Engage the Community

Commentary Opinion

I’m walking down a tree-lined avenue listening to local street musicians while munching on a soft pretzel and sipping pink lemonade. I’m comfortable in my new spring capris, tee and Chuck’s. It’s a beautiful sunny day and I am on my way back to class at Missouri Western.

The musicians are fellow Missouri Western students, getting some practice playing to the public. The pretzel and pink lemonade came from a bistro operated by Western students. All of the clothes I am wearing, including the Chucks, were purchased in a neighboring thrift store operated by Western students. This could be our future.

Missouri Western has a total of over 700 acres of land. I think we should be addressing ways to join the St. Joseph community to the University. Every day, over 3500 people enter and exit the campus. These people are students, faculty, campus employees, family, friends, vendors and laborers. They eat and shop in the community. Why not develop the land around the school to cater to these people while offering employment opportunities to students?

Since Missouri Western developed the current campus, it has been a separation of city and school. I often hear that St. Joseph doesn’t feel like a college town should. Let’s change that. There are many opportunities that could be researched for business possibilities.

Small shops featuring students artwork, clothing, music, pottery, and crafts could be scattered among bistros, coffee shops, musical venues, thrift/vintage stores and cozy diners. The possibilities are endless. Many other schools our size offer this adjacent to campus. It would tie the students in with the community, making us more supportive of one another. What better way to create jobs in the community than to create them next to or on campus?

Most of the Heartland Health, American Family Insurance, and Mitchell Woods employees pass by our gates daily. Altec employees travel by our campus as well. These are St. Joseph’s largest employers, besides the St. Joseph School District. Let’s address how Missouri Western can help students make money, share their talents and engage the community.

I have suggested this idea over the years to many people, hoping that someday the school will take notice and at least look into the possibilities of creating a more pleasant campus experience for everyone.

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