(ST. JOSEPH, Mo -- A new era at Missouri Western began Thursday evening with an event that didn't even happen on campus. Administrators say the first-ever Griff Up party in downtown St. Joseph was just the first step at bringing the university closer to the city it calls home.
Black and gold was all the rage in Felix St. Square.
"To see all the Griffon family, the faculty, the staff, the incoming students, even the current students coming down, it's amazing," said Marissa Steinel, associate director of admissions at MWSU.
It began with university president Matthew Wilson welcoming the students downtown along with a proclimation by St. Joseph mayor Bill McMurray designating August 22, 2019 as Griff Up day. McMurray himself is a graduate of Missouri Western.
Wilson, in his first year as president, said the Griff Up event was just the first step in a larger-scale plan to get new and returning students off campus more and engaged in St. Joseph
"What you'll see over this next academic year is we're going to find different, creative and innovative ways to embed our students into the community and we're so excited about that," Wilson said.
For three new freshmen from Bowling Green, Missouri, this was their first exposure to downtown St. Joseph
FOR THESE NEW FRESHMEN FROM BOWLING GREEN, MISSOURI, THIS WAS THEIR FIRST EXPOSURE TO DOWNTOWN ST. JOSEPH.
"It's a very unique place, it's artsy," said Abi Jacyna.
"It's really nice. It has an old-time feel," added Kaitlyn Drury.
Those two, along with a friend, were among many students who participated in a scavenger hunt planned as part of Griff Up. It required the students to go into many of the different downtown shops and learn more about what they have to offer.
For other students who may be more familiar with St. Joseph, they say they're excited about a stronger partnership between the university and the city.
"It's great to see so many people interacting," said Savannah freshman James Alberty.
While Griff up was all about having fun, event organizers say there is a higher purpose in getting the students involved in more off-campus activities.
"There is a lot of reseearch out there that shows if students get engaged on campus and in their community in the first six weeks, they're going to go on to graduation," Steinel said. "Obviously that's our end goal."
Griff Up is part of Griffon Edge, a series of planned activities for the students in the days before the fall semester starts. On Friday, many of the students will be out in the St. Joseph public schools reading to children.