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College campus communities are situated in a wide variety of areas. Some are sprawling mini-cities integrated with their host city (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Some are the central focus of towns aptly dubbed “college towns” (University of Kansas). And some play a balancing game between community integration and isolated campus culture.
The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota falls in the latter category. Located minutes away from the Mississippi River and South Minneapolis, St. Thomas finds itself in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood, one of St. Paul’s most affluent. The campus is also not too far from several bars and restaurants which many students frequent. The clash of college and residential cultures is not new or unique to St. Thomas. But Zachary Hurdle, a student at the university, has a unique entrepreneurial solution to this culture clash. Below is what he has to say about it.
Have you ever played the game Animal Crossing? The first iteration was made by Nintendo about 15 years ago and it still holds a special place in my heart. The premise of the game was simple: live your life. In the game you start out on a train and begin conversing with a human-sized cat. As your dialogue progresses so does the train, and you eventually arrive in town where other human-sized animals are waiting for you. You eventually get a house, a job, and a special place in the community.
The community aspect is what I most adore about Animal Crossing. The ability to interact with neighbors, whether that’s on the basis of delivering a piece of furniture for them, or apologizing for hitting them with your bug net (yes, you can catch bugs in this game). The idea that we are all just living and enjoying our lives through that which fulfills us is very prevalent in the game, and has persisted in its prevalence throughout my life.
Today I am a senior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota pursuing my degree in International Studies. Over the past couple of years I have had the privilege of interacting with the community around UST through a company that I cofounded: Busy Bee. This community mindset instilled in me by Animal Crossing is what continues to drive Busy Bee today.
In examining Busy Bee’s goals, one will find a focus on assisting college students in earning a couple extra dollars, as well as helping out community members. However, the not-so-apparent goal that exists within our partnerships is community engagement, which is ultimately the result of our interaction with the community.
One issue that persists throughout the community around the University of St. Thomas is the tension between students and the community. This tension exists for various reasons (noise levels, yard upkeep, and so on). But in the case of UST, and other universities, the general issue can be seen as one community being dropped in the middle of another. Singular communities are quite capable of handling relations between its inhabitants. These efforts typically take the form of neighborhood coalitions for discussion, remediation, and maintenance. However in this case, bringing peace to the neighborhood seems to require a bit more effort than what is traditionally given because of the differing goals and natures of each community.
Within one exists individuals who have families, those who are working regular jobs, and those just looking to enjoy the peacefulness of the neighborhood. Within the other are students looking to obtain a degree of some sort, meet people, and enjoy themselves. These two groups in theory would not mix easily because of their different goals.
Through a community-connecting mindset, Busy Bee has had the pleasure of connecting with both groups and delivering to them outlets through which they can attain their own goals (being able to spend time with family, or having enough money to go out on the weekend). More often than not, this connection provides a deeper connection, friendship one might say, between both parties. This friendship has taken the form of having tea or lunch with one another, or even assistance from a community member to a student instead of the other way around.
For me personally, these connections with the community have been invaluable. The friends I’ve made, events I’ve attended, and support I’ve received from those I’ve met in the community through doing chores and odd jobs is a result that I couldn’t have imagined.
If making a connection is as easy as mowing a lawn, then why not?