Representatives from city meet with students
Sarah Crownover is a junior theater major at Southwestern University. In spite of not having a vehicle of her own, Crownover said she leaves campus about once a week, either catching a ride with a friend or making the 20-minute walk to downtown Georgetown.
“Sometimes we just walk up [to the Square] to eat because it’s so beautiful,” she said.
Although Crownover said she will probably have a car of her own next semester, she supports the idea of having a rental car on campus that students could use. The university is exploring a concept, which is similar to the City of Austin’s car2go car-sharing program, and could have a program in place by next semester if it is approved, said Jerry Brody, vice president for student life.
Southwestern University President Jake Schrum started a group in 2004 that focused on the relationship between the school and the city. The group has since evolved into the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s Georgetown-Southwestern College Town Committee.
“As Jake [Schrum] would put it, [we are trying to make] this a college town as opposed to just a town with a college in it,” said Mel Pendland, president of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.
Made up of about 20 members that include Southwestern staff, community leaders and business owners, the College Town Committee is exploring ways to strengthen the ties between Georgetown and the university.
College Town Committee
The Georgetown Main Street Program, which also has members on the College Town Committee, invited students and faculty to participate in a panel discussion at the Oct. 20 Breakfast Bites. Bob Villarreal, chair of the College Town Committee, said the meeting was well-attended by local business owners asking questions about how to better connect with students, such as through social media.
To keep the momentum going from the first meeting, Southwestern hosted a second panel on campus April 17 with members from the city, chamber and local businesses.
“It’s good for the community as far as knowing that when students come to Southwestern, they are not just students of the campus, they are citizens of Georgetown,” Villarreal said. “And all the more, we want to give them reason to stay in Georgetown once they graduate.”
Roger Young, director of career services, said most Southwestern graduates find jobs in larger cities such as Austin or Houston, but a small percentage have stayed in Georgetown.
While Georgetown may not offer the same number of job opportunities for recent graduates as a larger city might, Pendland said local businesses and the chamber want to foster the relationship between the two as both Georgetown and the university continue to grow.
Southwestern’s enrollment in fall 2011 was 1,347, but next semester the target enrollment will be 1,400, said Ellen Davis, director of news and media relations for Southwestern.
More programs are also planned for the future. The school will reinstate its football team, with the first game kicking off in fall 2013. Women’s lacrosse will begin in spring 2014.
Davis said estimations show the university contributes more than $100 million annually to Georgetown’s economy.
“[Southwestern students and staff] spend significant amounts of money in our community and make a substantial contribution to the local economy every day,” Pendland said. “They also provide lots of volunteer hours for nonprofits in our community, and those [hours] are extremely important because if there weren’t volunteers to do that work, it probably wouldn’t get done.”
Getting Pirates onboard with Georgetown
The university is also in the process of licensing its logo to allow Georgetown merchants to sell items with the Pirate emblem. Eric Bumgardner, Southwestern’s director of creative services, said the swashbuckling symbol is also going through a redesign, and the new athletic logo will be unveiled Aug. 1.
Southwestern products may not be the only evidence of the university’s presence downtown in the future.
At the April 17 panel, City Manager Paul Brandenburg said he has begun preliminary discussions about representing Southwestern on one of the city’s water towers, which the city has planned to paint in the next two to three years.
Panelists also discussed ways students could be more involved in the Georgetown community. Ideas included interning at businesses or with the city, volunteering with nonprofits and participating in City Council meetings.
Pendland said the chamber and the College Town Committee will continue to seek ways to strengthen the bond between Southwestern and Georgetown.
“We have a vested interest in this partnership,” he said. “We care about each student. We care about connecting with faculty because what is in their best interest, what is in the best interest of the university, also serves this community well.”