College of Charleston Riley Center Designs a Better Future

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Thanks to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, the Riley Center will soon be funded by the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship Endowment.

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Above (l–r): South Carolina mayors Brandon Smith of Greenwood, Billy Chavis of Holly Hill, Yamekia Robinson of Lake City, Will Haynie of Mount Pleasant, Erica Romo Woods of Liberty and Sterling Lee of Lake View.

The Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities aims to enhance capacity and foster the development of more livable communities through initiatives such as the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship. The program mirrors the National Mayors’ Institute on City Design, which was initiated by former Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. in 1986. South Carolina currently stands as the only state to host such an initiative. 

Thanks to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, the program will soon be funded by the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship Endowment.

Each year, the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship welcomes mayors across the state of South Carolina to come and have a discussion with university students and professional design experts on a challenge of their choice relating to urban design – anything from signage to the redevelopment of city-owned properties.  

“The program underscores the value of mayors connecting on a deeper level and having access to expertise without having to pay for it,” says Kendra Stewart, director of the Riley Center and professor of political science at the College of Charleston. 

Through programs like the fellowship program, the Riley Center aims to create a pipeline of professionals for local government – a critical need as fewer young people pursue careers in this field.  

“I would like us to continue not just the fellowship program, but other programs that will incentivize young people toward careers in local government,” says Stewart. “We are seeing fewer young people with a desire to work in local government, and it’s so crucial to change that mindset. We view part of our role as assisting in the creation and development of a pathway for professionals to enter local government and continue serving our state.

“Programs like the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship would not be here without donor funding,” she adds, noting that the endowment covers travel and accommodations for the resource team and the annual workshop expenses. “It is so important that we continue Mayor Joe Riley’s vision for how we can positively impact living conditions in urban and rural areas. Through the fellowship, we are able to come up with cost-effective, sustainable solutions to issues plaguing South Carolina’s municipalities, which is certainly gratifying.”  

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