Spring 2014 Issue | By Dr. Adrienne King
Amidst the smiles, laughter and orange and black balloons, one can't miss the feeling of excitement at CommUniversity events. From face painting to scientific demonstrations, the celebrations have something for all ages — including Benny the Bengal. The unique town-and-gown program, now in its fourth year, hosts two annual events connecting ISU with the surrounding communities.
The events are exactly the kind of celebrations that community and University leaders were envisioning in 2009 when they formed a committee dedicated to strengthening the bond between ISU and the communities that support it. The organizers' intention was simple — to strengthen the connection between the University and the community. The action plan, however, was not. After much brainstorming and discussion, the committee settled on the name "CommUniversity" and began developing plans for the first event, which was held the following fall.
Benny loves CommUniversity events.
Now the annual events include "Welcome Back Orange and Black" held in Old Town Pocatello in the fall and the ISU-hosted "Celebrate Idaho State" festivities in the spring. The fall event is intended to introduce the ISU campus community to all that the region has to offer. In return, the spring event showcases the University's many academic offerings, clinics and programs. "These two events bring 'town and gown' together like no other," said Valorie Watkins, '66, co-chair and founder of CommUniversity.
More than 30 volunteers from the community and ISU dedicate countless hours working year-round on the events, which have grown annually. More than 4,000 people attended the most recent "Celebrate Idaho State" event on March 18. This year's event was a part of ISU Week as declared by Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England.
A sea of orange at the Celebrate Idaho State event.
"We were so pleased with this year's turnout," said ISU President Arthur Vailas. "It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase everything our University has to offer our community and state."
As a career path intern for CommUniversity, senior marketing major Megan Moore had the opportunity to work with the volunteers in planning this year's events. "I have learned why it is important for the community to be involved with Idaho State University, and the reverse as well. One cannot grow to its fullest potential without the other, making the bond between the two something greater than often realized," Moore said.
Students enjoy sharing their new knowledge with the community.
Each year the events continue to grow, inspiring the next generation of Bengals and celebrating the communities' pride in their University.
"We're really achieving what we strived to do. I'm elated with what is developing. ISU is the gem of our community and we need to show it off," said Jim Johnston, CommUniversity co-chair and city councilman. Watkins added, "Whether it's the Governor's and Mayors' proclamations, the Bengal paws on the streets leading to campus, the collaboration between city and campus employees, the signs on the streets and in shop windows, the connection and pride is visible. CommUniversity is working!"
The potato bar is a staple at the Celebrate Idaho State event.