The lowdown on ‘town gown’ relationships

Kathryn Nicolai, Investigative News Editor

The University offers hundreds of programs and events for students to attend annually, but the extent to which these programs impact the local community often goes unacknowledged. Our private liberal arts institution equates to approximately 60 percent of the Lewisburg population, creating an intense community engagement within the campus.

The phrase ‘town gown’ alludes to the relations between residents of the town or community and University students and faculty (who in the past commonly wore academic gowns). The Weis Center for Performing Arts, the Campus Theatre, athletics, lectureship, and concerts are all facets of campus that unite the University community with the local community.

“The goal of the Weis Center is obviously to serve the campus, but also to serve the larger community,” Executive Director of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts Kathryn Maguet said.

Over the past 30 years, the Weis Center for the Performing Arts has expanded upon its classical music foundation. Part of the Weis Center’s mission, according to Maguet, is to be a venue to numerous forms of art expression including “all walks of life” from different cultures, and parts of the world.

“In that way we serve the campus and the community, which can be classified as rural in a lot of ways,” Maguet said. “Our job is to build those bridges so that people have not only the exposure, but the capacity to bridge relationships and foster deeper understanding.”

The Weis Center’s audience is event-based, but extends approximately a 60-mile radius. Audiences are comprised of faculty, staff, and students from the University, Selinsgrove, Bloomsburg, Susquehanna and State College, as well as residents from Harrisburg.

“There isn’t a whole lot of dance in this region. If there is a dance event there’s traffic that comes in all directions,” said Maguet.

Lewisburg’s Campus Theatre exists as a community institution that shares a strong relationship with the University. The Campus Theatre has a partnership with the University’s Film/Media studies. Certain courses attend weekly Monday and Tuesday screenings.

Executive Director Ellen Flacker-Darer said many students attend the Campus Theatre’s Evening Film series.

“We also coordinate with the [University] CAP Center, who offer [University] students free admission for various new release titles throughout the year,” Flacker-Darer said.

The CAP Center recently sponsored screenings of “The House,” a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler that incorporates the University into its storyline.

“There is much ‘cross pollination’ between students and the wider Lewisburg community here at the Campus Theatre,” Flacker-Darer said. “We are fortunate to have a wonderful audience mixed with [University] students, faculty and community members.”

According to Flacker-Darer, the Campus Theatre also offers a University Film/Media internship allowing selected students to learn how to project both digital and 35mm films and training with the theatre’s head projectionist Andy Seal.

“The internship has been very successful, and some interns have even ended up working on our projection team after their internship is completed,” Flacker-Darer said.

According to Jessica Paquin, Director of Outreach and Fundraising, the community and staff both admire University student attendance.

“I think there is always room for improvement of getting Bucknell students more involved in the Campus Theatre,” Paquin said. “But I do think that we have more students attending now than we used to.”

Involvement and support for campus athletics is a conglomeration of both the local and University community.

Associate Director of Athletics Jon Terry said student attendance at athletic events varies by sport, “but we do see plenty of students out supporting their peers at games.”

The University is always looking for ways to increase campus awareness to boost student, staff and faculty attendance, according to Terry, such as the new Bison Nation fan experience app launched this year.

Terry credited Lewisburg and neighboring town residents for their dedicated support over the past decades at home events, but also noted that when student sections are packed, as they were for the Patriot League championship, “it elevates Bucknell to having one of the best home-court atmospheres in the country.”

Lectureship and concert events share engagement from both University students, staff and faculty, as well as local community residents.

Last year the Student Lectureship Committee hosted Brandon Stanton and Shawn Johnson, who spoke for crowds of 860 and 402, respectively, according to Mike Duignan, Director of Campus Activities and Programs. For these events tickets were offered first to University community members at 10 a.m. on the day of the event, and at 6 p.m. opened any additional tickets to the outside community.

Brent Papson, Director of Campus Activities and Student Media, emphasized that the University community members are prioritized.

University concerts, such as Lil Wayne’s performance last spring, was attended by 3,300 University and local community members.

For concert events both the general public and students can stand in line to enter into the event at the same time.

“If the event is in the Fieldhouse they tend to mix more. When in Sojka most tickets on the floor are Bucknell community members, with some only being from the community,” Duignan said.

Papson, a local Lewisburg resident, acknowledged advantages that come living near a University, with the plethora of campus offerings.

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