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Connecting community in Morgantown through SCVNGR and ITGA

Morgantown, W.Va. is a college town. Although it may cover an area across seven interstate exits, West Virginia University, the Mountaineers and the gold and the blue connect everyone on game day and beyond.

I grew up in Morgantown, and I have seen this my whole life. As my group, entrnU works to bring SCVNGR  to the Morgantown community’s entertainment venues in association with the International Town and Gown Association (ITGA), it is important to remember that we already share a solid connection.

From the top of North High Street, “frat row,” if you will, you can see that as High Street ends and you cross the bridge, you end up in residential neighborhoods right next to Morgantown High School. WVU maintains its connection with the community more than geographically, though.

As you look down High Street, you can see how WVU connects to the community instantly.

For instance, during my speech class, we went to an elementary school to read children’s book. We went to a local middle school to talk about attending WVU and our specific fields of study. It is the students’ job to show youth the opportunities that WVU has for everyone and to inspire them to be Mountaineers.

WVU also teams up with community for community service events. Many members of the Morgantown community participate in WVU’s Relay for Life each April. Last year, the event raised over $73,000.

WVU has been working to become even closer to the community from a student standpoint over the past few years. Last year the WVU Student Government Association added a City Council Liaison position to create a deeper relationship between WVU’s students. The reasoning behind this is simple: without the students, Morgantown would not be Morgantown.

Outside of the pride and feel of the town, this is proven statistically. According to the 2010 Census, 29,660 people live in Morgantown. However, when the University is in session, just over 29,000 students are enrolled. That doubles the population of the city!

Through SCVNGR and the International Town and Gown Association, we hope to bring the relationship to an even deeper level. We also hope to show students that, although Morgantown is not known as an entertainment super center, there are many small businesses and local spots that can surprise you with a good time.

For instance, we have signed up the BOPARC Morgantown Ice Arena–a place I can remember going to in middle school each Friday night– up for free SCVNGR subscription. We hope that college students will take advantage of the outlet that ice-skating provides as an escape from the ordinary recreational activity.

We hope to make the Morgantown Ice Arena's common area filled with students as they warm up, enjoy hot chocolate and take a break from skating the ice.

“Exposure is the biggest idea when it comes this partnership with SCVNGR,” said Melissa Burch, associate director of BOPARC. “It is important that students know that the rink is here and that it provides both an opportunity for exercise and a good time to interact with people you normally would not come into contact with.”

ITGA has been connecting students with their communities for many years. Last month, Brown University  met with representatives from five other schools to discuss economic relationships between schools and the communities and the economic factor of it all.

Brown hopes to develop a Knowledge District. Although that is not in WVU’s plans, WVU does play a major role in the Morgantown’s economy just like Brown does in Providence.

According to Morgantown.com, Morgantown is the “media, cultural, and commercial hub of the region.” In fact, in 2010, Morgantown was named Forbes #10 best small city to conduct business in.

The bottom line is that Morgantown’s small-town success and WVU’s presence is no coincidence. WVU, in its programs and research technology, brings West Virginia tremendous wealth and opportunity. In fact WVU Healthcare impacted West Virginia’s economy by $2.2 billion in 2009.

When Brown met with other universities, they learned that ITGA has worked with Syracuse to improve neighborhoods, much like the Sunnyside Up project has in Morgantown.

As a whole, we are exposing students to different entertainment opportunities that Morgantown provides. In doing so, we are fostering an even better relationship between students and the community on both an economic and more everyday level.

Can you think of any other ways our project can affect the Morgantown community? Let me know!

Take a look at my blogroll to see other students’ journeys as we work with ITGA and SCVNGR. Don’t forget to check out our Twitter and Facebook pages for the project, as well!

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About EvStetter

Senior Public Relations & Spanish student at WestVirginia University working with SCVNGR during the fall 2011 semester | Excited to gain experience strategic communications! | Music, tennis, travel are passions on the side | SNL Hopeful | Conversation Specialist | Carpe Diem, ya'll |

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