Dave Davis works to strengthen town-gown relations between Northwestern and Evanston


Photo courtesy of Dave Davis

Senior Executive Director for Neighborhood and Community Relations Dave Davis believes community involvement is crucial to building trust.

Leah Schroeder, Reporter

On any given day, Dave Davis answers phone calls on topics ranging from beavers to emergency funding. 

As Northwestern’s Senior Executive Director for Neighborhood and Community Relations, Davis works to maintain and improve the relationship between the University and Evanston. He encourages both students and faculty to spend time in the Evanston community. 

“When you work with people in the community and you spend time shoulder to shoulder with them, you build trust and credibility,” he said. “You do your best to maximize and leverage your resources in a way that supports our shared goals and our most marginalized communities.”

According to Davis, building trust and respectful, mutually beneficial relationships between the Evanston community and NU is critical. 

While Davis has only held the role for four years, NU and Evanston’s long history dates back to the University’s founding in 1851 and Evanston’s six years later in 1857. John Evans, which Evanston is named after, also was a cofounder of the university. 

Nonprofit consultant and former collaborator with Davis’ office Marybeth Schroeder emphasized the importance of teamwork between NU and Evanston.

“Northwestern and Evanston, we’re married to each other,” Schroeder said. “We’ve been intertwined since the very beginning.”

Davis said he believes the University and Evanston’s relationship is at its strongest point in its history. 

Together, NU and Evanston have worked to address equity issues through several projects, including the city’s first Guaranteed Income Program and a minority-owned business incubator.

“You can’t do or create or sustain those kinds of programs without patience and a strong relationship,” Davis said. “When these partnerships are rooted in trust, anything is possible.”

According to Davis, the office’s goals for the future include building more intentional partnerships, increasing widespread engagement and increasing access to campus resources for Evanston residents.

Partner Relationship Administrator Shayla Butler said learning about community engagement efforts that emerge without the help of the office keeps her hopeful.

“We know that the work that we’ve done is not in vain, because it’s spreading,” Butler said. “It shows that Northwestern really cares about the community. We want to make sure that Evanston is at its best at all times, so whatever we can do as a university to do that, we will continue to do.”

The largest issue Davis’ team is currently working to address is how to most effectively and equitably distribute the University’s resources to Evanston. According to him, it can be difficult to balance NU’s global and local reach.

“As a university whose mission is to make our world, our globe a better place, that starts right here at home,” Davis said. “When we galvanize around a common cause, we can do amazing things… We are going to continue to work together.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lmschroeder_

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