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Students lack awareness of community’s offerings

April 26, 2007

More and more, it seems that students on the UW-River Falls campus are centering themselves on campus and forgetting that they are within a downtown community as well.

Natalie Hagberg, chair of the Leadership Programming and Development Board (LDPB), said that UWRF is a “suitcase campus,” meaning that the majority of students leave for the weekend to return home instead of staying in River Falls.

While LDPB is amplifying its efforts to increase weekend programming on campus, Lighthouse Coffee owner Jodie Rubenzer said local businesses should attempt to join in the effort to attract more college students to the downtown area.

“When you go to a college town, it should be the town as much as the campus that attracts you,” Rubenzer said. 

Lighthouse Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Recently, Saturday’s hours of operation were extended from closing at 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with the intention of attracting more campus business.

Part of Rubenzer’s effort to attract students is “Campus Coffee.” On the first Thursday of every month, students can get brewed coffee, a treat and free wireless Internet from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. However, students can receive 10 percent off their purchases anytime during business hours by showing their student identification.

Other businesses in town offer advantages for being college students as well, but they seem to fall few and far between.

Country Inn offers a 15 percent discount to visiting parents of college students. General Manager Andrew Dyb said that while he believes that the college is a very important target market, there’s only so much that one business can do.

“Of course we want college students and family here,” Dyb said. “They make up a huge part of our business. But only so many people need hotel rooms. All businesses share that responsibility [to market to college students].”

While businesses offer such advantages, students suggest the problem may be a lack of advertising on campus.

Senior Amanda Grey is in her last year at UWRF and said that she’s never really seen much downtown area advertising on campus.

“If students knew about it, I think they’d go,” Grey said. “It’s just that so many students just center themselves on campus because it’s convenient. The only time people really leave is once you get old enough
to go to the bars. That’s pretty sad.”

Senior Cari Johnson has been getting coffee at Lighthouse for several years and said that if students realized what they were missing, they’d come downtown more often.

“This place is like family,” Johnson said.

Occasionally, downtown events are marketed to students on campus, such as Unity in the Community. However, one event every so often is not enough to keep students involved in the community.

Whether the reason is poor marketing efforts by businesses or student indifference, many UWRF students remain unaware that local shops value their business. “If they start coming in, students could be more aware of people that do care about them,” Rubenzer said. “So many people think they really are a viable part of town.”