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Frank Kuan, director of community relations, stands outside the Center for Community Partnerships.
 
Posted 02.23.05

Director of Community Relations Focused on Wesleyan as a Partner with the Community

Q: Community Relations collaborates initiatives between the university and the greater Middletown community. How does this benefit Wesleyan and the community?

A: I would echo President Bennet’s sentiment: what is good for Middletown is good for Wesleyan, and vice versa. Wesleyan is a key employer and economic generator in Middletown. Under President Bennet’s leadership, Wesleyan has taken a proactive approach to town-gown relations – of course, the leadership of the City of Middletown has also reciprocated on this positive connection. One of our most recent efforts has been the establishment of the Center for Community Partnerships. The Center is comprised of the Service-Learning Center with Professor Rob Rosenthal, the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism with Cathy Crimmins Lechowicz, our administrative assistant is Migdalia Pinkney and the Office of Community Relations. Our goal is to look for opportunities that further collaborative relationships between Wesleyan and greater Middletown.

Another key contribution of Wesleyan to the community is in the form of employee contribution to the Middlesex United Way annual community campaign. This past year, I have the pleasure of serving as chair. Because of everyone’s diligence and effort, we raised a record amount of $140,018.18. This money stays in the local community to help with critical needs. Wesleyan University is one of the top three contributors in the County to the Middlesex United Way Community Campaign.

Q: What are some of your personal goals to strengthen partnerships with the city?

A: One of my goals is to be visible in the community and to actively participate in local events. Building partnerships between the city and Wesleyan University requires strong collaboration. I try to foster relationships with a diverse constituency. Working with my colleagues in the Center for Community Partnerships will also be a goal. There’s a great deal of synergy in this operation, and it will have a positive impact on strengthening town-gown partnerships. I work for Peter Patton, vice president and secretary of the university, and I look to support the work of his office as well in any way I can.

Q: How would you describe Wesleyan's image in the city of Middletown?

A: I would say that our current relationship and image are generally positive. Folks in town are aware of the myriad of work with which Wesleyan is involved. Main Street Middletown, Inc., The Inn at Middletown, the Green Street Arts Center, Community and University Service for Education, and our work with Macdonough School are just a few of the many community collaborations of Wesleyan. The volunteer involvement of our students and faculty, staff and administration is also significant and appreciated by the local community. Not to say that everything is perfect; town-gown relations are not static. There are always issues to work on, and improvements could always be made. It takes all of us to work together to maintain communication and connection.

Q: How does Wesleyan help the local economy?

A: Because of Wesleyan, Middletown receives PILOT funding (Payment in Lieu of Taxes); in 2001, this was $3.6 million. The indirect economic impact of Wesleyan is estimated at $107.3 million this past year. The Center for the Arts brings world-class artists to Middletown, and this certainly enriches the cultural landscape locally. The CFA has increased its community audience by 60 percent over the past four years. Through the Admission Office, we have 15,000 visitors a year to Middletown, and this certainly adds to the vitality of Middletown.

Q: When did you come to come to Wesleyan, and were you hired in as director of community relations?

A: I began my work at Wesleyan as the director of community services in June 1998 and worked in this position until June 2002. On a temporary basis, I worked with the Green Street Arts Center. In November 2002, I was appointed to be the director of community relations.

Q: What is your education background, or what led you to this position?

A: I have an undergraduate degree in biology with minors in Asian-American Studies and chemistry from California State University, Fresno. I also earned a master’s degree from CSUF in counseling, with an emphasis in career counseling. I would say that having the scientific education helps me to be more analytical with my work. I feel that the counseling background has been helpful in my previous work in community service and now in community relations.

Q: Are you involved in any community service, personally?

A: I do my share of volunteering and am involved with a few boards locally – Girl Scouts Connecticut Trails Council, Inc., Northern Middlesex YMCA, North End Action Team, Main Street Middletown, and Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce – Central Business Bureau Executive Board. Over the years I have been active with the Chamber’s Holiday on Main Street and Annual Business After-work Auction. For the past few years, I have also worked with the Friends of Long Hill Estate on a dinner/dance gala to fundraise for the annual summer concert series at Wadsworth Mansion, which is free to the public.

Q: Why do you feel as though you should volunteer in the Middletown community?

A: Middletown has been a great place for me over the past twelve years. Being able to give back a little through my volunteer work is one way I can contribute to making Middletown a better community in which to live, work and play.

Q: On a personal note, let’s be ‘Frank.’ You sound very busy. Do you have any free time?

A: My life is fairly ordinary, actually. During our free time, my partner, Mike Sciola, and I enjoy going to the movies – Mike would say that this is one of two foundations of our relationship – the other being dining out. Our taste runs the gamut – independent films, blockbusters, B-movies, and horror flicks. We’re not too discriminatory but just enjoy movies in general. It’s a great escape. I also enjoy shopping – Mike would say that I am a “clothes-horse.” I do have a fun tie and watch collection.

By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor