Over the last several years, higher education institutions all over the country have seen a decline in enrollment. The combination of rising tuition costs and less kids attending college overall have pushed these colleges and universities to scramble to survive. My alma mater, Adams State University in Southern Colorado has been especially hit hard by these changing times. Lower enrollment paired with poor administrative decisions and bad PR, left both the university and community wounded. Now several years later, although enrollment continues to be an issue, it appears as if things have stabilized. However, the community has remained withdrawn, unable to figure out if it wants to fully embrace the university again. In fact, there have been conversations among city leaders about whether in the future Alamosa should be a town with a university in it or a university town. This question and the state of engagement has been sad for me. Who wants to attend a school where the energy of the institution remains locked within the few blocks of the buildings?
Many people have been trying to fan a flame of community engagement with the university and it’s not quite done the job. In fact, one group completed a study that demonstrated the significant financial impact the university has on the community. And it is significant. I think they hoped that people would respond on a logical level that if the University disappeared, so would their livelihoods. I think people found this information helpful, but it did not stir this spirit of the community.
Last spring I began asking myself, what can I do? I am just one person and this is an issue. I began understanding that it’s not just about the financial aspects of the university. The community is disconnected without something to coalesce around. ASU was always that entity, that thing that gave us a reason to be connected, something to have pride in. We need ASU, not just for the financial impact to our community, but because we need the actual sense of community it helps provide us.
My gut instincts told me that there were still many of us with that pride, and with the desire for ASU and the community to rise from the ashes thriving once again. With this in mind, I started talking to people about an idea to energize the town this fall. I talked to the ASU football coach about what a fired up community supporting his team this season would mean. He looked straight at me shaking his head and said, ‘everything’. I met with Dylan Brown – because he’s always energized! Dylan was excited and mentioned talking to a few other people. He threw in a few ideas of his own. I spoke to Delzia Worley, and the same response. She was excited and energized ready to talk to a few people herself. We kept talking to people and then those people started talking to people.
It turns out that I’m not the only one missing this sense of community spirit. Just like that, an idea is beginning to burn. As we are discussing our plans, we have three messages to send. First, to the employees of ASU. We want you to feel and know your community is behind you. We want you to go to work this fall inspired by what we have created for you. It is our message that we believe in you and that we know you can succeed!
Second, we want the students, athletes and coaches of all the teams to know we want you to win! Win for you, but win for us! We want to share in the pride of your victories! We want you to know that your efforts on and off the field matter to us and we are routing for you.
Finally, to our community. Be willing to join us and show your ASU spirit. We hope you’ll join us as we paint the town green this fall and fill the stadium. I know my business is planning on being the No. 1 ASU Grizzlies fan, I challenge you to top our efforts! GO GRIZZLIES!
Dr. Wendi Seger
ASU Class of ’95 & ‘12