OUR Clemson; Student Affairs

International Town & Gown Association annual conference starts Sunday in Clemson


CLEMSON, S.C. — The annual conference of the International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) is coming to Clemson University’s main campus June 5-8. The event is co-hosted by by the City of Clemson and Clemson University.

The conference will be a “homecoming” for participants and organizers alike, according to ITGA Executive Director Beth Bagwell. The 2020 and 2021 conferences were held virtually, via Zoom, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the first ITGA conference in person since 2019.

With a theme of “Multiplying Our Strengths,” the 2022 ITGA conference will focus on four substantive tracks. Those include:

  • “Being Well,” a nod to the toll that the COVID pandemic has taken on students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities as well as the financial fortunes of the cities and towns that house them; and
  • “Crisis Management,” with a focus on emergency response professionals and those dealing with emerging social trends, such as the nationwide racial reckoning.

Other tracks include “Building Community” and “Transforming Relationships,” a look at partnerships that foster economic growth. “Our members are exploring these topics through the lens of diversity and inclusion and attempting to address the major changes facing not only the United States but the world,” said Britany J. Waddell, board president of ITGA and assistant director in the planning and development department for the City of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The conference will include presentations and keynote addresses from several members of the University community, including opening remarks from Dr. Lior Rennert — Clemson’s lead public health strategist — and a closing address on Tuesday, June 8 from President Jim Clements.

A schedule of all conference presentations is located on the ITGA website.

Coming home to Clemson

With the COVID pandemic bringing multiple rounds of variants, and record levels of hospitalizations in some states, Clemson Mayor Robert Halfacre said the city is taking seriously its role as host of ITGA’s first in-person event since the pandemic began. Free community testing and same-day results, plus mask mandates on campus and at various places in town, have helped diminish COVID exposure in Clemson, he said.

“We are committed to keeping our doors open by maintaining our commitment to putting all aspects of health and well-being first,” explained Mayor Halfacre, “including physical, mental, emotional, and financial health.”

Clemson first hosted the ITGA conference in 2014, with a theme of “Roll Out the Orange Carpet,” a nod to the university’s colors and its pride in the national award–winning Clemson Tigers football team. University officials also are eager to showcase the town-and-gown collaborations they have developed with the city in recent years, including a Joint City University Advisory Board that features seven work groups.

“Leaders from across campus are working to ensure the conference is welcoming to all participants with relevant sessions to increase understanding of town-gown relationships,” said Johnson Link, associate vice president for student affairs at Clemson.

2022 International Town & Gown Association Annual Conference logo

What is ‘town and gown’?

The term “town and gown” dates to the Middle Ages but is particularly relevant at a time of unprecedented pressures and change in higher education — and, by extension, in their municipalities. That makes an in-person conference essential, according to ITGA’s Bagwell: “The networking is so important, and we all have Zoom fatigue.”

Although the 2020 conference hosted by University of Colorado–Boulder and the 2021 conference hosted by Marquette University in Milwaukee drew hundreds of attendees via Zoom, Bagwell said ITGA members and other guests missed the opportunity to visit and interact in person. “We’re like a family,” she explained. “Not being able to get together to share and catch up and see our old friends and make new ones has been very difficult.”

Learn more about the 2022 International Town & Gown Association conference through the ITGA website.

More about ITGA: The International Town & Gown Association (ITGA), based at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, is the premier resource for addressing challenges, emerging issues, and opportunities between and among institutions of higher education and the communities in which they reside. Founded in 2008, ITGA has membership that includes colleges and universities, municipalities, as well as businesses and strategic partners. Learn more at itga.org.