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Hillsdale College stu­dents and res­i­dents of Hillsdale’s com­munity have felt the impact of the growing dis­connect between the college and the town it inhabits. In an effort to bridge the gap that sep­a­rates Hillsdale’s campus bubble with the rest of the com­munity, stu­dents have created a credit-card-sized solution: a sleek dis­count card that will point Hillsdale College stu­dents, parents, and alumni off campus and toward local busi­nesses.

During the 2016 Student Lead­ership Workshop, held Aug. 20 through Aug. 25, stu­dents brain­stormed ways in which they can call the town of Hillsdale their home.

Having noticed the ongoing tension between the college and the com­munity, the SLW group will soon implement their plan in order to begin mending the frac­tured rela­tions.

“I’m excited,” Patti Bailey, owner of Maggie Anne’s, said. “I’m glad that there is some out­reach to the college, because I think we need to work on the rela­tions between the college and the town.”

According to junior Zane Miller, the SLW used a problem-solving tech­nique to identify the many causes of the dis­connect between Hillsdale stu­dents and Hillsdale cit­izens. Even­tually, the group came to a two-pronged con­clusion: a gap exists between all college affil­iates and the Hillsdale com­munity because of a lack of awareness about oppor­tu­nities downtown, and a lack of trans­portation.

“The problem we iden­tified was there’s not much com­mu­ni­cation between the ‘town and gown,’” Miller said. “There are a lot of stu­dents, even juniors and seniors, who don’t know what’s available downtown because they don’t have a car to explore.”

Miller said that when his group brain­stormed, they thought of several ways to address the problem of college stu­dents being unaware of what the town offers. Orig­i­nally, solu­tions included an uber-like trans­portation service for college stu­dents to encourage them to get off-campus and into the town. However, con­sid­ering costs and logistics, cre­ating the dis­count card was inex­pensive, easy, and effective.

Miller esti­mates the dis­count cards, printed in color and lam­i­nated to resemble a credit card, will cost about 40 cents each. He said his group intends to dis­tribute the cards to stu­dents for year-round use, to parents for Parents’ Weekend, and to alumni for Home­coming weekend.

“I think it acts as a bridge between campus and com­munity,” Anthony Manno, director of student pro­grams and activ­ities, said. “It shows a will­ingness from stu­dents of the College — after all, it was their idea — that they appre­ciate and support the efforts of our local busi­nesses. It shows we are proud of where we live and what we have.”

When Miller’s team con­tacted local busi­nesses about their ‘Dale Deals idea, business owners and man­agers not only agreed with the group’s con­cerns but also jumped at the chance to better the sit­u­ation.

“Many of them expressed concern over the tension that exists and empha­sized the need for more unity between the college and the town,” sophomore Eliz­abeth Stalter said. “One owner even said that they don’t usually do dis­counts or coupons but they were willing to make an exception because they believe improving the rela­tionship between Hillsdale College and Hillsdale county is so important.”

Bailey said her store cur­rently attracts a market of ages 35 and up. She has recently added brands such as Vera Bradley to Maggie Anne’s stock, hoping to catch the eye of college shoppers.

Bailey said she is hoping the ‘Dale Deals will bring more college-aged cus­tomers to Maggie Anne’s, as well as boost the rela­tionship between college and town.

“I think we’re open to any­thing that helps improve the rela­tions,” Bailey said.

Stalter, though native to Cal­i­fornia, spent her summer waiting tables in Rosalie’s, a restaurant just outside of Hillsdale’s city limits in Jonesville. She said she con­nected with the town in a way most stu­dents never do through her job.

“I def­i­nitely gained a deeper appre­ci­ation for the people who live in this town and was really able to see the other side of things — the side many Hillsdale stu­dents are deprived of when they get caught in the ‘Hillsdale Bubble,’” Stalter said. “I worked with people who have lived here all their lives and was blessed with the oppor­tunity to hear their stories and learn about the town we live in.”

Miller said he hopes to see the cards dis­tributed by the end of the semester.

“I really think this is the first step toward devel­oping a long lasting, mutually ben­e­fitting rela­tionship between Hillsdale College and Hillsdale County,” Stalter said. “Cir­cu­lation of local business dis­count cards to stu­dents, parents, and alumni will pos­i­tively affect the economy as well as the rep­u­tation of the college.”