It isn’t a secret that Southern Illinois University Carbondale is going through a tough transitional period.
Enrollment has been struggling in recent years, tuition has gone up and overall there seems to be less chaos in Carbondale during back to school.
I might even call it dead compared to a decade ago when I was in high school at Carbondale Community High School or at the beginning of my time as a young student at SIU.
I loved the bustling streets, students walking to classes on campus and the jubial atmosphere. You always knew when the college students were back. Stores would be packed, roads would be busy and going out to eat meant waiting in line.
Things are a bit different now, but together it is possible to get back to those bustling streets again.
It may be a bit derailed, but we will see SIU rise again to high enrollment numbers. It has gone from hustling students moving in to working with the City of Carbondale in hopes of fixing the derailed system.
Let me assure you that SIU is not broken or dead. SIU has worked to improve the campus in recent years with more programming and projects with the city. Halloween events and locations of sunset concerts have undergone recent changes to reach more audiences and community members.
There has been some skepticism as some feel partnering with the city is causing unnecessary money to be spent. Others feel that the partnership is too cozy.
However, as a community, we must deploy as many resources as we can to reinvigorate SIU. It is going to take everyone in southern Illinois, combined with alumni near and far, to pull together and recruit students and highlight success stories.
I spoke with Amy Fox, Public Relations Officer for the City of Carbondale, who helped cement why the partnership is so important. She said they understand enrollment isn’t going to dramatically increase overnight, but what they do now will have a lasting impact.
“We need everyone in the community working towards the same goal,” Fox said. “The city can’t do it alone, and the university can’t do it alone.”
As an invested community member who cares deeply about SIU’s success, I work each day in my classroom at Carbondale Community High School spotlighting what an amazing area we live in.
We are surrounded by great forests, lakes, theatrical performances, diversity and local food that should attract students to our area.
We must show people the amazing stories such as the Strong Survivors cancer program in the Department of Kinesiology, or the Homecoming festivities that have a rich history and strong following from alumni members.
While SIU enrollment struggles, I encourage everyone in the community to embrace the programming that Carbondale and SIU have worked tirelessly to offer such as Homecoming, Halloween and Fourth of July events.
As Carbondale and SIU work together, I challenge you to reach out to students from your hometown and tell them about the area. It’s important to the success of past, current and future students for SIU to grow again. This is needed so that people can see the great opportunities that exist at SIU.
The internships, the quality education, mentorships between faculty and students, the vibrant cultures that are seen all make this place so special. It’s also precisely why I love it here so much. It’s also why I am happy to call it home.
Share stories about what is going on in Carbondale whether you are from a local community in southern Illinois or from another state. Put your stories on social media and help show others the great community atmosphere that exists.
As Fox puts it, “Yes, SIU will thrive again!”
The skeptics, naysayers and pessimists must jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the community and embrace SIU so that we can once again see it reach new milestones.
Opinion writer Jenna Jamieson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jennarpjamieson.
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