last year by Laura Hawthorne, coordinator of public service. "The unveiling of the Web site is the first concrete outcome of the Public Service Commission's work," Hawthorne said.


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