Campus card resides at heart of strong campus-community collaboration
Bona was given oversight of that institution’s card office, where those relationships became even more critical. “I brought that belief to Emory and have worked the last two and a half years on cultivating the relationships at my new institution,” she says. “We are seeing positive movement both in the community presence and in the vitality of the EmoryCard.”
The university had already established the Emory Alliance group, which is made up of university and community members, Bona explains. “I was invited to one of its meetings to share our EmoryCard goals and work with the group to grow our overall relationship,” she adds.
As far as the EmoryCard and its Eagle Merchant program, the goal is to enhance the cardholder experience, says Bona. “We always look to partner with the on- and off-campus community to provide an array of safe, secure options for discounts, loyalty incentives and rewards.”
When it comes to merchants partners, Bona says there’s no discriminating qualifiers and variety is welcomed. “We don’t focus specifically on a type of merchant. We do, however, look at proximity to campus and, most importantly, focus on merchants that we receive feedback on from student surveys, social media and other communications,” she explains.
Recently, Emory contracted with an external provider to help grow the off-campus program. “I contracted with DishOut to add a breath of life and newer technology into the Eagle Merchants,” says Bona. It has enabled her to focus on improving the town/gown relationship through a communication plan that drives traffic to local merchants and educates the entire community about the card program’s value.
DishOut CEO Rory Hersch says he sees the impact a positive town-and-gown relationship has across his client base. “Building off-campus programs demonstrates that the campus is interested in their community’s economic success just as much as the institution itself,” he says.
Beyond off-campus programs, Emory builds the town-and-gown relationship through student internship opportunities and part-time jobs on or off campus, explains Bona. “In addition, students have out-of-class learning opportunities through volunteer service, sustainability initiatives, student organizations and more.”
A matter of perspective
The town-and-gown relationship has always been an important one, but that doesn’t mean institutions are resting on their laurels, says Heartland’s Emery. “Campuses are constantly thinking of new and outside-the-box ways that they can contribute to the surrounding community and ways that they can involve the local community as part of the campus.”