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Strengthening College and Community Connections

Main Street SUNY Cortland

Main Street SUNY Cortland is a bold initiative consistent with a powerful trend in American higher education.

Colleges and universities are being called upon to assist the economic development of their surrounding communities while increasing the civic engagement of their students.

Main Street SUNY Cortland is a highly visible symbol of how the College’s administrators, faculty and students see themselves tied to the economic and civic well-being of the greater Cortland community.


Over the last 10 years, SUNY Cortland has been moving toward even greater economic integration and civic engagement with the surrounding Cortland community. A major step in this direction came with a Housing and Urban Development grant in 1999 to develop a Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC).

The three-year COPC project directed College resources — especially technical expertise and student involvement — to address needs identified by the community. Among COPC’s initial accomplishments were

  • establishment of the Cortland Counts community assets and needs assessment process
  • initiation of a children’s museum
  • consolidated housing plan
  • activities in support of the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement.

A second, two-year COPC New Directions project targeted the city’s East End neighborhood and included support for the East End Community Center run by the City of Cortland Youth Bureau.

Main Street SUNY Cortland Project

As these partnerships evolved,Main Street SUNY Cortland so did the expressed desire on the part of community members to have an even greater College presence in the community. Main Street SUNY Cortland, which opened in September 2006, was the next step in bringing the educational resources of the College into the local community.
Main Street SUNY Cortland is located on Main Street opposite the Community Restaurant. The building’s owners, McNeil Development Consultants, made extensive renovations according to College specifications.

The first floor houses the office of the Institute for Civic Engagement’s Community Innovation Project the Center for Economic Education (CEE), and The Beard Gallery, a community art gallery. The first floor also provides space to develop research projects directed at community needs. The Cortland Downtown Partnership, which was originally housed at 9 Main Street has moved to its own location on the 2nd floor of 40 Main Street.

The Community Innovation Coordinator is responsible for scheduling various educational, community and cultural meetings and events for the first floor space. The coordinator encourages use of the first floor as a base for student volunteer activities, service-learning projects,and internships to encourage even more civic engagement among SUNY Cortland students.

The Institute for Civic Engagement maintains its strong ties to and collaboration with the Cortland Downtown Partnership (CDP) which works with Main Street businesses to promote the economic development of Cortland’s downtown. Annual festivals, such as Chill-a-Bration in the winter and A Taste of Downtown in the summer, are organized by the CDP. The director has been instrumental in obtaining and implementing grant-funded projects that support and promote downtown, such as a $500,000 grant from the New York State Music Fund for cultural programs.

Main Street SUNY Cortland

The Center for Economic Education was developed with support from the Appalachian Regional Commission. It’s goals are to offer training to area businesses and their employees that will foster the economic vitality of the community and to train and work in collaboration with area high school teachers for economic education in  area schools. One example of this collaboration is a competition for the best new business ideas conducted in conjunction with Homer High School.

Main Street SUNY Cortland currently offers one classroom where both graduate-level and undergraduate classes are scheduled. By having late-afternoon and evening graduate classes taught at Main Street SUNY Cortland, commuter students who might not normally visit downtown are more likely to visit stores and restaurants.

Since the opening of Main Street SUNY Cortland in 2006, the College has attracted support for the facility and its programs from a variety of sources, including the McDonald Foundation. Their $100,000 grant helped to furnish and equip the facility with smart classrooms and laptop computers and to develop the first floor as a community gallery. Exhibits by local artists, SUNY Cortland faculty, and area students have been held in the gallery.

Starting the fall of 2008 through the fall of 2013, the AmeriCorps program, serving 14 Cortland non-profit agencies, was implemented. Development of the Building Community Leaders program was funded with a grant from Congressman Michael Arcuri’s office through the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE). One result of this funding was the development of the Judson H. Taylor Leadership House which offers SUNY Cortland students a unique cooperative living and learning experience to work for the common good. Learn more about the Leadership House.

The Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) Grants


Cortland Counts
Children’s Museum
Consolidated Plan for the City of Cortland
Groundwork for the Institute for Civic Engagement

COPC II: New Directions
East End Community Center (Partner: Cortland City Youth Bureau)
Partnering with Institute for Civic Engagement and the American Democracy Project
Main Street SUNY Cortland project

McDonald Foundation: furnishings, technology, gallery space at Main Street SUNY Cortland

Appalachian Regional Commission: Center for Economic Education

New York State Music Fund: cultural programming for Cortland's downtown and the community

Corporation for National and Community Service: 25 AmeriCorps positions serving 14 non-profits

Congressionally directed grant through the office of Congressman Michael Arcuri and the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE): development of our Building Community Leaders program

SUNY Cortland — A Strong History, an Exciting Future of Community Involvement

Main Street SUNY Cortland
9 Main St.
Cortland, NY 13045