A performance during the most-recent CU Downtown event, in 2019. Three events in September will bring together Cornell students and the greater Ithaca community.

Welcome events to return in full force for fall 2022 semester

CU Downtown, one of three opportunities in September for students to connect with the greater Ithaca community, is returning after a two-year hiatus with a performance lineup of 11 student groups including a cappella, dance troupes and the Big Red Pep Band.

The free event, routinely attended by about 3,000 to 4,000 people, is open to all on Saturday, Sept. 10, noon to 5 p.m., on the Ithaca Commons. Participants can expect a scavenger hunt, discounts at restaurants, free donuts and cider from Little Tree Orchards, and free canvas bags for the first 1,000 attendees. For students who want to walk, many residence halls are organizing group treks from campus to the Commons.

“We’re thrilled that for the first time in two years, we are able to continue these traditions that connect, celebrate and build our communities through such fantastic events,” said Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life.

The event, a previous winner of the Town-Gown award, aims to build connections between the Cornell and Ithaca communities. It is organized this year by the Tatkon Center for New Students, a division of Student and Campus Life, in partnership with the Ithaca Downtown Alliance, TCAT, Campus Activities and Off-Campus Living.

“We’ve been working really hard to make it more collaborative and also acknowledging that our students may not have always gone down and explored every shop,” said Kevin Perry, director of the Tatkon Center for New Students. “We’re trying to really be intentional about what we can do to create a little more culture around popping into those stores or encouraging folks to explore the Commons.”

The Tatkon Center runs Orientation as well as the first-year experience program and will send 12 peer leaders at the event to help students navigate their way to the Commons and find fun things to do when they arrive. Taylor Bouraad, assistant director for the first year experience, said her goal is get students acclimated with the city as soon as possible.

“I think it makes it a home, rather than just it being your residence hall room,” Bouraad said. “So they understand there’s stuff beyond Cornell’s campus that they can get to.”

Two other opportunities – the BEAR Walk and BEAR Walk Fair, a pair of events happening the first two weeks of September – offer a chance for students living off campus and community members to come together and foster mutual respect. BEAR stands for Being Engaged and Responsible.

At the BEAR Walk, teams of students, staff, community members and city officials will participate in ice breakers over a free dinner. Each team will then be provided with a map and informational flyers to hang on doorknobs in Collegetown. The event, scheduled for Sept. 8 at 5 p.m., will meet at the St. Luke Lutheran Church, 109 Oak Ave., Ithaca. Registration is required.

“It’s meant to be a high-spirited and fun exercise, connecting both the Cornell community and the city community,” said Denise Thompson, manager of the Off-Campus Living Office. “Once they move off campus, students don’t have access to a lot of the same resources as those who live on campus.”

The BEAR Walk Fair will feature campus and community groups tabling, student performances, Collegetown business owners, free Cornell ice cream, a visit from the Cornell mascot and speakers including Marla Love, the Robert. W and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students.

“Whether strengthening relationships within our shared neighborhoods or discovering the beating heart of downtown, these events celebrate our shared community and collective home that is Ithaca,” Lombardi said.

This event is another chance for students to engage with community members and learn about all there is to take advantage of while living in Collegetown and downtown Ithaca. The fair will be held on Sept. 15 at 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Frank E. Gannett Plaza in front of the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on College Ave.

Thompson said she hopes the BEAR events help people to feel less alone during their time in Ithaca, when many students may be missing home.

“My favorite part is watching and listening to the conversations that are happening,” Thompson said. “I hope that one or both of these events will inspire the student or the community member to go next door and introduce themselves to their neighbor and hopefully they can come together and just be there to support one another.”

Media Contact

Jeffrey Martin