July 30, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – Dozens of borough merchants will meet and greet Bucknell University’s Class of 2012 at the annual Welcome to the Neighborhood on Monday, Aug. 25.

The seventh annual unique, small-town welcome will run from noon to 5 p.m. and include free food, gifts and music for the 950-member Class of 2012 that arrives on campus Friday, Aug. 22, for five days of new-student orientation.

Linda Sterling, executive director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, said the celebration helps to build a positive relationship between the new students and downtown businesses.

Tremendous bond
“Welcome to the Neighborhood has evolved from a pretty simple desire to welcome incoming first-year students to downtown Lewisburg to something that has a wider impact on campus and community relations,” said Sterling. “It creates a tremendous bond. Part of what makes it work is the fact that when students are acclimating themselves to campus they become acclimated to downtown as well so that it becomes part of the same experience.”

Amy Badal, assistant dean of students at Bucknell, agrees.

“The event gives our new students a very favorable impression of what will be their new neighborhood for the next four years of their lives,” said Badal. 

Neighbor relationship
Sterling said, too, that the program has evolved over time from a strictly business relationship to more of a neighbor relationship.

“Now, I think the desire has moved into how do we welcome our neighbors, how do we make the students feel like neighbors, how do we treat students as if they are neighbors, and how do we build a relationship with them? That’s been a really important perspective shift,” she said. 

Sixty or more merchants have participated in past years and a significant majority of the first-year students take time to enjoy the Welcome to the Neighborhood event. In addition to enjoying the food and music, many downtown merchants list new-student names in their establishments. When the students identify themselves to the merchant, they receive a small welcome gift.

Welcome gifts
In past years, welcome gifts have ranged from homemade cookies and handmade bookmarks to chocolate-candy Bison.

The Lewisburg Downtown Partnership works with Bucknell’s New Student Orientation staff to plan and coordinate the event, including dressing store windows with Bucknell flags and posters. The event is recognized as a unique town-gown celebration.

“I’ll go to conferences with other downtown development organizations and Welcome to the Neighborhood is one of the programs that always gets a lot of interest and a lot of folks ask about it,” said Sterling.

She said the event is important for several reasons.

Part of community
“First and foremost, it’s important to look at the visitors and Bucknell students as a customer base for downtown, and downtown needs to explore all of its customer bases,” said Sterling. “More than that, I see tremendous value in having students feel part of the community. When they feel part of the community they treat it like their own while they are here. They get involved with things. They volunteer and attend events. They come here with their friends. At its core, downtown is a community gathering place and it’s important that students feel part of that community.”

Contact: Division of Communications