The Case for Public-Private Partnerships

Park trail. Courtesy Creative Commons. Photo by SeeAnnarun

by Dee Dee Mozeleski, Director of Development, Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

I went for a five mile run on Sunday.

As someone who has worked in education or philanthropy for over twenty years, I’ve learned to listen to the call of my feet hitting the pavement when I need to go out and think. I am a slow runner, in fact, I assume that when I run, I see more than the faster runners do. On Sunday I saw chipmunks, toads, a swan and her babies, a turtle on a rock, and, and when I stopped for a breather, two cows Suzie and Belle—IDed by their ear tags.

Where can someone who lives in Yonkers, New York’s fourth largest city, run and not see a single car or hear the wailing of a siren? Rockefeller State Park in Westchester County.

I got half way through my run before I had pushed aside my feeling of being hot and my fear of not remembering the way through the unmarked trails. At mile three, I realized I knew exactly where I was along the pathway I ran in 2005 during my last marathon training season. It was also at the three-mile mark that I really took in my surroundings. Rockefeller State Park is a diamond hidden to most New Yorkers who either forget it is there or who have never heard of it. In this way, it’s a lot like City College. And, like City College, Rockefeller State Park offers each person who enters it an experience unique to him or her.

Bridge at Rockefeller State Park PreservePublic Stewardship Beginning in 1983, Laurence S. Rockefeller donated more than a thousand acres of private property, held by his family since the late 1800s, to New York as part of a promise that the land would become part of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

It's is now a haven for runners, walkers, horseback riders, and wildlife. It is a home to some of the most beautiful plants and flowers in the region and, for those of us who have become enchanted by its beauty, a place to think and to become a part of something bigger than we are as individuals. What we all know is that we’re grateful for the opportunity given to us because of someone’s foresight to protect land that will outlast all of us.

At mile 3.5, I let my thoughts drift to the language we are crafting in support of the Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. I pieced together the meetings and discussions so many of us have had since the launch of the school on May 2, and I worked through finding just the right words to express the feeling of excitement, hope, and gratitude our students have told us they feel and the pride those same students and our faculty and staff say has instilled them with a renewed sense of momentum.

And how did we come to this point? I got to that at mile four.

A Combination of Support We got here through a combination of public and private support for a college that has inspired New York City since its inception more than 160 years ago. The founders of City College intended to build a school that would outlast their own generation—one that would be a part of the future of the City of New York. That future is now.

Part of moving from a division to a school is taking with us a vision of what is possible. All of this vision is achievable because of the support of so many, including General Colin L. Powell, for whom the school is named. In many ways, this isn’t simply a naming—this is a change of course—a way of saying: These students, this faculty, this entire campus matters, and will continue to matter for generations to come.

Lake at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Courtesy Creative Commons. Photo by Mat McDermottOn my last mile back through the trail and past the large lake so many of us use as a marker, I thought about the importance of bringing people together in ways that make sense to both the individual and the collective. Like runners at Rockefeller Park or students at the Colin Powell School, there is an education to be had that will be far greater than one might imagine.

I’ll be back at Rockefeller State Park this coming weekend for my long run. Sure, this training will take me 26.2 miles in a few months on marathon Sunday – but the education our students will receive, the research our faculty will be able to accomplish, the ability to take what is happening on campus and translate it out to the public – that’s going to last multiple lifetimes.

Read more about Dee Dee Mozeleski and our other contributors here.