Rutgers students as key audience in New Brunswick creative engagement efforts

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Creative engagement is a movement supported in New Brunswick by coLAB Arts in an effort to bring together social advocacy, art, and the community to create a more sustainable environment.

It seems the Rutgers University student population often forgets that surrounding them is a whole community of New Brunswick residents who see it as a home rather than an institution.

There seems to be a lack of understanding within the student body that New Brunswick goes beyond Easton Ave, beyond bar scenes and “good Mexican food.” Friends hang out in their houses, blasting music late in the night, forgetting that hard-working families live right next door. Cigarette butts and beer bottles litter the streets on which children walk to school.

There is an important need for Rutgers students to realize the negative impacts they may have on the community and to better utilize their resources and time in an effort to leave a more positive effect on the New Brunswick community.

According to Melissa Selesky, Director of Rutgers New Brunswick Community Relations, Rutgers students are just as much a part of the community as anyone else living in New Brunswick, and therefore, “share the full responsibility and should take advantage of all there is of living in this community.”

Rutgers University is an untapped source of young minds, scholars who will use their experiences to shape the kind of world in which they want to live. In order to create movement within the Rutgers student body, it is important to recognize the students as a key audience to creative engagement; through artistically sparking passion for causes, Rutgers students have the potential to use their degrees and their socio-economic standing to create real change and improvements for the lives of those living in the community.

“I think the arts are a great way to engage the community,” Selesky said. “What I like about it is it can transcend language barriers and socio-economic barriers, and creative engagement is a way to level the field and let everyone be engaged, so I think it has a lot of power that way.”

Selesky described the challenge with college towns as the transiency of students in a community. “You can get a student and they’re engaged and involved and really want to make a difference in the community, and they leave in four years…students are a rotating audience, so you’re constantly having to re-engage them in new ways.”

However, in her opinion, “this current generation has done a really great job of making community service an ingrained part of their education and upbringing. [The New Brunswick organizations] always want students, but it’s ‘how do we, out of the thousands of students that are here, reach the ones that might find something of interest for them?’”

While it is important to note the increase in community involvement of Rutgers students, more students must be inspired to recognize the fact that they are temporary guests with a large impact and see New Brunswick beyond their own personal perspective. Creative engagement is a great way to bring forth attention to the community, but the first step is to encourage Rutgers students to be a part of the audience.

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