Students gather by the stage on the Ithaca Commons to enjoy an a cappella performance by fellow students at the CU Downtown event in 2022. This year, the event has been merged with Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College for Welcome Student Weekend.

Welcome event unites Cornell, local colleges, community

The CU Downtown event, a celebration to welcome new students, has merged with Ithaca College (IC) and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) for the first time to create one grand event for 2023: Welcome Student Weekend.

The free event, one of many opportunities in September for students to acclimate to Cornell and the greater Ithaca community, is open to all on Saturday, Sept. 9, noon to 5 p.m., on the Ithaca Commons. Activities will include a scavenger hunt, free donuts, downtown tours and a performance lineup of six student organizations including a cappella groups, dance troupes and the Big Red Marching Band.

Historically the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) has partnered with each school to host separate events throughout the month. Hannah Bistocchi, the marketing director for DIA, said combining the events creates space for students to make friends across the colleges while getting to know the larger community.

“I think it’s important to not only build camaraderie between the students at your school, but also between the students at the other two schools,” Bistocchi said. “Let’s bridge the gap and show that we are one big community.”

The marching band will kick off the event at 12:15 p.m. with a performance beginning in Dewitt Park and culminating at The Commons. Speakers and performances will be staggered throughout the day at the Bernie Milton Pavilion.

Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, will speak at the event, as will IC President La Jerne Terry Cornish and TC3 President Amy Kremenek.

“I am excited to invite all of these students to become active and present members of the Ithaca community, enjoying all of the wonderful businesses and activities the area has to offer, but also contributing to the betterment of the surrounding area and its people,” Lombardi said.

In addition to free TCAT transportation during the day, free shuttles will be provided to and from each campus through OurBus. For students who want to walk, many residence halls are organizing group treks from campus to the Commons.

The theme of this year’s event centers around plants and Bistocchi said the imagery translates into the idea of helping students to grow and bloom.

“You're at a very pivotal point in your life; for many, this is your first time away from home,” Bistocchi said, of new and returning students. “A lot of growing up happens at college. You’re doing that at school, but also just in life in general. You’re growing into the person that you hope to be someday, and we hope that our community can help you on that journey.”

The event is organized by the Tatkon Center for New Students, in partnership with the DIA, IC and TC3.

Taylor Bouraad, assistant director for first-year experience in the Tatkon Center, said her favorite part of the event is watching students’ excitement as they find new shops and restaurants during the scavenger hunt.

“The point of the event is for students to be able to find connection to Ithaca beyond Cornell’s campus, and to know that they’re citizens of this town,” Bouraad said. “It’s important to cultivate a sense of belonging, to feel like you’re a part of something greater than yourself and your residence hall.”

Cornell students looking for other welcome events this month can check out Weeks of Welcome through September 10, ClubFest and the Service Fair.

Students living off campus are encouraged to attend the BEAR Walk Community Fair on Sept 14, at 5 p.m. at the Frank E. Gannett Plaza at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The event offers a chance for students to interact with city staff, neighboring businesses and residents to learn more about the community.

Laura Gallup is a communications lead for Student & Campus Life.

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Lindsey Knewstub