Post Classifieds

Norwich Helps Build a Community

By Derek Radtke
On December 8, 2011

Norwich has been a part of Northfield, Vt. since 1866, and has presented both the community and students with unique opportunities to interact with each other.

"So there are a lot of positive things for college students to interact with the community," said Kristine Seipel, the housing officer adjutant. "You get to see people from other backgrounds, other states and other communities."

She said that while there may be downsides to having a university in a community, there are also plenty of positives.

Daniel Lane, an associate professor of English, has lived in Northfield since the summer of 2000 and says that Norwich brings many benefits to its community.

"Perhaps the strongest benefit is that it provides a very strong economic base for the community, there are many people who live here in Northfield that work at the university among the faculty and staff," Lane said.

Norwich brings in jobs, revenue and business for the surrounding community, according to Seipel. Norwich helps support the mom-and-pop restaurants that are a valuable part of the surrounding community, said Seipel.

"I think it gives them that extra edge, but being a business person if they wanted to succeed I think they could even without Norwich," Seipel said. "If you look around, especially here in Vermont there are a lot of small towns."

John Haywood, a 24-year-old senior criminal justice major from Boxford, Mass., decided to live off campus this year, and has learned that the Northfield community is not what it seems.

"I moved into my apartment at the end of last semester, just to see the dynamics between the campus life, from when school is in session to the summer time, with an almost nonexistent study body," Haywood said. 

He said that over the summer months, the residents of the surrounding community become more social and there are more interactions between college and residents.

"Over the summer I saw so many people that work here for facilities operations or Sodexo that live right in town that work for the school, so it helps them out quite a bit, they really rely on the university for their livelihood," Haywood said.

According to Lane, Norwich brings more than just economic benefits.

"There's also the cultural benefits that the university provides, including the music programs, the speaker series, the special events that are sponsored by the history museum and theater program, so there are many different opportunities that people in the community have of coming to the campus," Lane said.

The community also enjoys attending sporting events, and using the athletic facilities. 

Before coming to Norwich, Haywood attended University of Massachusetts Lowell, and says that one upside to the small community is its accessibility.

"Being in a small town where you can live a few miles away, you can still hop in your car, and get to class pretty quickly without any repercussions," Haywood said.

Lane said that another benefit is the diversity of students that come to Norwich.

"Another benefit I've noticed of the last few years especially is: the students have become increasingly involved with interacting with community members in a number of different ways," Lane said.

Norwich has helped the surrounding community in a significant way recently through hurricane relief after Tropical Storm Irene.

"It doesn't surprise me that students would put in so many hours for hurricane relief, the students are very helpful," said Rebecca Aidala, a 21-year-old senior mechanical engineering major from Niskayuna, N.Y.

Aidala has come to expect this kind of support from Norwich students towards the surrounding community, especially when in times of need.

Lane said, "It doesn't surprise me in the least actually, because I think one of the great benefits of the students here is that there is a very strong work ethic in terms of being willing to volunteer."

Seipel adds that regardless of the students' reason to help the community after the hurricane, they were glad that they did it.

"There was even an incident a few years ago, where there was a man that had gotten lost, so instead of calling up the state police, the community deployed the corps of cadets, and they were able to use their skills and find the gentleman," Haywood said.

"Many students are also involved in emergency medical services (EMS), which is another venue of volunteerism that has a direct interaction with members of the surrounding community," Lane said.

One of the downsides to being in a small town is the lack of some services, said Haywood.

"There are a couple places to eat, grab a drink, your laundromat, your typical banks and post offices, but if you need to do any serious shopping you have to drive all the way to Barre," Haywood said.

The university itself brings some downsides, like disruptions to the normal everyday life of the surrounding community, said Seipel. With college students often comes speeding cars, noisy parties and underage drinking.

"The downsides would be, maybe, some disruption in the neighborhoods and in the community as a whole. I don't think that everyone is a bad person, and I don't judge on one situation," Seipel said.

"I think that by and large Norwich has been able to side step the major problems that are usually associated with having universities in small communities," Lane said. He said that while problems have not entirely disappeared, it seems to have dropped down drastically.

"I'm not sure that's necessarily linked to the fact that we have a university in the community as much as there are just young people in the community," Lane said.

Haywood adds that while some students may not enjoy the small community surrounding Norwich, others may feel right at home with the small-town atmosphere.

"I don't think that a lot of our students realize how many resources they have just here, even if it's helping out in the community, or going up Paine Mountain and hiking," Seipel said.

Lane said that without Norwich the surrounding community would be vastly different, saying that both the community and Norwich gain many benefits.

"The character of the community would change entirely, because Northfield owes a large part of its identity to the Norwich, not only because of the economic base that the university provides, but also because the population helps determine the character of the community," Lane said.

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