Med student Manolo Soto-Fournier is a product of Memphis’ educational system: He went to local public schools as a child, then got his engineering degree at the University of Memphis, did some coursework at Christian Brothers University, and is now enrolled at UT Health Science Center.
So when he describes Memphis’ educational landscape, he knows what he’s talking about. Even if he’s comparing it to internet spam.
“You get these offers that say ‘learn more.’ But that’s what you can do in a city with the diversity of universities here. Learn more,” Soto-Fournier said at this week’s Colleges of Memphis kick-off at City Hall.
With 60 percent of a city’s per capita income tied to the percentage of college graduates in a city’s population, the city of Memphis, the Assisi Foundation, and the area’s colleges and universities have come together to market the city’s educational opportunities.
“We’re known as the home of the Blues and barbecue,” said Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. “We love all that. Somehow we’ve failed to broadcast to the world an asset we have in abundance: Memphis is a city that has an abundance of high-quality educational institutions.”
The initiative also hopes to help attract and retain college students, faculty, and staff.
The area’s colleges and universities bring as many people — or more — to the city each fall as new companies, but they rarely get the same fanfare. In addition to a new Colleges of Memphis website to showcase the educational options the city has, the initiative will include annual welcoming and networking events for students, faculty, and staff.
“Every fall, our colleges and universities bring hundreds of doctors, Ph.D’s, professors students. Have we ever had a celebration for them?” Wharton asked.
Partners in the Colleges of Memphis include Christian Brothers University, LeMoyne-Owen, Memphis College of Art, Rhodes College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Southern College of Optometry, UT Health Science Center, the Visible Music College, and the Univerity of Memphis.
“The university presidents said they wanted to capture the vibe and energy of a college town where you have one entity driving things,” said Jan Young with the Assisi Foundation. “But we have something better.”