Freshman Findings: Unite with town to find happiness

headshot_WEBA recent article was published in The Rider News that informed readers how Rider has been ranked among The Princeton Review’s “least happy students” three times within the past five years, but connecting with Lawrenceville could improve morale.
Some students argue that the food could be better, or the dorms could be nicer, but I think one problem behind many of the students who could be happier may be a lack of school pride and campus-community relationship.
Every year, Penn State University hosts THON, which raises funds and awareness for pediatric cancer. Each February, THON fills a 46-hour time slot devoted to a no-sleeping, no-sitting dance marathon at the university’s Bryce Jordan Center. Millions of dollars for pediatric cancer are raised annually, and after 42 years, Penn State is widely respected for these life-changing efforts.
How did an event like this get started? A group of students were looking for a way to add excitement to a lifeless February and strengthen the relationship between the university and community.
Not that a Rider THON is necessarily the answer to boosting student morale, but stronger ties and communication between the school and the community could be one key to a happier student body.
Although the special events that do take place at Rider, like Cranberry Fest and University Day, are advertised through fliers around the school, student awareness is not particularly high. Students either go home for the weekend or are unaware of the festivities until they are over, leaving them wishing they had known about the fun beforehand. Community members who are also welcome to attend Rider events either take no interest, simply do not care or do not know about it enough to attend.
If the university were to reach out to the community by going door-to-door and asking Lawrenceville residents for their opinions, or to suggest fundraising events that the campus could hold for anyone to attend, the student-community relationship, as well as student morale, would have to grow.
A more local university also holds a student-run community event each year. The Communiversity ArtsFest, which takes place in downtown Princeton every spring, displays over 200 booths that boast original art, crafts, merchandise and culinary creations from local chefs and Princeton University student artists.
The 45-year-old festival attracts thousands of visitors annually to celebrate and support local artistic, musical and culinary talents, making it the largest and longest-running cultural event of its kind in New Jersey.
What if Rider could hold a student-organized color run or a community yard sale? The typical answer to big ideas like this is that there just isn’t enough money in the budget. But with local business’ donations and a few inspired minds, anything could happen. There is always a way to make an event worthwhile, even with a small budget.
If the campus and community worked together to raise funds for a cause or promote awareness of an issue, it would prompt a rise in morale. Students would stick around just to be a part of something special and new, while local residents would have something fun to attend on a nearby college campus.
Rider could definitely improve its students’ happiness levels. With a little push, student groups may hop on board and do everything in their power to improve the overall well-being of themselves, their peers and their community. With a tighter university-community relationship comes a school to be proud of and a future to look forward to.

–Jessie Wallace
Freshman communication studies major


Printed in the 04/29/15 issue.

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