If you ask Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura, Ph.D. what it takes to solve complex problems, she is sure to cite faith, hope and imagination. But that is not all – in fact, far from it. Dr. LeMura is also quick to stress how important sound partnerships are, not just in addressing challenges, but in embracing opportunities. During her March 2014 inaugural address, Dr. LeMura recalled these words from French theologian and scientist Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”
Over the course of her presidency, she has sought to put that sentiment into action. The College has, in particular, forged numerous thoughtful, strategic alliances with the local and state government. Many of them are already beginning to bear fruit. The College’s ERIE21 program provides members of the Le Moyne and surrounding communities in Syracuse with greater academic opportunities that will help grow the local economy; the Salt Springs Neighborhood Association is strengthening the College’s connection to families who live closest to the campus; and the Le Moyne Area Neighborhood Development Strategy (LANDS) program is driving future plans for the area closest to the College.
Forging a New Path Via ERIE21
Upon its completion in 1825, the Erie Canal launched an expansion of commerce that catapulted Central New York into an era of unparalleled economic growth. Nearly 200 years later, and with financial support from the state of New York, Le Moyne has launched a modern version of this technological marvel – ERIE21. Its aim is to address the region’s twin problems of persistent high poverty and the inability of employers to attract and retain talent.
Like the original Erie Canal, ERIE21 is centered on a series of locks, which made the canal more navigable by lowering and raising watercraft. Locks 1 and 2 offer tech-based experiences and programming to local middle and high school students in an effort to equip and empower them with the skills they will need to thrive in college, followed by careers in an innovation economy. Lock 3 provides Le Moyne students from underrepresented backgrounds pursuing majors or minors linked to STEM or innovation, with the opportunity to participate in a highly successful collegiate support program. Lock 4 designs and delivers services, including custom-tailored clinics, Le Moyne certificate programs, and career training to individuals throughout Central New York, particularly those who are traditionally underrepresented in the tech industry.
The total direct, indirect and induced economic impact of ERIE21 in Onondaga County over the span of a decade is projected to be $1.8 billion, including the creation of 1,973 jobs. As with the original Erie Canal locks, ERIE21 locks make the contemporary economy more navigable for individuals by providing targeted, in-demand training and education.
The Salt Springs Neighborhood Association
The Syracuse neighborhood that Le Moyne calls home, known as Salt Springs, is tremendously diverse, with a mixture of college-aged students residing in off-campus housing, young families, and retirees. Many of the latter have lived in the neighborhood for 30 or even 40 years. However, given the inevitable transitions that urban neighborhoods face amidst changing demographics, Le Moyne has supported the creation of the Salt Springs Neighborhood Association (SSNA) to ensure that neighbors can work together to address the needs of the community.
The SSNA empowers neighbors to communicate with one another, tackle projects jointly, and advocate for their collective needs. Since its founding in Summer 2022, the association has played a significant role in building trust and creating opportunities locally. What’s more, it has enjoyed the support of the leaders of the City of Syracuse and Town of DeWitt (Le Moyne is located in both municipalities), who have sent representatives to its meetings.
This past fall, the SSNA partnered with the nonprofit housing and community development organization Home Headquarters to support a Block Blitz, in which a number of beautification and maintenance projects, including painting and landscaping, were completed. Other activities included a fall craft fair on Le Moyne’s campus.
Members of the SSNA hope to collaborate with nearby community centers to offer English classes to new residents for whom English is not a first language, and to establish a seasonal market on campus where local businesses owners can sell their products. Most important, the SSNA is committed to building trust and creating opportunities for the people who live adjacent to Le Moyne.
The LANDS Survey
A joint initiative of Le Moyne, the City of Syracuse and the Town of DeWitt, the Le Moyne Area Neighborhood Development Strategy (LANDS) initiative was established to build community and develop a vision for the area’s future. Informed by results of a neighborhood survey, a draft plan has been created that focuses on improvements in transportation, housing, infrastructure, municipal services, economic development, and overall quality of life in the neighborhood.
Today, Le Moyne’s leaders are working with the city on several infrastructure-related issues, including lighting, crosswalks and bike lanes. Consistent with Le Moyne’s mission-based commitment to social improvement and innovation, plans call for developing a neighborhood brand; connecting individuals who are interested in earning a college degree with the appropriate office at Le Moyne; strengthening connections with nearby schools, libraries and community centers; and continuing to support Le Moyne initiatives and partnerships with neighborhood and regional workforce development programs.
As she looks to the future, Dr. LeMura is eager to facilitate neighborhood collaborations in order to grow the economy and provide greater opportunities for students and community members. “As a Jesuit institution, Le Moyne prides itself on being a strong community partner,” she said. “We are committed, in the years to come, to building new bridges, new relationships and new ideas.”
By Molly McCarthy, Office of Communications at Le Moyne College
Le Moyne’s ERIE21 initiative was recently highlighted in an editorial in the Post Standard.