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How the pandemic permanently altered college towns

November 8, 2023

This is an excerpt of an article written for The Conversation by Xiaodan Pan, associate professor, Department of Supply Chain and Business Technology Management, John Molson School of Business; Isaac Elking, associate professor of supply chain management, University of Houston-Downtown; John-Patrick Paraskevas, assistant professor of supply chain management, University of Tennessee

Concordia's SGW campus in 2020

Universities are more than just halls of learning; they are vibrant ecosystems and often the beating heart of the towns they reside in. Their reach goes beyond academia and plays a significant role in shaping the local economies of North American college towns.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic affected college towns profoundly. In doing so, the pandemic highlighted the complex relationship between universities and their host communities.

College towns can be classified into two distinct types in North America. The first category includes towns with a strong academic ethos. In these cities, universities are the lifeblood flowing through their communities. Examples of this group include Ithaca, N.Y.; Manhattan, Kan.; and Kingston, Ont..

The second category features academic powerhouses nestled within capitals or major cities. These universities are essential components of the broader social, cultural and economic landscape, rather than being the defining feature.

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