University fosters student-community relations


EILEEN O’CONNOR/The Vermont Cynic A house in the North End is pictured. City council has been pushing for increased affordable housing.

JP Riedel, Senior Staff Writer

As thousands of Catamounts flood the streets of Burlington back from summer vacation, UVM is working with students and local residents to start the year smoothly.

For the past eight years, the University has sent letters to locals with information about move-in weekend. These are intended to prepare the community for the number of students coming to campus, said Pat Brown, director of Student Life.

“When [students] come back it brings a level of energy that is exciting,” Brown said. “Transitioning takes a lot of time and energy, and there’s a lot of work behind the scenes.”

The convocation ceremony requires cooperation from many community members. Hundreds of volunteers help organize the event, which briefly closes down Main Street, he said.

“You’ve got theoretically 25 percent moving off-campus, and we try to get them ready for moving in as well,” Brown said.

The Office of Student and Community Relations provides students and residents with resources to help integrate students into the community, said assistant director John Mejia.

OSCR works with neighborhood groups and includes students on staff to help facilitate communication, Mejia said.

“Our job is helping people become friends,” he said. “We just try to raise people’s consciousness.”

They work to help students find housing off-campus, get along with neighbors and get involved in the neighborhood through different programs, he said.

The effort to strengthen student-community relations continues throughout the rest of the year, Mejia said, as the Offices of Student Life and Student and Community Relations work to help students maintain good relations with each other and their neighbors.

For first-year students moving into on-campus residential halls, the University organized a series of welcome events over the weekend.

This year, students gathered for a class of 2021 picnic at the Davis Center Green to eat lunch and learn about student organizations.

“The weather this year was really nice. A lot of people came out,” said junior Stover Mardis, representing Catamount Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Junior Megan Shields, a member of the same organization, said the activity and energy of the first years made it one of the most successful years her club has had.