September 2, 2003

Town Meets Gown on Commons

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The Ithaca Commons was flooded with representatives from numerous local and University-affiliated organizations, musicians and chefs Saturday afternoon as Cornell kicked off the first weekend of the semester with Cornell on the Commons.

Cornell on the Commons, formerly known as the College and Community Expo, is an annual promotional event featured during the University’s Welcome Weekend. It is designed to showcase University-affiliated departments and outreach programs to undergraduate students as well as the greater Ithaca community.

Cosponsored by the Cornell Campus Life Community Development office, the Cornell offices of the Provost for Land Grant Affairs, Orientation and Community Relations, and the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, the event generally attracts over 1,000 students and community members.

A variety of University-affiliated and community agencies used the opportunity to publicize their services and to solicit interest. Participants included agencies and businesses such as the Advocacy Center, the Community Police Board, and The Ithaca Times as well as numerous University organizations, including Cornell Cinema and Student Agencies, Inc.

Alongside the program and outreach booths, Saturday afternoon’s event featured four stages of live entertainment, with performances by a variety of musical acts, including a Cornell a cappella group, Cayuga’s Waiters, and a Jazz act, Johnny Russo East Hill Classic Jazz. In addition, Simeon’s Restaurant’s chef took on a Cornell chef in the second annual “Iron Chef” competition, an event that attracted much notoriety last year on the Commons.

Not only did participating agencies seek support and participants for their programs, but they also used the forum to simply publicize their respective functions.

“We are hoping to get students involved in our projects throughout the community [and] promote awareness for Cooperative Extension,” said Monika Roth, agricultural program director for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Many agency representatives noted, however, that Cornell student interest was lacking at Saturday’s event.

“I’ve seen a bunch of students but I don’t know if they are necessarily approaching the tables,” said Leslie Morris, Manager of Marketing at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. “[However] we’ve gotten some community interest and it seems like there is a pretty good crowd here.”

Carlos Zada ’04 and Kate Brown ’04 of Student Agencies, Inc. also noted a dearth of Cornell students on the Commons.

“There don’t seem to be too many Cornell students,” they said. “[We’ve seen] mainly older people and some IC [Ithaca College] students.”

Roth and Kenneth Schlather, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, seemed more optimistic about the effectiveness of the event.

“We’ve interacted with many people that have come down for the event,” Schlather said. “I can’t tell who’s a student and who’s not.”

However, the two also acknowledged the magnificent aptitude that Cornell on the Commons has to attract interest and participation among students and members of the community for University and community-wide initiatives.

“There seems to be huge potential in the production of an event like this,” Schlather said.

Archived article by Ellen Miller