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Sorrell expects that the work curriculum will only help retention. The We Over Me Farm, still Sorrell's signature move as president, is the keystone of his model. While at first it may seem like another example of work college "drudgery," students don't only labor on the farm-they also work on the marketing and business sides, helping to solicit donations and make sales. While some of the produce is used in the dining halls, much of it is sold to Dallas restaurants and grocery stores along with larger corporate buyers like the Dallas Cowboys. And at least 10 percent of the produce every year is donated to charities in the school's Highland Hills neighborhood, which sits in the middle of a food desert. That's where Sorrell's plan to "end urban poverty" comes in. The work college model goes hand in hand with his idea of small urban colleges as "anchor institutions"; even a small school provides economic investment, employment opportunities, and cultural resources in inner-city neighborhoods. Thanks in large part to the success of the farm, for instance, a new grocery store is opening up across the street. Paul Quinn students organized A system that keeps tuition low while allowing students to get real professional experience in preparation for entering the job market would be a godsend for small city schools that often struggle to do either of those. to successfully fight off a city plan to significantly expand a nearby landfill farther into Highland Hills. Students marched multiple times, wearing "I AM NOT TRASH" T-shirts, and eventually Dallas relented and threw away the landfill plan. Now Sorrell is lobbying city officials for a light-rail stop in the neighborhood, which would serve his students (who often have to take difficult bus routes or drive to their jobs around the region) as well as Highland Hills commuters. And while Paul Quinn may be gated, it can still provide an artistic as well as economic impact: in addition to lectures and symposiums that are open to the public, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra plays a free show on campus every year, which Sorrell calls his favorite event the school puts on. Sorrell got his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania last year using the New Urban College Model as his dissertation. In it, he argues that his model can be copied across the country. There are 1,725 four-year colleges in U.S. principal cities, and about 70 percent have fewer than 5,000 students. "This model was built to be replicated," he says. "I'm worried about what happens if it doesn't catch on." 72 September/October 2016 The question is, can the model catch on without such a charismatic figure leading the charge? Sorrell has an astounding ability to command the room no matter who's in it. He can banter with students, run a staff meeting, talk with education policy wonks, chat up church leaders, and network with big donors locally and around the country. Education reform is full of examples of brave new ideas that flourished under their innovator but faltered when tried elsewhere. Sorrell counters that there are many different types of college presidents, and that his model can work with different kinds of leaders-though there's one quality they need. "It's replicable, but you need a champion," he says. "You don't necessarily need Michael Sorrell, but you need a champion." Paul Quinn College, of course, is lucky enough to have both. n the day of the farm fund-raiser and the symphony concert, Sorrell is in the library trying to figure out exactly what he wants his message to be. Paul Quinn staff and students are writing words of inspiration on their bodies and getting photographed, the results of which will be posted around campus and used in the school's new marketing campaign. Butler, Evans, and other students are writing, erasing, and rewriting slogans and hashtags on Sorrell's arms in a flurry of markers and baby wipes. He has always been the face of Paul Quinn, but today he's going to have to be the biceps, too. As he poses for the photo, the students heckle from the sidelines. "We don't want to be scared of our president!" Evans yells as Sorrell tries on a tough look. Later, at the concert, they'll unsuccessfully lobby him to buy them dessert from one of the food trucks parked nearby. "We want some ice cream! Come on, do your fatherly duties!" Ice cream aside, Sorrell's fatherly duties-checking in on students before they even arrive on campus, meeting their families, looking after them on campus-may be his greatest gift to Paul Quinn. But his New Urban College Model could be his gift to the rest of the country. A system that keeps tuition low while allowing students to get real professional experience in preparation for entering the job market would be a godsend for small city schools that often struggle to do either of those. Paul Quinn College, no longer the underdog, is showing the rest of them how it's done. Bringing the model to cities across the country and ending urban poverty might be farther down the line, but for now Sorrell still has to take it one student at a time. After the concert, as students, staff, and community members are lining up to say goodbye to Sorrell, a boy pulls him aside. Robert, a high school sophomore who came all the way up from Houston, wants to tell him how much he likes Paul Quinn. They exchange email addresses, and Sorrell makes him promise to send him a note when he gets home. "You have it in you to do really, really well," Sorrell tells him. "Your grades will matter. Drown out all the background noise. The lights come on, the teacher's in front of you. Give it all you've got." o Matt Connolly is digital managing editor of the Washington Monthly.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

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